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
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