Monday, December 27, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Saying goodbye to 2010...

So we're officially upon the last Monday of 2010. My God, where did this year fly, people??? I have no idea where mine went. I seem to recall opening my eyes and 2010 was starting. To admit the truth, I wasn't looking forward to much this year. I was pretty set in a routine and thought I'd reached where I was supposed to reach and was at the position I'd hold for pretty much the rest of my life.

How wrong I'd been...

January went pretty much without hitch. Kiddo started his second year in primary, going from the 'newbie' to the 'grown up one step ahead of the newbie'. :) I had a job, I was writing, hubby was ensconced in his job. Routine, blah, blah blah.

Appearances can be very deceptive though. In February, the cracks started to appear. Yes, I was working and I was writing like a madwoman (finishing a 100K+ novel in 17 days!). Needless to say, I saw next to nothing of the men in the house. Did I think I could get away with it? Yes, I did, because my priorities weren't set right - I wanted to be where I was and I didn't pause for one minute to ever consider the cost. Financially, I was working but not bringing any much home. Which kinda widened the chasm here - I mean, if you've got 'proof' of what you're doing to show, then it's pretty much a good idea to keep doing what you're doing. I didn't. What can I say? I'm a trustful person, I don't expect anyone to use this trust for any nefarious purpose. So yes, said cracks - hubby asks me one day if I thought that maybe he could be sick. He hadn't been feeling great lately, had lost weight, was irritable. But he was also on a huge, huge deadline at work, so what do I do? I brush him off, saying it's probably the stress. See the divide growing here?

By the time March comes around, I have no idea who I am and what the heck I'm doing. My marriage looks like it'll be crumbling any minute, because he and I meet over the dinner table, share a few words, and then I jump back on my laptop, going to bed by the time he's fast asleep. Mornings, don't mention. There's school, and that's all our mornings amount to. Celebrate my birthday, a ho-hum one - did I even recall it was my birthday back then? I don't remember.
My world crashes when my sweetly-angelic-and-devilish, then-6-year-old boy blows his top off and berates me for being an awful mother. "When will you pause to breathe and take a break?" he asks.
I look up and I don't recognise this little boy who, wait a sec, wears the same size T-shirt as I do??? When did that happen? His first trimester exams are also around the corner, and I realize I have no idea what he is even studying this year at school. Pair all that with a massive case of being over-written and sore-writer's-imagination, and the end of March sees one of the biggest episode of my life happen.

I quit. Literally. Quit my job, and was given hell for that. There are all sorts of versions flowing around as to why I was no longer there. The real reason is - I left. Full stop. It was a choice between who I could be and who I wanted to be. I chose the latter.

Suddenly, it was Easter break and I was at home with my boy. My parents were away on a trip abroad, so no 'dropping off to Mom's'. What did I find out? Kiddo's back then's fave movie was High School Musical. We had the sing-along version in the DVD, and this became our favourite activity. He sang as Troy, I did Gabriella. And Sharpey (eek!). I heard him laugh, the kind of children's specific bellow that has them throw their heads back and laugh with their whole body.
When was the last time I had heard that? I didn't remember...
Suddenly too, my marriage was doing much better. Hubby and I would take 20 minutes out every evening and just sit down together. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we didn't. Sometimes I pestered him to let me turn the caveman-him into a slightly more modern version of a caveman who would maybe exfoliate and use some hydrating cream on his face. That made for some hectic moments! :) But it also turns out that we found out my husband had been sick all along - it wasn't the stress. It was diabetes. I don't need to tell you how much of a worthless scumbag I felt when we got the news. I hadn't given anything to the one who mattered, giving my all to worthless pursuits in the meantime...

From there on, life settled down. I found the courage to pick up my 'digital pen' again and start to write. No pressure, no fuss, no worrying. Just the pure, unadulterated pleasure of telling a story the way I wanted to, going back to the thrill of the 'moment' like when I had just started writing 6 years ago now. Picked up my studies too, working towards completing my degree finally.

Along the way, there have been bumps, a most notorious one on this blog itself. But there's a silver lining to every cloud, and the lining I found wasn't silver at all - it was the best, purest platinum to have ever existed. I discovered who my friends were, and the outpouring of support and encouragement messages tumbled me into a wekk-long bout of throat-clogging so much I became emotional. I was totally overwhelmed - and to these fantastic people (you know who you all are!), I say THANK YOU for being in my life and for allowing me to say I know you and I'm proud to be your friend!

Buoyed by this feeling, I wrote some more, and then a 'click' moment happened in early November. My dream had always been to write for Harlequin - ever since the day I read my first romance at 12, I have loved HQ and M&B for the kind of wholesome stories they keep bringing to women the world over.

What's a dream, if you ain't gonna pursue it? We live only once, innit?

Today I know my priorities. I know who I am, what I'm made of. I know who and what matters. Whatever is meant to happen, will happen. But this also means I can take an active role and a forward step to make the lives of those who matter better. If not better, I can help make it not worse than it might already be.

I think my husband, son, and stepson are grateful that I came to realize this. I know I am. My family matters. My writing matters. I matter!

Today I look towards the future. I don't know if it is bright, overcast, rainy. I just know it's out there, on a path that's unfurling at my feet, and I need to keep moving. Whatever comes upon this path, God has made me strong enough to deal with it. Whatever happens, happens.

It's with this state of mind that I look towards 2011 and wait to embrace a positive continuation of my life. I just wish all the wonderful people I know can feel the same way too, and that all the best this world has to offer will grace their footsteps and bring at least a smile to their face everyday.

To all the amazing people I have met in my short life, and who have shown me time and again how much they care - my 2011 belongs to you.

And oh, yeah, I don't make resolutions normally, but I still plan of losing my spare-tyre-belly next year! :)

So on that note, let me pen off for 2010. I won't post again before next Monday, when I'll welcome the new year in this very spot.

From Mauritius with tons and tons of love,

Zee

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Side postings - In the Zone with Zee: Of Men and Heroes...

Hey everyone

Today is my big debut as contributor to the blog Tabby's Nocturnal Nights. I host a monthly Agony Aunt column geared towards writers and writing-related issues.

Come take a look at this month's column. The two dilemmas I tackle are:

Dear Agony Zee

My husband is threatening to divorce me if I don’t cut down on my writing. Writing is my life. What am I to do?

Signed – Desperate wife

and

Dear Agony Zee,

My hero refuses to come out of the box. What am I to do?

Signed, Frustrated with men.
Read the answers here and don't forget to leave me a comment!

And if you ever have a question for Agony Zee, don't hesitate to hit me a line or two (or twenty!) at zeemonodee@hotmail.com All queries/questions will be dealt with in utter confidentiality. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, December 24, 2010

Progress Friday

Against all hopes and expectations, I did manage to sit down somehow and get some more of the current WIP down. Doubled the current word count, seeing me going from 8% to 15% in just a couple days' writing. I applaud and send big big thanks to my trusty Nokia E63. If this baby hadn't been my pride and glory before, it sure is now (and I can hear my designer shoes and handbags collection groaning in the background!).

All this has put me on a high. Really, where there's a will, there's a way. Where there's also no kid in the area, there's a way! I'm putting time spent waiting for appointments to good use, and like my writing friends and I were having a discussion a couple days' ago on my FB status, preparation (thinking the story through if not actual plotting) makes a world of difference in finally getting the words to flow. Instead of sitting and looking at a blank screen, willing for inspiration to come, you actually have the imaginary visual picture as fodder and need just translate that to screen via words.

I'm high yes. Elated to have written, most definitely. But now that it's Friday, I'm taking a little time off to be with my family. I swear, over the past week or so, my son must've bulked up with a half of his previous size. Thing to note - giving growing boys lots of protein means they outgrow their clothes very, very quickly! Just yesterday I was putting the laundry away and came upon a red T-shirt. Racked my brains out trying to recall when I'd bought or even worn that garment. Turns out it's not mine, but my son's, and the T-shirt will fit him just this summer, not much longer. Boys, eh... Soon I'll have 3 hulks in my house, lol.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas if you celebrate, a happy Holiday season for those who are just revelling in this period, and an overall good time to everyone this weekend!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Link Thursday: How To Walk In Heels

Hey guys!

Taking a turn away from the characterization article links today to give something else. It's the end of the year and it's party season, so that for us women equals... High heels!

Thought you'd want to read these tips about how to walk in heels. They're really good! The article is from MSN Lifestyle and can be found online here.

Enjoy!

*****

How to Walk in Heels
Never wobble again! How to look and feel fabulous in your spikes.


Know Your Shoe
Photo: Courtesy Zappos

THE BODY: If a stiff shoe causes blisters, spritz this area with water and use your fingers to mold the softened leather to the shape of your foot or try special inserts to reduce friction.
THE BREAST: The inner arch of the heel, which affects stability. The farther forward the arch, the less you will feel off-balance.
THE SOLE: Slipping on slick floors? Pick up a pair of sole protectors or score the soles of your heels with a key to create extra traction.
THE TOE BOX: If your toes feel pinched, have this area stretched out at your local shoe repair shop.
THE INTERIOR: If you suffer from low arches, slip in supports to relieve pressure on the balls of your feet.


Take It Step-by-Step
Photo: Time Inc Digital Studio

1. POSTURE: Heels pitch weight forward, so for balance, keep your head up and shoulders back. Tightening your core will offset some of the pressure on your feet.
2. STEPS: Striding in a normal heel-to-toe motion can snap a stiletto or twist an ankle. Instead take short steps, going down evenly on the ball of the foot and heel.
3. WEIGHT: As your weight shifts fully onto a foot, spread your toes in the shoe slightly; this will help to distribute the weight onto the ball of the foot.
4. HIPS: When you're feeling off-balance, you tend to stiffen up. For an easy, attractive momentum, let your hips swing in small, sideways, figure-eight motions.


Get the Right Support
Photo: Time Inc Digital Studio

1. WHOLE-SOLE CUSHIONS: A comfort insole that's tapered at the front so your toes won't feel crowded.
2. WEIGHT SHIFTERS: This sized insert sits in the breast of the shoe, shifting weight off the ball of the foot and back onto the heel.
3. TOE GELS: Provides cushioning under the ball of the foot to protect the area where most of your weight is centered.
4. OPEN-TOE STOPPERS: A shorter insole that provides the same shock absorption without being seen through your peep-toes.
5. ARCH SUPPORTS: If your arches are low or need a boost, these supports will help relieve pressure on the balls of your feet.
6. HEEL PADS: Liners that help keep feet from slipping around inside shoes.


Tone and Train Your Legs
Photo: Courtesy Amazon, Courtesy Target, Courtesy

Foot experts warn that the unnatural slope of stilettos puts unnecessary strain on feet and lower leg muscles. Footwear brands like Fit Flop, Reebok and Skechers claim that the specialized midsoles in their toning shoes strengthen leg muscles and improve posture, which could help prevent heel-related injuries.

Women's Snugger boot, Fit Flop, $124.95; at Amazon.com.

Jump Start walking shoe, Skechers, $104.95; at Amazon.com.

Walkstar III, Fit Flop, $59.90; at Zappos.com.


Take Time to Soothe and Repair
Photo: Courtesy Amazon, Courtesy Bliss, Courtesy The Body Shop

Refresh tired feet with a tingly foot treatment. Peppermint purifying foot mask, The Body Shop, $17; at thebodyshop-usa.com.

Knead away sore spots and stimulate blood flow to help your feet recover from a day in uncomfortable shoes. Porcupine massage ball, Body Back Company, $6.95; at Amazon.com

Slip on a pair of moisture-gel padded socks for an instant at-home spa treatment. Softening socks, Bliss, $48; at blissworld.com

Keep calluses and rough spots at bay with a callus stone. Callus stone, Tweezerman, $12; at drugstore.com

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing Wednesday: On Hiatus...

Hey guys

I started a series about originality in stories last week, with the intention of featuring an article that would give slants and tips on this issue this week and the next.

But let's face it - who's in the mood for writing advice right now? I admit, not me. I'm not exactly in party mode but it is the end of the year, :)

So what I'll do is keep these posts (yet to be written, btw!) for 2011, and hopefully do much better than the hatchet job I would've presented today.

In the meantime, enjoy your holiday season!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Movies of 2010

Hey peeps!

I came upon this video a couple days ago and it left me speechless! I'm always amazed how some folks can work so well with video editting, and this one is a perfect example!

It's a mash-up of most of 2010 Hollywood releases. It kept me enthralled to try and see which image I recognised 'coz I seem to have watched an amazing number of movies this past year... Could be my tally is not that big, we'll know in a minute, actually.

Here's the video. Take a look, try to guess the movie each image belongs to, then read up on the list of movies that appear in this clip.

Which ones have you seen, and which ones did the clip miss? I'll highlight my views in bold (and add a little quip about the movie too!)



Films in Order of Appearance:
01. Iron Man 2 (disappointing - big cast, plot going nowhere and showing nothing. Oh wait, it was showing... ScarJo!)
02. The Social Network
03. Saw 3D
04. TRON: Legacy
05. Never Let Me Go
06. Legion (Lives inside the mind, but not sure the real plot has that much of an impact movie-wise)
07. The Book of Eli (crytic. Full stop.)
08. Easy A
09. The Runaways
10. Farewell
11. Kick-Ass (uh...disappointing, esp. because of a too potty-mouthed characterization)
12. Jonah Hex
13. Harry Brown
14. The Sorceror’s Apprentice (A good one, though the ending is a tad far-fetched, even by magical standards.)
15. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (One of the best ones I've seen this year. Got a good mix of all ingredients for a good magic/mystical YA adventure)
16. Despicable Me (Get it, get it, get it! Absolutely loved this one, plus the candy colours are just too cute. That is, until your kid starts talking like them minions...)
17. Stone
18. Dinner For Schmucks
19. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
20. Hereafter
21. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
22. Black Swan
23. Howl
24. Faster
25. Casino Jack
26. Casino Jack and the United States of Money
27. Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel
28. Waiting for Superman
29. Inception (Great visual and concept, but the ending killed it for me. If you hate being left hanging, don't watch this)
30. Resident Evil: Afterlife (Still 'good', given that it's, well, plotless... and Number 4 or 5 of the series)
31. The Town
32. The Expendables (Pure male-ogling yum! Scenario holds the line and the cast is refreshing in today's age of action movies with all adrenalin and no characterization)
33. The A-Team (Well done adaptation! Loved the TV series, found them in here too. Very clever use of imaging and 'flashback/flashforward' techniques in this one. The crew also works well together.)
34. The American
35. The Concert
36. The Tempest
37. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
38. The Tourist
39. Metropia
40. Burlesque
41. Love Ranch
42. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
43. The Warrior’s Way
44. Twelve
45. Going The Distance
46. Chain Letter
47. Catfish
48. Machete
49. Step Up 3D
50. Devil
51. Clash of the Titans (Disappointing. Nothing redemption-worthy despite Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes in there. Oh, don't forget the Kraken!)
52. Countdown to Zero
53. Jackass 3D
54. Alice in Wonderland
55. Buried
56. Red (one of the best action comedies I've ever watched. The actors are all just fabulous! Make it a point to see this one!)
57. Mesrine
58. Predators (Not my type of thing but the movie is not bad)
59. MacGruber
60. Robin Hood (Loved the going-back-to-backstory approach taken by Ridley Scott. It was a different take on the legendary character)
61. Green Zone (Another good one, esp. in the sense that it's a movie that makes you use your mind and doesn't just flaunt military/army stuff  in your face.)
62. The Way Back
63. Due Date
64. Daybreakers (Novel way at looking at the post-apocalyptic vampire turning myth)
65. Knight and Day (This one's going on my keeper shelf - the actors seem to be having the time of their lives in the 'fun' of this action movie. Not 'brilliant' but it's good watching.)
66. Heartbreaker
67. The Karate Kid (I think the best kid movie of the year. It's got a great message too.)
68. Secretariat
69. Middle Men
70. Repo Men (I think this one wins it for 'disappointment of the year'! Don't watch this unless you're getting it for free!)
71. Hot Tub Time Machine
72. All Good Things
73. Skyline
74. Animal Kingdom
75. Fair Game
76. Paper Man
77. Eclipse (At least Bella is not just crying and moping around in this one. Okay, 3 down, 1-2 more to go to get to the real meat of the Twilight saga!)
78. Megamind
79. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
80. True Grit
81. Accidents Happen
82. Date Night
83. Perrier’s Bounty
84. Killers (Another keeper! The focus is on the couple and its comedic jeopardy. A nice twist on the spy action-comedy.)
85. How To Train Your Dragon (Cute! I admit I watched more to 'hear' Gerard Butler in there...)
86. The Other Guys
87. Unstoppable
88. Leap Year (Not really hitting the mark. I expected more from this one.)
89. Cop Out (Old-style cop funny. This is a good one.)
90. When In Rome (I think the cutest romantic comedy I've ever seen! Perfect chick-nite material)
91. Centurion
92. Salt (Girl power! Quite a rocking spy thriller)
93. Takers
94. Barney’s Version
95. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
96. The Winning Season
97. Just Wright
98. Legendary
99. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
100. Ong Bak 3
101. Rogues Gallery
102. Defendor
103. District 13: Ultimatum (Good sequel to the original District 13. French touch but without any heaviness)
104. Conviction
105. The Losers (Good, but I expected more, and it reminded me a lot of A-Team...)
106. The Disappearance of Alice Creed
107. Brooklyn’s Finest (The deepest, most intriguing movie I've watched in a long time. Perfect gritty realism but still with a larger-than-life aura. One to watch, definitely!)
108. Wild Target
109. Four Lions
110. The King’s Speech
111. Boogie Woogie
112. 127 Hours
113. Somewhere
114. Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll
115. Letters to Juliet
116. The Kids are All Right
117. Sex and the City 2
118. Vampires Suck
119. Love and Other Drugs
120. Life As We Know It
121. Blue Valentine
122. Jolene
123. The Extra Man
124. The Last Song
125. Our Family Wedding (A total hoot! watch for laughs!)
126. Morning Glory
127. Greenberg
128. Remember Me
129. Please Give
130. Certified Copy
131. The Last Exorcism
132. Peacock
133. Flipped
134. Cemetery Junction
135. I Love You Phillip Morris
136. Toy Story 3 (Cute, cuter, cutest! Tear-jerking ending, esp for those who 'grew up' with the Toy Stories)
137. The Romantics
138. Welcome to the Rileys
139. I’m Still Here
140. Get Him To The Greek
141. The Yellow Handkerchief
142. The Greatest
143. The Virginity Hit
144. Furry Vengeance
145. Eat Pray Love (Dunno if it 'beats' the book. Got that in the TBR pile...)
146. Don McKay
147. Solitary Man
148. Cyrus
149. Case 39
150. Dear John
151. The Good Guy
152. Jack Goes Boating
153. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
154. Leaves of Grass
155. How Do You Know
156. Death at a Funeral (doesn't come anywhere close to the original British version, sadly...)
157. Tamara Drewe
158. The Killer Inside Me
159. The Back-Up Plan (a very nice surprise! Chick flick but amazing romantic comedy too.)
160. Another Year
161. Great Directors
162. The Ghost Writer (riveting plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end credits roll! perfect acting too)
163. Splice (a little, uh, eek...)
164. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
165. The Wolfman (the good was already in the trailer. Rather disappointing...)
166. Piranha
167. A Nightmare on Elm Street
168. Charlie St. Cloud
169. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (faithful adaptation of the video game. The story/plot is quite 'cheapt' on the viewer since it all rewinds towards the end...)
170. Biutiful
171. The Lovely Bones
172. Monsters
173. Cairo Time
174. The Crazies
175. Valhalla Rising
176. Ondine
177. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story
178. Stolen Lives
179. Creation
180. Chloe
181. The Debt
182. Princess Ka’iulani
183. Like Dandelion Dust
184. Shutter Island
185. Inhale
186. Heartless
187. Rabbit Hole
188. Let Me In
189. Hemingway’s Garden of Eden
190. The Fighter
191. From Paris With Love (A-mazing! Another great action thriller that veers on comedy)
192. Shrek Forever After
193. The Next Three Days
194. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
195. Spring Fever
196. Stonewall Uprising
197. Smash His Camera
198. My Soul To Take
199. Life During Wartime
200. The Joneses
201. Mr. Nobody
202. The Good Heart
203. The Lottery
204. Leaving
205. Night Catches Us
206. Nowhere Boy
207. Babies
208. Barry Munday
209. Tooth Fairy (Perfect kid fodder. More for girls though.)
210. Yogi Bear
211. The Borrowers
212. You Again
213. Standing Ovation
214. Soul Kitchen
215. Multiple Sarcasms
216. The Nutcracker in 3D
217. The Last Airbender (Good prelude to the next movies in the series. Leaves behind a taste of not-having-had-enough though...)
218. Youth in Revolt
219. Edge of Darkness
220. Last Night
221. Extraordinary Measures (A bit of, uh, bleh...)
222. Ramona and Beezus
223. Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Awesome!)
224. Alpha and Omega (Simple, but okay)
225. Tangled
226. Marmaduke
227. Grown Ups
228. Inside Job
229. Gulliver’s Travels
230. The Spy Next Door
231. The Dry Land
232. Tiny Furniture
233. La mission
234. City Island
235. Letters to God
236. She’s Out of My League
237. Lottery Ticket
238. Wonderful World
239. The Infidel
240. Holy Rollers
241. Why Did I Get Married Too?
242. Paranormal Activity 2
243. Frozen
244. The Switch
245. Finding Bliss
246. Made in Dagenham
247. For Colored Girls
248. Crazy on the Outside
249. The Last Station
250. The Bounty Hunter (Again, watch the trailer and you feel you've watched the movie. Not memorable)
251. I’m Here
252. I Am Love
253. Red Hill
254. Country Strong
255. Peepli Live
256. Oceans
257. Sanctum
258. Little Fockers
259. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
260. Exit Through The Gift Shop
261. Winter’s Bone
262. Get Low
263. Fish Tank
264. Valentine’s Day (the 'sequel' to Love Actually! Just perfect!)
265. The Tillman Story
266. The Company Men
267. Tales from Earthsea
268. Spoken Word
269. To Save A Life
270. Hubble 3D

Find comprehensive details about the video here, including the music used as background to this clip.

So, which ones did you recognise without peeking at the list? :) Mine do look more like ones I watched with either the kids or the hubs. Guess most of the stuff I caught were year-old DVDs... :)

From Mauritius with love,

Z

Monday, December 20, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Where I Am...

Sitting down and realising we're in the last weeks of December, I keep wondering where the past year has gone. I had started 2010 with hopes and (as the ones who know the anal-me will not find surprising) a well-planned-out to-do list.

Well, it turns out that this year I learned that you don't make life happen the way you want it to. Life makes you dance to the particular tune it chooses.

I'm not dissatisfied with my year (more on that in my next Monday's wrap-up) but some things demand some serious looking at and boy, does that one little glance hurt. Case in point - my TBR pile...

I'm a serious book hoarder. And I do mean serious! All my spare money seems to go into books (or at least, a large share of it does). People at Bookcourt (one of the biggest libraries in Mauritius) recognise me instantly the minute I step in there. The books I've made these people chase... Still, they look at me and most probably go, "there's this week's sales' biggest proportion in one single visit!". Seriously, no kidding!
Yesterday, I had an idea to go chase all those books and add them up/organize the list in an Excel spreadsheet. And was that an eye-opener... I am currently reading... books I acquired in April! Nothing but an 8-month lag in the TBR-- 8 months!!
And like a crazy-goner-addict with no hope of redemption, guess what? Yes, I keep adding books to the tally! Every single week, I must be trolling bookstores, whether physical or online, and adding more books! I wonder if I'll get to read all the 2010 books by the time the end of 2011 rolls in... What'ya say? Is that a challenge? Okay, it's on! Let's see if in one year, I'll be able to say I made a sizeable dent in the pile. :)

On other fronts, one I'm not too happy is the 'body'. I've let myself go lately and I'm kicking myself to stick to a proper-diet-&-exercise regimen! Just today found an online article on using Pilates to shape abs. That's one I'll definitely need! I just can't get rid of the 'baby belly', even 7.5 years after said baby has been delivered. Okay - other goal for 2011 - get rid of the spare tyre I'm carrying! Yup, challenge me! :)

Okay, now what remained of my brain is fried. We're having one of our worst ever heat waves on the island. A little rain fell today, but it just made the heat more sweltering and oppressive. Sigh. Plus the air is totally dry - eyes are like sandpaper 10 minutes after you wake up, and the static in the hair! I wish I had a crew cut or a shaved head! My brush literally crackles to life when I brush my Pob-styled mane.

So on that very 'disturbing' visual, I leave you for today. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, December 17, 2010

Progress Friday

...is AWOL. No, wait, it is in December holiday mood. Plus I've now had the kids for 7 weeks on my hands - I'm not expected to function normally right now.

Hence, no actual progress, though the wheels inside the mind are turning. Finding new plot twists and turns, and putting them to good use in the outlines.

Looking forward to a fun weekend, as we're hitting the beach tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, peeps!!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Link Thursday: 10 Rules That Only Apply On Screen

Something funny today! I was browsing the Links' folder and stumbled upon this one. It's actually a gallery/slideshow on the Cosmopolitan Australia site but I thought I'd list these 'rules' here and maybe try to add some more. There's my little quips in the brackets, btw...)

Here goes! :)

*****

10 Rules That Only Apply On Screen

... and not in reality!

1. It’s possible to have sex in a swimming pool, cry or have a cocktail thrown in your face without your makeup budging an inch.
(and no, waterproof makeup is not that waterproof!)

2. If your lift breaks down, a hot, shirtless man will climb in through the roof and hand you a cold drink before rescuing you.
(heck, it doesn't get this good in dreams!!)

3. The smaller the town, the greater the number of cute men. At some point, two of them will have a fight over you in the street.
(uh...guilty writers, put your hands up. How many of us apply this rule to our small towns in our books? *sheepish grin*)

4. All weddings involve someone swooping in to halt the ceremony, one of the guests finding their soul mate and/or a punch-up.
(4 Weddings and A Funeral, anyone...?)

5. It’s impossible to decorate without a paint smudge on one cheek, a play fight with a sexy neighbour and an indoor picnic.
(And no one gets intoxicated by the toxic paint fumes!)

6. Your mobile will only ever run out of battery if you happen to be kidnapped and are desperately trying to call for help.
(Chargers and that annoying low battery reminder don't exist on screen, apparently...)

7. Even if you’re a waitress on minimum wage, you go shopping mid-afternoon and can still afford a huge luxury flat.
(Ahem... this applies to the penniless, struggling writer too there...)

8. Boring chores such as dusting, vacuuming, washing –up, and cleaning the oven strangely don’t exist.
(My dream home. I soooo wish...)

9. If you break up with a guy, you can spend weeks scoffing tubs of ice-cream and huge pizzas – and still fit into your clothes.
(And where do you have the money for such grocery shopping in the first place? Everyone knows Haagen-Dasz and pizza delivery add up to a hefty amount.)

10. The male friend you’ve never fancied but who’s always there for you- and not gay – is really the love of your life.
(Awww...)

*****

My personal favourites are not in this list though. I'll add them up here:

11. A gal can have relationships with all the men in one family and no one will bat an eyelash. (Brooke on The Bold and The Beautiful. Technically a soapie, but screen anyhow. And yes, everyone gathers at Christmas and weddings and all is well in the best of worlds...)

12. Girls wake up with a perfect salon blow-dry and department-store-counter makeup every single morning.

13. Nobody has bad breath. Or snores.

14. Clothes always come from Bendel and the likes, and jewellery is almost always Harry Winston diamonds (Gossip Girl and major soapies)

Can you think of some more? List them up in a comment for me. :)

Hope you had a laugh. I needed one...

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Difference in similarity

I admit I chose an oxymoron-like title for this blog to catch readers' attention. How can there be difference in similarity?
Well, you'd be surprised how this can come about!

I recently went back to my roots and returned to my first love - Harlequin category romance. Now, yes, I know I don't write category. My stories are much more out-of-the-box than HQ category, but when I had started to write close to 6 years ago, I wanted to pen a story that would fit there. I've been a lifelong reader of HQ/M&B, and the 'familiarity' of the series and their plots is as welcome as comfort food any time.

My point today is that there is no place that displays difference in similarity more than Harlequin series' books. Think about it - what is category associated with? Nurses and hot, sexy doctors in Medical Romances; rakes and damsels in distress in Historical Lines; modern damsels in distress and rugged alpha hero in Intrigue/Suspense; magnates and uber-tycoons, millionaires and billionaires with normal, Cinderella-like women in the contemporaries like Blaze; secret babies and other secrets in most contemporary lines; cowboys in American Romance. That's basically what each of these lines boils down to. Yet HQ puts out 2-6 books every month for every single one of these lines! They must've been here for over 20 years, and yet the stories, with the same themes, still come out steadily. How do they keep it different despite the similarity?

That's a question I plan to answer in a series of related posts on writing and originality, starting today.

I'll take an example to illustrate difference in similarity today - James Bond movies.

I just heard that the 23rd James Bond movie will be shot soon, starring Daniel Craig once more as 007. Now I dunno about you but I still remember the hype about Quantum of Solace, the last Bond movie to date. There had been lots of secrecy and buzz about this movie. The accidents that happened on the sets, Daniel Craig injuring himself doing stunts. And, a big worry for many Bond fans – Bond might not be getting the girl at the end. What? Bond always gets the girl, innit? That’s a given!

Okay, let’s recap here. The name is Bond, James Bond. Secret agent in the service of Her Majesty The Queen. A double 0 agent, licensed to kill. Lethal. Extremely good at his job. Suave lady’s man. Amateur of vodka martinis, which are shaken, not stirred. An ultimate women’s fantasy, especially in light of the handsome British actors who have played the part over the years (the debate is still on at my place whether it is Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig who wins best James Bond...).

Anywayz, everyone knows this fact sheet. It’s a given on any Bond movie that this is the man you’re gonna meet. He saves the world at the end, usually from megalomaniac villains, with the help of terrific gadgets created by MI:6, through stupendous stunts and with at least one fabulous car, most often an Aston Martin.

What I, and many others, came to associate Bond movies with – Suspension of disbelief, action without much need for brains, ludicrous conquer-the-world schemes, and one or two beautiful living dolls to provide men eye candy and Bond a much needed respite from the hectic life he leads. This is very much how Die Another Day, the last Brosnan Bond movie, could be resumed.

Now, fast forward to the first Daniel Craig release, Casino Royale. Subdued décor. Bond is less flashy, more rugged, not as smooth and charming as in previous movies. Younger too. No gadgets practically. A still fab but ‘normal’ car. A villain who manipulates money in the arena of international terrorism, and not a crazy lunatic. A woman who can think, not here just to pose as a trophy bimbo. Oh, and Bond only makes love to her towards the end of the movie, and that too, the scene is more suggested than shown. Bond is more down to earth, human, reckless too, but it works.

As it turns out, Casino Royale, the book, is originally the first story penned by Ian Fleming in the Bond series. The movie also shows this. The first scene is of Bond waiting for a target. His second ‘kill’, the one that will earn him Double 0 status. Said status which is confirmed on MI:6’s screens at the end of the opening credits.
Throughout the movie, you can see this ‘departure’ of Bond’s character across the story. How he is shaped up. What makes him who he is. How it all impacts him.

In a way, maybe if you didn’t hear the character being called Bond in this one, you’d never know that it’s a James Bond film. This has unnerved a lot of fans, though most are coming round to understanding the concept.

What you as a writer can learn here? I’m getting to it, don’t worry.

How many more Bond movies do you think they could’ve made after Die Another Day? What would they have come up with? Frankly, tough situation. Some people, especially the newer generations, were getting tired of the same old, same old format of this series. Coupled with new spy-movie trends of the likes of the Bourne Trilogy, where Jason Bourne is more a brainiac spy who can think and figure his way out of every glitch, Bond was getting remarkably cliché.

So what do you do when you hit a wall, and cannot move forward?

You go back to the roots.

Casino Royale is the first Bond book. So they did that. Showed a new persona, still like the old, but with a new perspective. More grounded in reality. Tackling issues pertinent to the world as we know it today. Conflicts we can all relate to. Things we can grasp and process without suspending our disbelief as much as when we watch Star Wars (or 24, where a certain 'someone' named Jack Bauer gets involved in the craziest of days and always, always saves the day. Season 7 went back to a cleaner, more stream-lined plot very much like Season 1, after the luridness of Seasons 5 and 6.).

Difference in similarity - you take the old and merge it into the new. Cliche/given mixed with originality.
They did it with Bond. I’m sure you can do it too.

Eager to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, December 13, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Into the madding crowd...

Hey peeps

I must be mad to even consider going out shopping at this time of the year. The commercial centres are full of people, and not all of them places are air-conditioned. The temps are in the 90s here, higher on the coastal regions. A typical tropical summer... Plus it's Christmas time, and the decorations! If you manage to pause for a few seconds to shut your hanging-open mouth (so much all the places are battling for best winter decoration in time of summer), you realise you are having an overdose of Christmas commercialism (Uh, hubby's reminding me I don't say this when I'm in front of the chocolate box displays... Oh well...).

So yeah, Christmas commercialism (the rise of the capitalist world, etc, etc) yet what do you do when you see those amazing deals out there???
I'm crazy, yeah - because I love to do my deals'-shopping during December. I even buy the kid's school stuff now, not waiting for the 'deals that are not deals' they'll all spring in the first week of January (school runs from January to November here in Mauritius). Now this means dragging two (and sometimes three, when my stepson is here) very, very, very reluctant and allergic-to-shopping blokes with me when I have to shop for stuff for them. And that's not even possible all the time! Case in point - hubby needed new shoes, but the man who makes everyone quiver with just a glare turns into a shying-away mass of muscle when the prospect of entering a store comes around the corner. Men, sheesh... So what do I have to do? Right - go in, choose shoes for him, make sure I got the size right, buy, and dump them in his lap. Same goes for the kids. Sometimes I think I missed my calling and should've turned into a personal shopper!

But you wouldn't get me to do all that if it weren't for the deals! I mean, people - I bought a pair of winter suede booties at half-price (!!!) right now in the middle of summer. I know the trend might not be booties next winter (actually boots and booties are all the rage this winter in Europe, so next winter in the southern hemisphere, these will be hot stuff!), but if a girl shops by the classics, hmmmm... The deals... :)

So, been indulging in some bouts of therapeutic shopping (between bouts of forced shopping for the blokes) while I still dash to and fro the hospital. Got a scare last week about a lab result, but as people with a chronic illness will reckon, sometimes 'bad' news is good news because 'it's not worse', know what I mean?

Now while I bask in this 'bad news that is in fact good' (words of my doctor, not mine!), I'm looking forward to a nice, not too eventful week. Do you think that's too much to ask?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, December 10, 2010

Progress Friday

...is a success. Objectives of the week achieved - a synopsis written, a partial set into place, a submission package compiled and sent.

I'd say I'm on target!

Now if I could only learn how to write among kid madness... Anyone know how?

Have a great weekend!

From Mauritius with love

Zee

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Link Thursday: The 12 Categories of Single Women

Hello beautiful people!

Browsing upon my articles bible once again the other day, I came across this article. While it gave me a chuckle or two, I also nodded along the way. Why? Because I was going, my heroine Lara (The Other Side) was a typical Phoenix; Diya (Light My World) was a definite Princess-in-Waiting, though she wasn't exactly waiting for Prince Charming to waltz into her life while taking his bl**dy time! Jane (Storms in a Shot Glass) was a mix of the Organic and the Slow and Steady, creating her own 'single gal archetype'. My other heroines (unpubbed and in WIPs) were also there somehow.

Do you find your heroines in the list? Take a look!

The article is from Maura Kelly, and was accessed at the MSN Lifestyle, Love & Relationships website on December 6, 2010.

****

The 12 Categories of Single Women

A new book on singlehood identifies twelve different types of single women. Do you recognize yourself amongst the descriptions?

By Maura Kelly

[Editor's note: Maura Kelly writes a relationships blog,The Year of Living Flirtatiously, for MarieClaire.com. This is an excerpt from that blog.]

There's a new book out called (deep breath) Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (and Finding Lasting Love Along the Way). To write it, author Michelle Cove interviewed more than 100 women and talked to them about how relationships based on what they think they should want often leave them unhappy. She tried to determine what it was that they truly wanted in the process, getting readers to think a little more deeply about what their dream relationship might really be like.

After interviewing so many women, Cove began to think that most of them fit into one of 12 categories, which she defines for us below.

The Soul-Mate Seeker: Someone who is doing everything she can to find The One.

The Phoenix: A woman who recently had a painful breakup and is doing everything she can to rise from the ashes in better shape.

The Organic: She prefers to leave things up to destiny and live her own life rather than hunting for men in any methodical or calculated way.

The Princess-in-Waiting: She is waiting to be rescued by a prince (who sure is taking his royal time).

The Late Bloomer: The rest of her life is on hold while she waits for her future husband to appear.

The Free Spirit: She worries that she can only have one or the other — her independence or a committed relationship. (And she thinks the former is better.)

The Wedding Wisher: She suddenly finds herself fantasizing about marriage after a lifetime of not caring about it.

The Town Rebel: She no longer aspires to live the cookie-cutter lifestyle of everyone else in her community, though she once used to.

The Ritual Re-inventor: A woman who wants to get hitched but also feels very strongly about having an unconventional marriage (right down to the wedding ceremony).

The Someday-Mom: She would like to have babies someday, but wishes she didn't feel so much biological pressure to figure it out fast.

The Slow & Steady: A woman who hopes to marry when the time is right. Meanwhile, she does her best not to cave to the massive pressure she feels from friends, family and society.

The Trailblazer: A woman who knows married life is not for her, so she's trying to break a new kind of path to happiness.

Which one of these are you? Which one am I? I'd love to say, "Oh, I'm The Organic — if it's going to happen, it'll happen." But as I think finding a good guy becomes a numbers game after a certain point, I do put some energy into looking for people — which might make me something of a Soul-Mate Seeker. At the same time, I'm Slow & Steady — I'm well past the age when most of my friends (and most women) get married, and I'm in no rush. (I'm not so sure I want kids, which makes it easier to stay calm.) I am fairly certain that if I do get married, I will be a Ritual Re-inventor — I'm not necessarily interested in conventional anything. My dude and I will do what feels right, conventions be hanged! But I'd also say I am a real Free Spirit, and I fear a relationship will absolutely mean an unpleasant curtailment of my freedom.

Weirdly enough, I think I used to be a Princess-in-Waiting as a cover for being a Commitment-Phobe — I kept saying to myself, "The problem is that I can't find the perfect man who will help me to stop being sad and make everything all right in the world." In reality, I think the real problem was that no man ever seemed perfect enough because I wasn't really all that interested in getting into a relationship and risking all the potential emotional trauma that might come with it.

So ... that's me, in a nutshell. You might see yourself in one of these categories — or, like me, in several.

****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Blank Again

Hey peeps

Please forgive me for not posting the usual Wednesday writing advice today. I've tried to come up with what to talk about, and came up blank. The reason is very much due to the fact that I'm still convalescent from my surgery (though I hate to admit that state of affair...). It's true that I get tired very easily, and trying to think is even a pain at certain times of the day. 2 hours after waking up, I'm ready for a nap. Needless to tell you what it feels like after 6-8 hours.

So I promise to have the writing advice next week. Just bailing out (with your understanding) today.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, December 06, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: ..is back and kickin'!

Hello beautiful people!

Yeah, it's been awhile... A month, actually, Monday to Monday. Yes, I was away, but today I'll tell you the reason why I pulled a disappearing act on my blog (and Internet life in general).

If anyone of you remembers the last week of active posting on this space, you'll recall I had a Tuesday Tidbit post about breast cancer awareness. The day after, I struck a blank as to my usual Writing Wednesday post. At the time I had told you that I was studying and neck deep in exam preparation.

While this was true, there was another reason why I struck a blank that day, and why I've been away. It's name is "breast lump". Towards the end of September, I found, completely by chance, a lump the size of a kidney bean in my other, not-cancer-affected breast. Since that day it's been a barrage of tests and hospital and doctor visits. Needless to say, this completely sapped at my energy. Add to it that I was also taking uni exams, and as usual (bad student that I am!), I had left the bulk of the study to the last few weeks.

After the last exam, I just crashed and burned, no longer able to keep up appearances that all was well. I was also getting ready to go in for surgery. There was no way I was allowing cancer back in my life again! Said intervention happened on Wednesday November 17. I stayed a total of 6 days in hospital, and returned home the following Monday. I was in functioning order, but still not allowed to do much. Drove me nuts, actually! I gradually got back into the Internet life (about died from not having a connection while at the hospital!), but then the 'joys' of recovery caught up with me. I start the day all eager to tackle some stuff, but boom! 11 am and all I feel like is going to sleep. :) Doesn't make for a very productive life, innit?

Still, that now out of the way, I hope you peeps will understand why I've been away. But I'm back, and here for good now, lol!

And oh yeah, I've also started a new story while in the hospital (I wrote on my qwerty phone. I know, everyone thought I was a freak there too!). I'm updating the meter to look forward to the progress on this new WIP, which is a little something I'm doing after being fired up by the events of the SYTYCW Harlequin event.

So I hope I'm welcome once more... Missed ya all, and looking forward to catching up!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, November 08, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Return of the Connection

I'm sorry that last week the blog has remained blank. As most of you know, I was in my final examination week at uni and it's probably the one exam I was less prepared for. I slaved away through Monday-Thursday to try and cram all the 400+ page marketing and distribution management knowledge to be able to sit for the exam on Friday morning. Thank goodness I did know my answers, but I wonder if I'll pass and even be able to scrimp the required 50% pass mark... Oh well, I'll have my answer circa December 10.

So yes, I cut myself off the Internet to get some studying done, but that wasn't hard to do seeing how my ISP was playing catch with me last week. They barely allowed me to log in, and if I did get through, I had no actual connection and I'd lose any link to their server after 2-3 minutes. Wait for a further 30 minutes before the modem even allowed another attempt at connection, and when I called their assistance number, can you believe it - 13 times out of 18 successive calls, they lifted the phone and let it drop back in the cradle! The other 5 times they let the phone ring until the line went dead by itself. I've never believed a company could be so unprofessional... It took my husband calling them from his mobile phone (Caller ID in place there... I wonder...) and they answered, all eager to 'help'. Hubby told them our contract's coming to an end on November 30 and we're not gonna renew - what's the procedure?
Bumbled reply from them, and since that day (Thursday afternoon), would you believe the connection is 'perfect'?

I'm having a terrible crash and burn moment right now, especially with the kids being on 9-weeks summer break. Have no idea how I'll cope... :)

Still, once more, I'm sorry. I'm not one to go "blame it on the whatever entity" but this time, yes, I do say, blame it on my ISP! Couldn't attend half of the good lineup at the So You Think You Can Write Harlequin event and could only catch up really late on boards and read transcripts! Sheesh...

Hope we'll all have a great week!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, October 29, 2010

Progress Friday

Again, progress at a standstill. Not helped by the fact that I'm still studying (and not understanding a thing about this marketing paper!). I've also run into the proverbial brick wall - not writer's block but the story needs an overhaul if I'm to continue forward sanely. I mean, nothing of what's to come in the remaining two-thirds of the book will 'gel' with the first third unless I rewrite the start and redo the heroine's GMC.

I often find that's the case for me. Because I have the book already mapped out in a fast-draft sort of way, I know I won't 'lose my way' if I rewrite now. However most of the time when I'm writing, the heroine at 30% of the WIP shows me who she really is and why she's the way she is. It's almost an aha! moment for me. This just happened with this WIP and suddenly it's all clearer and making sense to me. But it won't to my CPs, who will be reading the 'new' continuation and scratching their heads because the story takes an unexpected turn in the heroine's motivation.

So I thus see myself needing to tackle this rewrite/redo/overhaul/ironing out, whatever you wanna call it, before I can move forward. Usually once I do this on any story, the rest pretty much writes itself, thank goodness. It's just a question of finding the 'click' deal and seeing the way.

Bright weekend in perspective, though half of it will be spent studying marketing and retail distribution jargon. Sigh. But, a student's gotta do what a student's gotta do. :)

Have a great weekend, peeps!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Link Thursday: How To Break A Toxic Love Pattern

This is the article that I had been waiting for without knowing it! On my Today's news page on Tuesday, there was this link about how to break a toxic love pattern. Thinking it would make a great basis for characterisation, I clicked the link... and was left speechless when I read the article. For, you see, this is exactly what is happening with my heroine N in my current WIP. The article spelt it out in such terms that it was practically like having her on the couch and psycho-analysing her! This info is moving her GMC in ways that are getting me past the possible block every writer feels with her characters.

So while this is giving me food for thought as to how to re-do the character and re-channel the rewrite, this is advice all of us women must know, especially the ones who are single and still looking for Mr. Right. And lol, we all know our heroines too are single gals looking for the elusive Prince Charming!

The link was up on Tuesday October 26, 2010 on MSN Love & Relationships page, and is penned by Korin Miller.

******

How to Break a Toxic Love Pattern

Even though you swear your exes are totally different, experts say most women have a relationship pattern they keep going back to. See how to break yours for a love that won't leave you hurting.

By Korin Miller

We were shocked when we heard that the first guy Rihanna seriously dated after Chris Brown had been accused of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend. After everything she went through, it would seem as if she'd be repulsed by men with that kind of reputation.

Turns out, the opposite is more likely to be true. "Most of us have a relationship pattern — that same type of guy we keep falling for — and it can work for or against us," says couples therapist Deborah Dunn, author of Stupid About Men. "It's not uncommon for women to keep going back to the type that wronged them in the past." How do you change whom you're drawn to dating? It's not easy, but it starts with figuring out where your attraction to these guys came from in the first place.

Family Ties
Experts say we develop our taste in men at a young age — anywhere from childhood to adolescence. "Whether it's positive or negative, everyone has a relationship pattern based on what they learned about love when they were growing up," says Alon Gratch, Ph.D., author of If Love Could Think.

Repeatedly choosing the wrong guys signals that you may be driven to re-create the drama you had with your father or first boyfriend. Many women who had an absentee dad or let the arrogant JV football captain string them along for years will go for men who are unavailable or talk down to them because they're subconsciously trying to resolve things with the guy who let them down earlier in life, says Dunn — even though, clearly, that's not solving anything.

Women in these toxic patterns get hooked on the ups and downs of their relationships and can form what experts call betrayal bonds, which cause them to feel even more attached to men who show them these extreme — and sometimes ultimately dangerous — forms of attention. "You eventually feel like a guy doesn't love you unless he's either yelling in your face or trying to win you back," Dunn says.

Break the Cycle
All guys have less-than-admirable moments, but there are major tip-offs that your type is bad for you. Consistently feeling worse about yourself as you become more involved with a boyfriend is a giveaway that something isn't right, says Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of Love in 90 Days.

Other red flags: feeling like you have to walk on eggshells around a guy and dropping everything to spend time with him even though he's proven he wouldn't do the same for you. And while only you know what your relationships are really like, pay attention if your friends and family disapprove of every man you date, says Gratch.

To alter whom you're attracted to, you need to believe that what you've experienced isn't how love has to or should be, says Dunn. Ask friends who are happy in their relationships to describe how their guy behaves toward them so you can hear what you're missing out on. Or if you're coming off yet another bad breakup, consider seeing a therapist to make peace with the guy who originally wronged you, recommends Kirschner. For extra motivation, picture what your life could be like in 10 years if you're still choosing men who treat you badly versus men who will care for you in a positive way. Which future do you want?

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Blank

Sorry people - no writing advice this week. My mind has struck a blank and I didn't want to subject you all to nonsensical rambling (lol, as if I don't ramble most of the time!).

Still, I'm up to my scalp in studying. Never thought these could get so time and brain-consuming. I know, I've been a uni student for quite a few years now so I should know what to expect, but my life situation has not been the same all this time and I find new challenges every day. It's as if it's become a non-ending race, and I have no idea where to look and what to do first.

I was also quite stumped after writing the Tuesday post about breast cancer awareness. That drained me, I think, and I couldn't string sentences together on a meaningful post when all I thought about was this topic. Thought of posting something about writers' need for social responsibility in their writings, but I think this will be for next week.

Again, please forgive me for not posting any advice today. I'm burnt out, seriously, and need to catch my breath. I hope you understand. You, my readers, are fantastic folks and I'm sure you know there's a human somewhere behind the one posting on this blog. This someone does break down and flop onto the floor wanting to do nothing from time to time. It's the only way to allow the batteries to recharge.

Next week, I promise I'll be back.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Breast Cancer Awareness!

Common stuff most women (usually over 30) know about breast cancer:
  • It happens after you turn 40.
  • It happens after menopause.
  • If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, get yourself checked.
  • If you're on the pill, the risk for breast cancer increases.
  • Have a mammogram every 3 years after 30, yearly after 40.
  • To have breast cancer, there needs to have a family history of it.
All of this is true, to a certain extent, but this is just the tip of the iceberg where breast cancer is really concerned!

I knew all about these aspects of breast cancer. Hadn't heard about them but read about them online (thanks to newsletters of women-oriented sites like iVillage.com and sofeminine.co.uk). I'm also one of those anal 'patients' who reads all the literature about any drug I take, thus I knew there was a risk when taking the pill because I read that small sheet with the kill-your-eyes small font.

I thought I knew. I thought I was covered. I thought I had time (I was in my early twenties).

How wrong I had been! It took me finding a solid, golf-ball sized lump in my left breast to drive it all home. I had celebrated my 22nd birthday a week earlier. That's when I fell on any information about breast cancer I could find, and helped along by my terrific oncologist answering my every nit-picky question, I found a picture that is most of the time hidden.

Let's take some of those common knowledge stuff listed above.

It happens after 40.
Not necessarily. It depends what type of cancer - estrogen-receptor positive or estrogen-receptor negative (more on that in a minute). Most women are more at risk of the estrogen-linked cancer than the rest.

It happens after menopause.
Again, largely due to the estrogen receptor. A big catalyst of the 'after menopause' debate is the use of Hormone-Replacement Therapy.

If there's a history of breast cancer in your family, get yourself checked.
Only too true! Breast cancer in the family is the genetic type of cancer, the one that gets passed on through genes. A mutation in specific genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, is responsible for the cancer triggering. And these don't heed age - they won't wait until you're over 40 to strike! (as it was the case with me).

If you're on the pill, the risk for breast cancer increases.
True - but again this is the estrogen-receptor positive type of breast cancer that comes into play.

Have a mammogram every 3 years after 30, yearly after 40.
True - prevention is better than cure. But a mammogram is not prevention enough, not even yearly, at any age! I'll tell you why shortly.

To have breast cancer, there needs to be a family history of it.
Yes, and no. Furthermore, do you know your whole family history?

Let me explain some more.
So there is a difference between breast cancer brought on by hormonal changes (estrogen. No need for me to tell you estrogen and progesterone are the main female hormones. Pills and hormone-replacement therapy work on altering the level of these hormones in the body to get the desired outcome, ex prevent pregnancy in the former's case), and breast cancer brought on by genetic mutation.

A cancer is basically cells growing too quickly especially where they shouldn't. The difference between breast cancer brought on by estrogen (thus which has estrogen-receptors positive) and one brought on by genes (estrogen-receptor negative) is the development and proliferation rate of the abnormal cells. A genetic-type cancer is many times more rapid and more aggressive than one brought on by hormones.

So then we know that hormone-type cancer's risk increases the minute you go over 40 (your body preparing to go into menopause, even if that if still a decade away). Genes do not wait for you to turn 40.
Which is why having a mammogram every 3 years after 30 and yearly after 40 is not prevention enough if it happens that a genetic-type cancer hits you. With a gene-mutation cancer, a lump can develop overnight, and double or even treble in size over 1-2 weeks (it was the case for me. Between the day the lump was noticed and the 5 days after which it was removed, it had nearly doubled in size!). You can thus have your mammogram in January, the cancer declares itself in February, and in March it has already hit your lymph nodes and spread.

Then what do you do, if mammograms are not prevention enough? Simple - you take matters into your own hand, literally! No one knows your body as well as you do.
Breast self-exam is your biggest pro-active shield towards recognizing breast cancer!
Ideally, this exam should be done 10 days or so into your cycle. But it has become painfully aware, to me, that a lump will not wait for Day 10 of the cycle to happen. Carry out the exam more often than just once a month, if you can.

Now you can tell me I'm blowing hot air over genetic-type breast cancer and there is no history of breast cancer in your family. Fine - but do you know your full family history? Maybe someone had it but didn't advertise it. Maybe one of your ancestors had breast cancer in the 1800s or in the 1900s - the gene might be there, silent for generations, and then bingo, it decides you're the lucky winner for it to become activated!

The final line - better be safe than sorry! Be aware of your own health, and take your well-being into your own hands, whatever your age! A breast self-exam takes 15 minutes tops, and the more you do it, the more attuned you become to your body. 15 minutes now and then, regularly, is not a heavy price to pay compared to cancer, the hours of worry, the agony of surgery and recovery, the hell of chemotherapy treatment and the torture of radiation therapy!

Do your self-exam. Get a mammogram yearly. Get regular check-ups with your gynecologist. Breast cancer caught early has an almost 100% survival rate.

I wrote today's post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN
(www.dianaraab.com).
The book includes Diana's experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to express their own personal stories. A survivor of both breast cancer and multiple myeloma, Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin--in that it heals, detoxifies and is essential for optimal health.
Diana, the author of eight books, spent 25 years as a medical and self-help writer before turning to poetry and memoir. She teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. To read Diana's post about breast cancer and a list of other blogs participating in Diana's Blanket Tour visit The Muffin.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2010/09/blanket-tour-for-diana-raab.html

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Return to Rambling

1 paper down, 1 more to go in 10 days. Not gonna focus on the next for the moment but just gonna bask in the glow (and crash and burn feeling!) of completing a paper that had me sweating bullets late last night. Imagine thinking your story is as polished as can be, and your beta reader/editor just hands you her crit and it turns out you have 5 pages of notes to 're-do' in the story. Hell, innit? That's how I felt last night when I completed my revisions and took a peek at the lecturers' feedback! Can you say panic and hyperventilating? I think even Jack Bauer and John MacClaine together couldn't have saved the day the way my future looked like right then!
Still, we writers are resilient ones, aren't we? Tackled the notes after a big breath (and a frappucino) and managed to see where my revisions and lecturers' notes didn't mesh perfectly. Went to sleep thinking/dreaming/talking in my sleep about meta ethical theories as individual conduct guidelines and normative ethics as the societal component (yes, that makes as much sense as Valium or Prozac).

Went through one of the worst traffic jams ever this morning. Left home at 7 am to get to the exam center at 8.15, tops. This takes 17 minutes during the day. Turns out we were still about a kilometre from the center at that precise time, thanks to morning commute to the capital city of Port Louis! Dashed into my classroom with exactly 3 minutes to spare before the paper started. And did I mention I just found out along this trip that there was no longer any coolant for the radiator and the car was dangerously heating?

All in all, the questions turned out to be do-able, and I managed to turn my answer book in with 5 minutes to go to deadline. Covered 12 A4 pages (that's 3000 words, innit?) with answers, written in longhand! Turns out I still recall how to write, but now my wrist is killing me and the crash and burn means my arms, legs, and back feel like jelly. :)

And did I mention my brain took this exact moment to slam-dunk me not just one, but two, story ideas? One is a totally novel story idea that is screaming to be heard/written/be done with. The other is a 'revelation' about my heroine N in the WIP, and something terribly pertinent and vital about her relationship with the men in her love life.

Oh, and another thing - silence is over-rated! When I was younger, my parents always complained of me studying with music blaring out of the radio cassette player (yeah, that old!). Between Rob Zombie 'puking his guts out' as my Mom so graciously spelt it, and Boyzone and Backstreet Boys singing about eternal love, and Britney asking to be 'hit one more time', it seemed, even to me, as a miracle that I ended up my school years with good-enough grades.
Now, it turns out there is a correlation between studying and music in the background. I did that this Saturday when studying and it seemed a block suddenly lifted as music played. I dunno - it could be that listening to music engages a different part of your brain and this helps to concentrate with the part that is assimilating the study. Strange but it works - I'm gonna study with music now!

So I go back to the regular madness now. The past weeks have been a rollercoaster of getting things done and now all I wanna do is sink into my comfy bed with a thick quilt and lose myself in a book. The dilemma - which book to choose?

From Mauritius with love (and totally wiped out!),

Zee

Friday, October 22, 2010

Progress Friday

The graphic here should pretty much spell my stand. Yup, still study time. Final cruising to the finish line, if that can be said. The first paper is on Monday and thankfully I seem to be able to clearly recall what it is I'm supposed to talk about in the answers!

Writing-wise, not making much progress. Did manage to add some 2K or so to the WIP this week, the result of sitting out of hospital appointments and having time to kill. Take out the trusty qwerty phone and start typing while forgetting the world around you. Seems to be working thus far, because a block I'd had about a scene, which just refused to clear no matter how much I thought upon it, just vanished into thin air when I was writing. In an overcrowded, over-loud, over-heated waiting room, of all places. Guess my mind still works under stress and dire environmental conditions - that should be a relief, innit?

Still, chugging along nicely. Got past this block, and finding new aspects about my characters. I'd say it's working.

Small progress on the meter, but progress anyhow.

Leave you off for a weekend of intense study and trying not to go nuts. Hope yours is much, much lighter and pleasant!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Link Thursday: Field Guide To Guys

Which one of you readers and writers ever hoped men came with a translation manual? Look no further - the Field Guide to Guys takes you on an almost scientific and anthropological trip where you'll find all the different types populating the big, mad world out there!

Enjoy - this is a great one for penning heroes, zeroes, and all the different types you can hope to people your writings with!

The article is taken from MSN Lifestyle, Relationships section, accessed around February 20, 2010.The authors and Josh Aiello and Genevieve Roth.

*Big grin*

******

Your Field Guide to Guys

For any woman who's ever wished that men came with signs on their backs explaining how to date, mate and relate to them, we present the 17 types you might meet out there in the wild.

By Josh Aiello and Genevieve Roth

1. The Sexy Foreigner

Plumage: He's totally hot, from his great hair to his you-can't-tell-if-they've-ever-been-washed tight jeans. If he smokes (likely), he owns a Zippo.

Mating Habits: Attracts females via his impossibly sexy accent and the ability to transform out-of-date machismo into charming banter.

Field Notes: You could grow tired of the SF's Vespa and chest hair. But he makes you feel like a lady, drives exes mad with jealousy, and delivers capital-R romance. If he's not a cad, just say oui.

2. The Hobbyist

Plumage: More identifiable by his hobby than his physical appearance, this guy inspires your girlfriends to refer to him as the Wine Dude, the Beekeeper, the Racquetballer, etc.

Behavior: He's incredibly loyal, friendly and talkative, though most of his anecdotes will appeal only to fellow hobbyists. To you, it may sound like he's speaking another language.

Field Notes: You have two choices here: Familiarize yourself with his passion and join in the cork-sniffing fun, or give the guy loads of space and time (maybe even a wall on which to display his trophies) and cultivate your own obsessive pastime.

3. The Coffee Shop Intellectual

Plumage: His attire is mostly composed of black, and he has the rare ability to wear tight jeans without looking ridiculous. "I think every guy should own a pair of skinny black jeans and boots," says actor Sebastian Stan, pictured above. "When I showed up for the photo shoot, I had been wearing mine for like two days."

Behavior: He knows how to have fun, but big groups scare him. "Karaoke bars are up on the list of places I like to hang out. I really like going out with just my closest friends."

Mating Habits: He dislikes anyone — man or woman — who is fake. "Pretention is a huge turnoff," says Stan. "There's nothing more amazing than if you're lucky enough to be with someone who can inspire you. It's that, mixed with passion."

Field Notes: The CSI wants a woman who is comfortable (a) with herself — that's sexy — and (b) letting him be who he is, whoever that may be at the moment. "I'm a completely different person than I was four years ago," says Stan. "I try to meld with the times and stay open to new ideas."

4. The Workaholic

Plumage: His wardrobe costs more than yours.

Behavior: He asserts his manhood through a maniacal desire to make money. Works a 90-hour week and probably uses his BlackBerry on the john.

Mating Habits: Courts you by buying you jewelry no sane woman would refuse.

Field Notes: It can be hard to tell whether there's a real guy behind the money clip, so here's a litmus test: If he sleeps on an Aerobed without complaint at your parents' home, he's legit. If, on the other hand, he wakes up cranky and checks into a hotel, he's not The One.

5. The Pickup Artist

Plumage: First you're impressed by his fashion sense and perfect hair. Then you notice the shark tooth necklace and … is that a manicure?! Red flag!

Mating Habits: He's a disciple of pick-up manuals like The Game, and prepares for a date like a general plotting a battle.

Field Notes: Remember that, to him, dating is sport. You're like Mount Everest in heels, a test of his manhood. To win him over for real, you'll have to be his equal. Beat him at his own game and call him out on his tactics. (Unless, of course, all you want is no-strings-attached fun. That's fine too.)

6. The Surfer Boy

Plumage: With a glow like the last day of summer vacation, the Surfer Boy is one of nature's great gifts to women. His sun-bleached hair, perfect body squeezed into a vintage tee, and ability to walk barefoot are, at times, awe-inspiring.

Behavior: He overuses the words rad and gnarly. He shies away from anything resembling an actual job. He spends half the year in Tahiti … or something. But seriously: Have you seen this guy?

Field Notes: The Surfer Boy might not be husband material, but he's super positive and fun. A few flirtatious months together can be a life-affirmingly carefree experience.

7. The Man You Thought Was Gay

Behavior: This thoughtful and caring guy is always there to listen and is game for a quick detour into Bloomingdale's. You assume he's into men — all the good ones are.

Mating Habits: He's the most nonthreatening male you've ever encountered, but just as you're starting to open up to him, something's off. Wait, is his hand on your thigh?

Field Notes: TMYTWG has no idea you think he's gay. So keep an open mind — he could be the greatest boyfriend of all time. Still worried? Here's a tip: Ask about his dating history. Ambiguous, pronoun-free statements like "there once was this person I dated" are not good.

8. The Cowboy

Behavior: The Cowboy builds muscle roping steer, hitting the gym and doing physically intensive weekend projects. He's proud and traditional, and can wear a belt buckle like nobody's business. Note: Do not confuse him with the Suburban Cowboy, who, despite having never actually ridden a horse, dresses the part and enjoys grilling meat and yelling at the TV. Avoid.

Mating Habits: Rest assured, ladies, his rugged individualism extends to the bedroom.

Field Notes: He may not be quick to share his emotions, but the Cowboy is an all-around good dude with a lot of love to give. Giddyup!

9. The Life Coach

Behavior: Like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, the Life Coach makes it his personal mission to "improve" the woman he's dating.

Mating Habits: He prefers young and impressionable women, and he takes a mate under his wing using a mixture of hints, tips and passive-aggressive suggestions. Whatever you're doing, this guy knows a much better way to do it.

Field Notes: The Life Coach may seem sophisticated (he might even remind you of that college professor you always had a thing for), but the bottom line is that this dude feeds off controlling you. You're too good for that!

10. The Man-Child

Plumage: Anything comfortable and bright. "I tend to stick to T-shirts and jeans," says rapper and singer Kid Cudi, a child at heart. "Oh, and my Surface To Air leather jacket is the favorite thing I own. I love that jacket, and if anything ever happened to it, I'd be really hurt."

Behavior: He is happy spending the night with his video games. Really. "I've got an Xbox and I've got a Wii and I've got a PlayStation 3."

Mating Habits: The Man-Child is looking for someone who is as confident with who she is as he is with himself. "I love a girl who is true to herself. If you're not a girl that wears heels, then don't wear heels."

Field Notes: To be with this guy, you have to know how to have fun. "The first thing that attracts me is personality," says Cudi. "I'm a silly dude, and I love to crack jokes …. I want somebody who can hang with that. If I spit out a joke, I want somebody who bounces right back and spits out a joke at me."

11. The Undercover Hottie

Plumage: He's like Mr. Invisible: You wouldn't glance twice at him in the supermarket, couldn't pick him out of a police lineup, might not even notice him if he worked in the next cubicle …

Mating Habits: … and yet, despite appearances, the UH routinely attracts women way out of his league, leading to the intriguing conclusion that there must be something great about this guy.

Field Notes: He's a highly prized species, so if you spot him, pounce! (Many women report meeting the UH on a blind date.) He may not be tall, he may not have all of his hair, but this cool, funny guy will check off every other box on your list, in bed and out.

12. The Passionista

Plumage: Whatever he's doing, the Passionista dresses the part. His gear is always first-rate, and he always looks great, whether he's hunting big game or attending the opera.

Behavior: His joie de vivre is enthralling … and exhausting. He's into extreme sports, fine food, great wine, high culture. He's never tired, can hold his liquor, and is up for anything, anytime.

Mating Habits: This type's exploits aren't designed to attract women, but who can resist a guy whose desktop image shows him BASE jumping inside the Grand Canyon?

Field Notes: His zest for life may overwhelm you, but the Passionista is downright magnetic. And the bedroom prowess? Ridiculous.

13. Mr. Right

Plumage: He has no set look, dress, body type or style. Mr. Right can take on the form of any man, so attempt to stay at least a little open-minded.

Behavior: Startling truth: For all of Mr. Right's life, he may have been in one of the previous categories. To everyone else in the world, he may still be.

Mating Habits: He has no act, no game. He calls when he says he will, focuses on your needs in bed and is basically the coolest, nicest person you've ever met.

Field Notes: The most elusive of men, Mr. Right is difficult to locate but well worth the effort. Many women settle before finding him, so go out with your friends, be yourself and he will appear. Mazel tov.

14. Mr. Jealous

Behavior: At first, Mr. Jealous comes off as normal, attractive and well-groomed. You can't believe this guy isn't married! But eventually certain traits that seemed cute at first (he calls you every five minutes) start feeling … weird.

Field Notes: Mr. Jealous dates women like the CIA monitors terrorist activity! He casts a net of surveillance, grows suspicious of any male you encounter and is known to hack into your e-mail. Your relationship will devolve into a constant effort to prove you aren't doing anything wrong, until you finally dump him.

15. The Sensitive Rocker

Plumage: His wardrobe has been culled from the finest Goodwill stores around the country. And yet he wears $300 retro sneakers. Has been spotted wearing a leather jacket in July.

Behavior: Sweet and introspective, this guy can pick up more chicks than a high school quarterback in Texas. (And he sings!)

Field Notes: The very sensitivity you love him for can make him a bit … touchy. Major warning: If he's an actual singer, like one who goes on tour, you heard it here: Groupies are real.

16. Mr. Selective Memory

Behavior: So nice, so charming, so perfect. Oh, but he forgot to mention his girlfriend. Or that, you know, he's about to move to Alaska for work.

Habitat: Mr. Selective Memory can be found anywhere — at the office, at school, sipping green tea at the coffee shop — which is what makes him such a dangerous species of dude.

Field Notes: He might seem OK at first, but dating Mr. Selective Memory will only lead to heartache. At the first sign he's not being totally honest with you, run!

17. The Prepster

Plumage: Even this guy's casual is a bit dressy, and he knows how — and when — to rock a suit." I'm a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy," says Matt Bomer, actor on USA's White Collar. "But for a nice social function, I like to make an effort. It shows people that you give a damn."

Mating Habits: Good manners are a huge turn-on. "Anybody who is rude to anyone in the service industry is automatically out."

Field Notes: The prepster loves high-end hobbies, a full bookshelf and someone who can challenge him intellectually. "I like strong opinions — I'll take that any day over someone who agrees with everything."

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee
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