Friday, September 30, 2011

Progress Friday

Hello beautiful people!

This seems to have been the week where I got my act together *touch wood!*. I've managed to write, move the story forward, work around some issues in the plot, and go over some hurdles in ways I hadn't imagined until the solutions were right there smacking me in the face! And I think I've beaten my insomnia!

So the 1st draft of Before The Morning jumps up 8.2K this past 5 days, to settle in the weekend at 67.2% completion. Not half bad!

I was itching and dying a slow, painful agony to get ahead with this story. It's as much a labour of love (since I absolutely love these characters!) as it's a pain to write (because said characters are so challenging. Want to know what I mean? Here's a hint:

She's a trained killer with borderline sociopathic tendencies;
He's a man burned by life and his own personal demons.
Both thinks the other is their redemption...until they discover how deep each one's edge of darkness goes...

See what this implies? Complex, I know.)

Still, I'll take what I have. It's been a rollercoaster this week on this project because we meet both sets of parents in Chapter 7, that I wrote this week - the crazy, one-brick-short-of-a-patio Chelthams (Rayne's family), and the staid, straight-laced and military-strict Gilfoys (Ash's family). Did I mention these two families are next-door neighbours?

Insomnia made its appearance a few times, but I seem to have found a way to beat it. The only thing is, I'm on the fence with this solution. I realized that on days when I exercised (the Flat-Ab Pilates routine), I usually went out like a log at night, and even if I did wake up, it was to fall asleep 1-2 minutes later, instead of the ceiling-staring 1-2 hours on insomnia-tinged nights.

So it appears that if I want to sleep well (and function properly and have a coherent brain to write), I'll have to exercise everyday, without fail. It's only when my body is physically tired that I can beat the insomnia. *sigh* High price to pay because I hate exercising, but what else can I do? I hate even more to feel like the beached-whale/wreck/zombie I become when I don't sleep.

Looking forward to a relaxing weekend... though I'm not betting on that coz the boys will be home and are already driving me nuts.

If we're friends on Facebook, drop by my profile later on for this Friday's Tide-us-into-the-weekend post. I promise a scrumptious piece of male candy!
And don't forget also to drop by my bestie, Angela Guillaume's, blog. She'll be wrapping up her week too and will have eye candy in the post as well.

Have a lovely weekend, ye all!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Link Thursday: 25 Things Every Woman Should Know

Hey beautiful people!

The article I'm about to post here says it all - I don't need to add much (not that there's much I can add to the list). Read on for some of the best advice every woman can get - and also, writers, advice your heroine needs to know.

The article is Elle.com and is a feature of agony aunt E. Jean. You can read the article online here.

*****

Ask E. Jean: 25 Things Every Woman Should Know

Tormented? Driven witless? Whipsawed by confusion?


Dolls, in honor of ELLE’s twenty-fifth anniversary, I thought I’d reveal how the Ask Eeee column started. It all happened after I was fired as a writer on Saturday Night Live—a hilarious interlude that has lent a lovely piquancy to my subsequent advice on how not to be fired. Anyway, after I was canned, I started writing for Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Outside, covering sex and adventure and sometimes both! In 1993, this led ELLE editor Amy Gross to ask me to lunch at the hottest restaurant in New York—damn, I wish I could remember the name!—and inquire if I’d like to write a monthly advice column. I nearly passed out, I was so ecstatic! I was (and still am) riotously opinionated and don’t mind making readers say “Yikes!"—because every time I’m wrong, hundreds of readers are kind enough to set me straight. So after 17 years of answering questions, the question I find myself answering in this column is: What have I learned? I can tell you, the letters have taught me plenty! Herewith, according to Auntie Eeee…

1. That it’s impossible to distill everything a woman should know into a list of 25 things. Also, every woman should know that it’s impossible to get the 25 things in the right order. Where do I put, for instance, “Life is short. Don’t waste it trying to make everything perfect”?

2. How to change a tire, how to change your hair color without going to a salon, and how to change a man. (Regarding the dude: Tell him what you want him to do, reward him when he does it, and ignore him when he doesn’t do it.)

3. If you don’t question what you believe in, you end up making the same mistakes over and over. When we find ourselves in a romantic quagmire or struggling for an eternally denied promotion at work and our old ideas aren’t working, we must, must, must ask ourselves two questions: (A) Is this idea I’m acting on even effing true? (e.g., Am I so irresistible that this time he really is going to leave his wife?) And (B) What would happen if everyone in the world believed this idea and behaved as I’m behaving now? (This is our old friend Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative—view every action you take as a universal law. Meaning, if you’re considering lying to your boss to save your job, imagine a universal law that says everyone must lie to his or her boss.)
When it comes to sex and love, question (B) has a great way of yanking the blinders off and giving you a clearer picture of what’s actually going on. Speaking of which…

4. Your chap is not a mind reader. Making him have to ask you what he is doing wrong in the sack will cause him so much anxiety, shame, and humiliation, he’ll regret he even has a penis. Show him what you like. Always choose action over words.

5. Stay attuned to your mother’s vanities. These are the key to how she set out to build your character. My mother always wanted me to be a writer. On my birth announcements, she declared, “A great novelist is born!” Close, but no cigar, Ma.

6. To get rid of bags under your eyes, prop up your bed frame on a stack of books to lift your head a foot higher than your heels while you sleep. The next morning, you’ll look as tight as Russell Brand’s skinny jeans.

7. Are you reading these 25 things standing up? I’ve seen the research, and you better believe I’m bloody writing them standing up! According to the American Cancer society, if women sit more than six hours a day, we’re increasing our chances of dying by 37 percent despite whether or not we work out, compared with women who sit less than three hours a day. When we stand, we burn more calories, engage more muscle, and can whittle the circumference of our waists from a fat eunuch’s to the size of a greyhound’s. Barry Braun, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at UMass Amherst, told Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times that if you want to drop pounds, you don’t necessarily have to run a marathon every morning, “just get rid of your chair.” A quick fix: Buy a large U-Haul box for $3, put it on your desk, and place your phone, papers, and computer on top of it. Voilà! You’re standing at your desk!

8. Don’t read blogs written by unhappy, spiteful people. Bad blogs will mangle your mood. Instead, spend an hour a day with your Moleskine notebook, connecting deeply with your own spiteful thoughts. At least they’ll be original. And P.S.: Anyone can make history. Only a great woman can tweet it.

9. When addressing a man’s penis, if you want it to get huge, tell it it’s huge.

10. If you desire a promotion, ask for it. But first, I hope to God you never leave your office before the boss, are always the woman with the clever idea at meetings, don’t hide your ego, don’t play humble (unless you screw up, and then you are very, very humble), and on casual Fridays never dress like you are heading out to do laundry after a couple of bong hits. Now, here’s your secret weapon: You’ll soon be handing the boss a list of the 10 outstanding things you’ve done for the company. Make certain you print that list on heavy parchment paper. MIT, Harvard, and Yale psychologists have found that heavy, more tactile objects make job candidates seem more important. So whatever you’re proposing will be taken more seriously on thick paper.

11. Go play with your dog. Your dog is the one creature on earth you can make insanely happy by playing “hide the cookie” in the living room. (You can also play with your cat, of course, but only if you let him correct your grammar during the action.) If you have neither cat nor dog (nor bird, nor fish), it’s not essential, but if you want to lead a more enjoyable life…why not?

12. Don’t expect a man to give you multiple orgasms. Indeed, you’ll live a more fulfilling life if you don’t expect a man to give you multiple anything.

13. If you’re struggling for your “art,” stop making it about the art and start making it about the money. Be Basquiat in your ambition, Botticelli in your dedication, and Buffett with your bottom line. Or, in Andy Warhol’s words, “Making money is art.”

14. Here’s how to nail the job interview: Pretend that the person interviewing you is the one applying for the position and that you’re interviewing him or her for the job. If you do that, you can’t help but be genuinely interested in what he or she is saying, ask interesting questions, and speak honestly—and glowingly—about the company, as if it’s the grandest place to work in the whole world.

15. When you’re in college, don’t worry too much about grades. Other than getting into a decent grad school and associating with the cream of your generation, getting straight A’s means diddly-squat in the real world, where it’s all about hustle, determination, focus, dressing right, sucking up, and who you know.

16. Women say they want a “nice guy,” but show them an asshole who treats them like dirt and they’ll trample over their own therapists to get to him.

17. Wait. You’re telling me you didn’t see that poor homeless woman on the street? Come on. You didn’t notice? Really? If you’re anxious about “hobos” asking you for money, decide how much you can allot per person (a quarter, a buck), carry the cash in your pocket, and give it to every poor person whose hand is out. You’ll experience a rare, nearly forgotten emotion—compassion.

18. If you’re tired of waiting for the dude to pop the question, start introducing him as your fiancé.

19. If you want to be told you look gorgeous, tell people they look stunning. We’re all the prettiest girl in the room, depending on the day, the hour, and the room.

20. When you discover your husband’s cheating, hire an attorney before you Krazy Glue his $60 Hanro boxers to his backside. A lawyer will help you figure out what you want, and when you know what you want, you’ll be able to act with discipline and courage. Then, over cocktails, tell your spouse you know he’s having an affair. Don’t be treacly. Don’t cry. Don’t squish Kleenex into your face, and be prepared to hold your ground. If you stay strong, drop the helpless-wife act, and tell him exactly what you want, you’ll have taken the first step on a trek that could lead to an advantageous divorce…or a thrillingly nontraditional marriage.

21. If you suffer the heinous habit of constantly saying “I’m sorry” (a real career killer, right up there with downing a flask of vodka before important meetings), take your pathetic “I’m sorry” and start adding three words: “I’m sorry…I’m so brilliant.” “I’m sorry…I’m so stunning.” “I’m sorry…I’m so miraculous.”

22. The three tragedies of life: (A) not getting what you want, (B) getting it, (C) seeing your best friend getting it. Don’t you know you were born to feel competitive with your friends? Jealousy is a little whip given to you by Mother Nature to push you to excel above your own expectations—to be better than your­self. Rivalry brings glory to the human race. And speaking of the human race…

23. Chasing men is the highest purpose in life. As my old boyfriend, the great Arthur Schopenhauer, says, “The final aim of all love intrigues, be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance than all other ends in human life. What it all turns upon is nothing less than the composition of the next generation.… It is not the weal or woe of any one individual, but that of the human race to come, which is here at stake.”

24. You’re spinning on a merry-go-round at no cost. It’s whirling around a star that has hitched a ride on a galaxy moving so fast in the universe you can’t even feel it. So listen to Auntie Eeee, doll. Whatever went wrong yesterday? You’ve already moved on.

25. If all else fails, live by these three rules: (1) Never trust a woman who shags married men. (2) Never make a deal with a guy who wears a white belt. (3) Never try to be “friends” when the affair is over. Not even the great Gatsby could make Daisy stay. After she slobbered over his shirts, it was pretty much finished.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post Today...

... over at Tabitha Blake's Nocturnal Nights! It's the 26th of the month, and time for my monthly guest slot over there as Agony Zee!

Drop by and check out the query I am answering this week. Here's the question...

Dear Agony Zee,

I started writing a few years ago. I love the thrill of putting words down and creating my world filled with all those terrific people I get to invent.


I got to the point where I couldn't keep this part of my life bottled up, and so I have come out, so to speak, with my intellectual inclination.

Unfortunately, I wasn't met by the accolades I was expecting to receive. I mean, all I asked for was some support, not for people's eyes to glaze over and then they'd all pat me on the head with a half-smile, the kind people reserve for over-imaginative children or that old aunt who's not quite right in her head.

Can I prove them wrong? I don't want to sound petty or mean, but they do get to me sometimes. Any words of advice?

Signed,

I am a writer!


Come on over to read the answer!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #16

Hello beautiful people!

It's a bright, sunny Sunday here in Mauritius - perfect weather to hit the beach, as my snorkeling-crazy lads are hinting not so conspicuously. :) I love bright days, but I don't really like being out in the sun... so sitting down in my living room bathed by sunlight to catch up on all those amazing Six Sunday Sentence excerpts sounds like my kind of plan for a perfect end of the weekend.

Thanks to everyone who comes by every week to read my snippets from Walking The Edge. Your words mean so much - you have no idea. Reading all your comments is a highlight of my week.

Now, without further ado (I know, summer and sun take me into melodrama world - told you I didn't like the sun coz it messes up my brain!), here's this week's six...

...a continuation of last week's excerpt. Remember, Gerard, the police commissaire in Marseille, faced certain death when the thug who assaulted him pulled out a gun. But then something happens - a woman steps in, brings the thug down and shoots him dead. She ends up saving Gerard's life, and he is forced to reconsider his previous deductions about her...

"... It can't be. She was the same woman who'd met him at the bistro, yet, at the same time, she wasn't - her features were different, harder, and, he realized with dread, completely focused yet expressionless.

Something told him to take another look. She hadn't dropped the gun, and for an insane moment, he wondered if she'd aim it his way and shoot. There had been no hesitation in her two shots, and, as his eyes took in the way she held the Sig—one hand curled around the grip and the other anchoring it—a realization clattered in his brain.

She held it like a professional and merde if she hadn't shot like a professional too. ..."


Catch the rest of the SSS posse and their snippets here - you won't be disappointed. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, September 23, 2011

Progress Friday

Hey beautiful people

*sigh* It's been one of those weeks... you know, where everything just refuses to go right, no matter how hard you try to make it right? I got to that point where I look at my husband and wonder how on earth I haven't throttled him yet. I know he can't help it - he's who and what he is - but, damn, keeping a marriage and a love alive is damn hard sometimes! (note to self - never attempt to write a romance that takes place after marriage, because that'd be writing up a tragedy, and not a light romance!)

So that has coloured my week, not helped by the fact that the temps just shot up by like 10degreesC overnight, where we jumped from 15C nights and having to wear socks and snuggle under a quilt plus a blanket...to 29C nights where the mere touch of a sheet on your bare legs is enough to make you wanna jump out of your skin, and why on earth did you not think to clean up the fans before now so you're stuck in a sweltering house.

Now that brings on irritability, erratic sleeping, and lo and behold - your insomnia, brought on by your medication/treatment - decides now's the time to play peek-a-boo with you and you end up staring at the ceiling between 3-5AM. And no way you can get anything done in that time either, because, though you're not sleepy, your body is tired and your mind is begging for the rest. So guess what? You stare at the ceiling...and imagine further scenarios on your WIP...

...hoping to channel them during the day, but by then you're even more of a wreck - no, wait, a zombie! - and I never heard that zombies wrote good prose. Progress meter shows a measly step of 1,327 words this week... said words that came out like pulling wisdom teeth without anything-caine...and that I'll probably have to scrape next week when - hopefully!- I will be sleeping better and able to write.

Or else, I'll have to channel the zombie into writing, because this WIP needs to be finished.

Joy, oh joy! Not!

I hope you had better luck than me this week. And I hope my bestie and soul sister, author Angela Guillaume, had better luck too. Check out her blog later for her round-up of her week.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Link Thursday: Decode His Compliments - What He Thinks About Your Look

Hey peeps!

Which one of us wouldn't want to understand "guy speak"? Yep, that's a language that's even more complicated than trying to learn Greek, Latin, Russian, and Arabic all at the same time. :)

Of course, to be able to decode a guy's words, you need to know the guy in question. For example, I know that when my husband says "Oooo-kay..." when he's looking at my clothes, I can understand from this word - and the scowl or the puzzlement - on his face - what he is trying to be diplomatic about. (I better too, I mean, 10 years with the bloke, I'd really be an airhead if I hadn't figured out some of his 'basics', innit?)

And writers, we can hedge as much as we want, but we have to write that male POV in our romances, and that POV has to sound, well, male. For that, we need to know "guy speak" even if we don't exactly speak it fluently (I sometimes wonder if even guys know how to speak "guy" fluently, but that's another discussion...).

So here are words from real men out there - this is "guy speak" and the translation, from the horse's mouth so to speak. :)

The article is MSN Lifestyle, Love & Relationships, and is by Robyn Baitcher. You can find it online here.

*****

Decode His Compliments: What He Thinks About Your Look

When he says, "You look nice," what exactly does that mean? We got real men to give us the scoop on how they react when their wife, girlfriend, or someone they're dating asks, "How do I look?"

By Robyn Baitcher


He Gets Ambiguous
"When her look isn't my favorite, I'll say, 'That's a fun dress.' 'Fun' can be positive, or it can mean it's unusual in a bad way. I also go with 'It's interesting' a lot of the time if I don't like her outfit." — Sebastian, 25

"I'll say something like, 'That looks funny,' if I don't like what she's wearing. I might say it with a positive tone in my voice because then her feelings won't get hurt. I want to tell her the truth, but at the same time I want her to know I think she's adorable no matter what. So saying her outfit is funny is my way of telling her it doesn't work for me in some way." — Kennedy, 29

It's All in His Tone
"If I dislike something about her look, you can tell it all in my body language and by the tone of my voice. So even if I say, 'It's cute,' my voice will get higher, my eyebrows will go up, and I'll nod a lot. Lying is stressful; so I look stressed." — Zach, 23

He Focuses on the Positive
"If I don't like her outfit, I'll comment on one specific aspect I do like. If I don't like her dress, I'll say, 'I like the color' or 'I like the top part of the dress.' This avoids risking that I'll make her upset if I tell her flat-out that I don't like her style." — Geoff, 23

"My trick is to think of another outfit or accessory she has and then make it seem like I want her to wear that since she looked so great in it. So if I don't like her shirt, I'll say, 'Oh, but remember that green shirt you have? I loved that one!' A lot of times she'll change outfits. I don't want to put her look down, but if she asks for my input it's one way I can give negative feedback without being obvious or come off sounding mean." — Adam, 32

When He's Turned on, You'll Know
"I'll just go with 'You look beautiful' when she really has something gorgeous on. I honestly think my girlfriend looks great all the time, but I think she can tell when I really love something she's wearing. If I love it, I'll get racier with what I say like, 'That dress looks nice, but I'd like you better without it.'" — Zach, 23

He Gets More Honest with Time
"I'm married, and I always think my wife looks beautiful. What first attracted me to her was how bold she was in every way — including her makeup and hair. If she asks me how she looks and I really don't get it, I'll tell her. What I think is hotter than any outfit is the fact that no matter what anyone thinks about her look, she still won't change it." — Cody, 38

"I trust her for telling me the truth, and I think she deserves the same. I will tell her I genuinely like what she's wearing if she looks good. I'll say something like, 'You look gorgeous! I can't wait to get home later!' And if her style is weird, I'll suggest something else. I know what's in her closet. We're on the same page, so she tells me when she thinks my look is unusual too." — Peter, 23

The Bottom Line: He's Probably Confused
"If she likes her outfit, I'll support it. I don't feel like I'm fashion-forward enough to know what's cool anyway! I just want her to like how she looks so she'll have a fun night. Then I'll have more fun too." — Frank, 26

"When it comes to these types of questions, I need more specifics. Instead of asking, 'How do I look?' ask me, 'Does this shirt look too big on me?' or 'Does this pink nail polish seem serious enough for a first day at a new job?' Those questions I can answer. It's not about lying about how I think her outfit looks, it's just more about having the right details so I can answer and actually help." — Allan, 48

*****

From Mauritius with love,


Zee

Monday, September 19, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: Endurance!

Dictionary.com defines "Endurance" as such:

en·dur·ance

[en-door-uhns, -dyoor-] Show IPA
noun
1.
the fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.
2.
the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina: He has amazing physical endurance.
3.
lasting quality; duration: His friendships have little endurance.
4.
something endured, as a hardship; trial.

I've been thinking a lot about "endurance" and how it applies to my life recently, and also to the life of every writer out there.

All this is triggered by the fact that I recently picked up my exercise routine again - this one, Flat-Ab Pilates. I have most problems with the fact that I put on weight around my middle - apparently, due to eating too much starch, but also due to some medication I'm having to take. Nevertheless, I am putting on weight and though I'm trying to lose it, I know it's a lost battle I'm fighting. I can, however, make sure that I don't take on more weight, and that I keep myself fit. Firmer if not slimmer - that's my aim right now.

Hence the Pilates workout. It's targetted towards abs, but it's also a total body routine, and I could do with the flexibility and core body strength Pilates brings.

But, lol - has this been a journey! There's the saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", and as cliche as that sounds, it is sooo true! The first time I did this workout, I felt muscles I didn't know I had after I finished only half of the moves. The next day, I was like, "kill me now!" because of all the kinks and muscle pain! This workout is supposed to take around 30-40 minutes - I was still slogging away an hour after I started (and half of that time was to pause and try to catch my breath, and wonder if I've permanently kinked my body *grin*). Look at this move, called Mermaid with twist:



My arms quivered like Jell-O the first time I tried it, and I barely made 2 reps, let alone the 8-10 required on each arm!

Second time I did the workout 3 days later, I still thought I would die the next morning when I woke up.

Fast forward to about a month later - at the rate of 2-3 workouts a week. Today, I worked out, and did all the reps of mermaid with twist (my arms quivered just a little!) and I finished the routine in 45 minutes. I was drenched afterwards, but thankfully, no big pain or kink.

The reason? Endurance! Throughout these weeks, doing this workout, I built my endurance and now what was hard is, well, less hard (it's not easy yet! I look at how the woman demonstrating the move does the Rollover and I'm not even halfway there in being able to bend my body that way!).

I stuck to the workout - and what didn't kill me (though it felt like I was dying at the start!) made me stronger.

I cannot help but realize how much this is true of everything in our lives. We get over a romantic breakup - thinking we'll never pick ourselves up, but we do. We write and write despite the rejections, never mind that we do get the Acceptance letter or not. We plod along and get things done - everything that needs to be done. Mothers, wives, women, writers, businesswomen (and let me tell you at promo, we are all businesswomen!) - we do it all, and it is endurance that take us through.

When I started writing, about 7 years ago, I laboured over my page (I started on real paper with a pencil!). Each scene would be like giving birth without anaesthesia! In my freelance writing, I went through 3-4 drafts for a 300-word article - I all but put the whole layout down with all the info I needed to include in staggered bullet points on an A4 sheet, and I filled in the blanks to make these complete sentences and a whole article. Later on, I would simply read all the info I needed for an article, and go directly to the Word document and just start typing - 1st draft + editing & cleanup = finished article. Same for my mss - I know what I have to include, and I sit down and write the scene. It's now more like pulling teeth now than giving birth. :)

All of this - this endurance - is possible only when we stick to what's hard and we plod along. If we give up along the way, we'll never know when the going might get easier, because we're making the effort, and effort is always rewarded.

Stick to what you're doing - even if you feel like you're going to die. You'll build your endurance, and that's how everything gets easier in the long haul. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #15

Hey beautiful people!

It's another bright, sunny Sunday here in Mauritius. Spring is definitely here, finally! Yes, time is running way fast - I have no clue where this past week went, and wham! - it's time for exciting SSS excerpts again.

Without further ado (and me waxing lyrical because I think the sun is getting to  what's left of my brain!), let's head to Marseille and that scene on the darkened doorstep of police commissaire Gerard's house. We're still in the early chapters of Walking The Edge, and things start to take a turn for the worst - or for the better maybe, when it appears nothing is as it seems...

Last week, Gerard was on his knees, brought down by a boot-kick in the stomach and a fist slam to the temple. His assailant was bringing out a gun...

"...
Time stood still while he tried to breathe and remain conscious.

And then something happened so quickly he had trouble grasping it; the guy howled and went down, his free hand clutching his neck as Gerard caught sight of a cherry-red flash.

The thug lifted and aimed his gun - another red flash haloed the first; two shots rang, and the thug slumped.

Gerard moved his gaze to where the flashes had appeared, and he saw his Sig in the hands of the one who'd saved him.

Legs braced, back straight, she held the gun in both hands, the left cupping the right, with wisps of smoke gently drifting from the barrel.

He blinked when he focused on her face. ..."


Catch more SSS snippets here - I guarantee there are some awesome reads, and some awesome people behind them!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, September 16, 2011

Progress Friday

Hey peeps

I know - this slot has been awol for the past 2 weeks. Reason? Let me stop being a total chicken and tell you the whole truth: I hadn't written a word in the past 2 weeks, and since I had no progress to show when I was supposed to be on deadline, I was ashamed of myself.

There you have it. Yes - I've heard it all (cut yourself some slack, take a breather, writers run into a funk sometimes), but none of that really helps when you're contemplating the fact that you are accountable for what is, inherently, your job. I'm an author and my job is to produce books, full stop.

I could try to explain my position the past 2 weeks. Week 1, my son was home on school break (plus there were 2 public holidays - whole family at home - and one of them was a personal celebration for us). In this case, forget about writing, unless you want to be downing Paracetamol tablets by the handful come tea time because writing and looking after a rambunctious 8-year-old equals the headache of the century.
So there, I had already lost my writing pace and groove, and that's the worst thing that can happen to me. When I lose my groove, it's hard to get back in, because I will be questioning myself and whether or not if what I'm writing is good, and will I ever be able to find the same pace and flow as before I was interrupted? That's my biggest Damocles' sword.

Week 2 saw me having a hospital appointment on Wednesday. And so what happens to me whenever I need to go meet my care team, I start getting worried... What if something has happened and I'm no longer in okay health? What if the doctors will have bad news? I'm a nervous wreck whenever I need to meet my doctors (and in case you didn't know, I'm a two-time breast cancer survivor. My second brush with the disease was less than a year ago). So there went the other week, and by the time the appointment came and went (with a clean bill of health for the past 4 months, thank goodness!), I was wiped and it took me the rest of the week to recover. So a cancer scare is my second Damocles sword.

Pair the two swords together, and you get me totally out of commission.

Until something happened to kick my arse and get me back in gear - my lovely publisher, Jill Noble, posted something on Facebook that had me glowing and basking with pride. It was this amazing , 5-star review by Just Erotic Romance Reviews for Walking The Edge.

This gave me faith, in myself and my ability to weave a story that would have readers (hopefully!) enthralled. I sat down and started writing again...

...and let me say the word count has been none too shabby this current week. About 8.4K added to the draft of Before The Morning, and this takes me across the half-way mark to end this week on the 55% line on the expected total word count! Woot!

Oh, and something else I wanted to share with you - my bestie (and she is like a sister to me!), author Angela Guillaume, kickstarted her writing blog this week. After a rev-up post on Monday, she hosted author Hope Tarr on Wednesday for the first of her Wednesday Interview slots. And today, she posts her own progress report. I'm curious to know what she's been up to writing-wise - join me to check out her Progress Friday post, over at her blog, angelaguillaume.blogspot.com

So that's it from me this week, beautiful people! Looking forward to a quiet weekend where I'll catch up on some (very late) crits for my CPs.

Oh, and if you're on Facebook, join me later today for the Friday/Weekend TideOver photo (hunky, yummy men... need I say more? *grin*)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #14

Hey beautiful people!

It's Sunday once again, and time for Six Sentence Sunday. I cannot wait for that time to come every week, to meet and greet all the amazing folks who visit and leave me comments. Thanks soooo much for your feedback - you all are the highlight of my week!

It's a calm, quiet, and cloudy Sunday here in Mauritius. The sun is peeking from time to time, and temps are comfortable - just perfect to curl up with some good written excerpts and socialize with all the wonderful SSS authors out there. :)

On to this week's snippet. Remember, last week, the hero of Walking The Edge, Marseille police commissaire Gerard Besson, was attacked in front of his house. A little while earlier, he had left the heroine, Amelia, in a darkened alleyway next to a bistro, thinking her to be a honeytrap sent to lure him away from the investigation he's working on. After the first blow, he wondered whether she could've sent someone after him when she failed to seduce him... Is he right? Read on :)

'...
He had no time to ponder—a heavy booted foot collided smack into his stomach and sent him to his knees, and the gun dropped from his hand. He could barely see the man kick the Sig away - Now's the time to hit him. But he wasn't fast enough; the thug smashed a hard blow to Gerard's temple.

Black dots danced before his eyes.

It would take more than that to knock him out. He looked up and knew he'd be no match against the gun his assailant yanked from inside his jacket. ...'


More SSS snippets here - do take a look, you'll find some amazing finds, I guarantee!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Link Thursday: The 12 Relationship Red Flags

Hey peeps

This is something we should all take note of - these always help in life, and as writers of romance, we need this insight to present that Mr. Maybe as Mr. Wrong right away in the reader's mind (of course, we need to torture the heroine a bit first. What's the joy of writing otherwise? *grin*)

The article is from Cosmopolitan Australia, and if you click the link, you'll see the original slideshow with all its quirky images.

*****

The 12 relationship red flags

It’s easy to be blind-sighted when you’re in a new relationship, and we’ve all been guilty of sugar-coating deal breakers as “quirks” or “traits”. Here’s a list of the top 12 relationship red flags that you need to look out for.
 
1. Chronic lateness. Two times, it’s a red flag. Any more than three times, and it’s a deal breaker. Cars break down, appointments run late, and no doubt your date has a fantastic excuse for his lateness. But if he’s more than ten minutes late each time, it’s a pattern. And that pattern says “I don’t respect you enough to turn up on time”. If you’re left hanging yet again after the third time, don’t wait for his arrival. Leave.
 
2. You’re always the designated driver. There’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine with dinner. But if you’re forever playing taxi while he’s playing King of Beers, something isn’t right. It’s not hard to share the responsibility here, and if he’s relying on you to drive everywhere he’s not exactly a gentleman.
 
3. Rudeness. There’s nothing attractive about a man who talks down to people. This includes rudeness to waiters, taxi drivers, or anyone else who is just doing their job. Do you really want to play the role of the apologetic girlfriend? It’s boring, and people (including yourself) begin to wonder what the hell you’re doing with him. Move on, sister.
 
4. Crazy ex stories. While its generally not good manners to bring up ex stories, listen carefully if he does. Is his ex the “villain” in all of these stories? This is a good indicator of his maturity and what you can expect. Also, listen out for the phantom ex – the one that keeps mysteriously turning up in conversations. Major red flag!
 
5. Protective vs. obsessive. Note: there is a major difference between protective and obsessive. Protective is putting an arm around your waist at the bar. Obsessive is making you wear a fake engagement ring on a girl’s night out. Guess which one raises the red flag?
 
6. Money matters. The general rule is this. If he asks you out on a date, he should pay, and there should be no request from him to split the bill on the first date. This doubles as a red flag and a cheapskate alert. Having said that, if the first date turns in to multiple dates, make sure you offer to foot the bill sometimes – and if he declines at least offer to pay your half. A good rule of thumb is the more dates there are, the more the costs and planning should be shared by both parties. But just remember that chivalry never goes out of style.
 
7. Bad sex. Granted, it’s only one part of a relationship, but let’s face it – it’s a very important part. Part of the fun of a new relationship is learning what the other person likes and exploring new things, but if the sex doesn’t get any better after the first, fumbling time - or the times after that - you can be sure that there will be unhappy endings in every sense of the word.
 
8. Parents. Everyone has baggage of some form, but keep an eye on his relationship with his parents. Very strong emotions (they can be positive or negative) about one’s parents can sometimes mean relationship death. Everybody Loves Raymond, anyone? If things have progressed you can always try and work on it if it becomes an issue, but if you’re just starting out and its already annoying you? Raise your red flag and get outta there.
 
9. Bad breath. Okay, we don’t need to spell this one out. It’s a date, you’re probably going to kiss, and it’s just not that difficult to pick up some gum before said date. This is more of a hygiene issue than a deal-breaker, but it gives a good indication of how he takes care of himself!
 
10. He puts himself down. Everyone does this at some stage, but if you find he constantly puts himself down on your date, you might want to re-think your new potential partner. It’s a date, not a counseling session.
 
11. He’s constantly distracted. If he’s constantly checking his phone, texting, tweeting, or taking phone calls while meeting you for the first time, it demonstrates that he either has no boundaries, cannot disconnect, or more importantly he simply doesn’t care about connecting with you – which is a deal-breaker. Leave him and his Blackberry to it.
 
12. He flirts with other girls. If he’s genuinely flirting with other girls, that sour feeling in the pit of your stomach isn't going to go away easily and it's going to cast a pall over the entire relationship. If you bring it up with him and it continues, that’s a definite deal-breaker. If you let it slide you’re only cultivating bad behaviour.
 
*****
 
From Mauritius with love,
 
Zee

Monday, September 05, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: Indulgence...!

I wanted to treat myself this weekend. The regular 'fix' would've been retail therapy, preferably at Aldo, but my husband kinda took the wind out of my sails for this one because he just gifted me with an Aldo handbag. I could've gone for shoes... except that even I have to acknowledge that I have more shoes than I need (yes, yes - a girl can never have enough shoes, but...) and I wanted a different kind of 'high'.

That's when I fell back on another product on my wishlist - that's right, you're seeing it right here! Haagen-Dasz ice cream.

Hmmm, can anyone say 'indulgence'? I cannot conceive of anything more indulgent that sitting down with a tub of Haagen-Dasz and closing your eyes while you let the taste explode on your tastebuds.

But this is where it gets tricky - Haagen-Dasz costs money. I mean, seriously, if I wanted ice cream, I could've gone for all the other brands sold here (at about half the price of one 400-ml Haagen-Dasz tub!) but then there wouldn't be the kind of near-orgasmic pleasure of licking thick, creamy, super-tasteful ice cream like the kind that comes from this little tub up here...

According to my husband (and the chief breadwinner in our household), I am not exactly thrifty... :) But I'm not exactly a spendthrift either, and sometimes, you really have to go for the quality, high-end stuff.

I might be able to enjoy Haagen-Dasz only a few times a year (seriously, a 400-ml tub sells at Rs325, while I can get Dairymaid 1-litre tub at around Rs175), but taste, people, taste! Quality counts, and to tell you the truth, I'll save up and indulge in the quality stuff.

Okay, I might've not made much sense on this post today... I think it's time to check the freezer and grab some of the 'fix'... :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #13

Hey peeps

It's a gorgeous Sunday here in Mauritius - brilliant & clear blue skies, warm sun, temps up in the seventies. We're officially going into spring, finally!

So, since it's pretty much spring here, I thought I'd start a new sequence from Walking The Edge to keep with the 'fresh' theme. This one is another action-packed scene, and it takes place a few moments after the previously featured interlude between Amelia and Gerard in the dark alleyway beside the bistro.

Gerard left her gasping for breath back there, but unbeknownst to him, Amelia has picked herself up and is closely following him in the shadows of darkened doorways and the streets around Boulevard Michelet where Gerard lives.
On the doorstep of his residence, Gerard hears the soft sound of gravel accidentally crunching under a heavy footstep, and he pauses. The area where he lives, while still relatively safe, wasn't top-notch secured as the beaux quartiers of Marseille either...

'...
Tonight is too quiet - something hung in the air, a sort of expectancy that made the hairs on his nape stand up; Not a good sign, his cop's instincts screamed. He reached for the gun he kept in the shoulder holster on his left side, pulled out his Sig Sauer, and unlatched the safety, keeping the firearm close to him.

As he turned to scan the other side of the road, something—or someone—lunged at him and knocked him into the solid garage door. Reflex kicking in, he took a deep breath to fortify himself against the stinging pain in his body, and honing his senses, he then lashed out on the side from which his opponent had assaulted him. His fist connected with a jaw and he heard a grunt - male. So it wasn't the woman from the bistro - could she have sent someone after him? ...'

More Six Sentence Sunday goodness here! Thanks for dropping by, and double thanks if you leave me a comment. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Link Thursday: 10 Traits That Make You A Great Girlfriend

Or wife... Or 'his girl', for that matter. And also, how to write a better heroine from your hero's POV...

Take a look - these tips come from guys over at AskMen.com

They know what they're talking about (we think... and hope...)
Article accessed at this link. Enjoy!

*****

10 Traits That Make You a Great Girlfriend

AskMen.com ON Sep 8, 2005 at 12:56PM

I must admit that playing the field is a whole lot of fun, but so is being in a serious relationship — provided that it's with the right woman. But how do you know if she really is the right woman for you? If she possesses the following 10 traits, you better hold on to her for dear life or, before you know it, a guy who already knows where it's at will get his hands on your "goods."

10. She's independent
No one wants a girlfriend they have to baby-sit. Once in a while, like if she's had a rough day at work, it's great to be her shoulder to cry on, but if she can't seem to function without you and is constantly after you, she will eventually make you feel like you're suffocating, which is a surefire way to get you running out the nearest exit.

On the other hand, if she has her very own personality and opinions, can stand on her own two feet , both financially and emotionally, and is able to enjoy time away from you — while still missing you, of course — then she must be a great girlfriend.

9. She's intelligent
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the bimbo routine gets real old, real fast. Instead of being the one in total control, you'll find yourself trying to figure out what she's really thinking behind those glazed eyes of hers — or if she's actually thinking at all.

An intelligent woman will constantly surprise you and keep you on your toes. She won't let you get bored of her. Besides, it's nice to have something to talk about between all that chandelier-hanging sex.

8. She's sexual
While we're on the topic, a great girlfriend has to be sexually compatible with you. For instance, if you're into S&M and she's more the "fluffy lingerie" type, that's a problem. The two of you have to be on the same page — or, at least, she has to be willing to wear leather and use a whip from time to time.

Of course, this doesn't imply that she has to know all the right moves straight away; it simply means that you and she have an undeniable attraction toward each other, and are able to communicate your desires verbally (or with physical cues). It is important that you please each other in the bedroom, or on top of the dryer — whatever the case may be.

7. She's beautiful
I know, this one is kind of obvious, but important nonetheless. A great girlfriend will not only want to look good for you, but also for herself. She should always look her best and be well put together — matching lingerie is a definite plus.

You have to be proud to have her on your arm and enjoy the sight of her in any light. And this doesn't mean that she has to be a Heidi Klum clone. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you think her full bottom or uncontrollable curls are beautiful, you're allowed.

6. She respects you
This is a biggie. Your woman must respect you. This means that she listens to you, even if she doesn't necessarily agree with what you're saying. And, of course, she never tries to demean or belittle you in any way, shape or form.

A great girlfriend won't ever cause scenes in public or in front of your friends and family, and will always wait to discuss matters with you in private. If she respects you, chances are that she will behave in a tactful and diplomatic manner in most situations, which is definitely a good thing.

5. She lets you be a man
Do not — I repeat — do not get involved with a woman who tries to get you to eat cottage cheese and fruit for breakfast and insists that you give up poker night with the guys. You will end up resenting her more than you can imagine. A good girlfriend lets you be a guy in all your glory, poker night and all. If she's a great girlfriend, she'll even bring you and your buddies a couple of beers and make you some of her famous sandwiches.

She has to understand that men and women are different and should allow you to be yourself. Just like you wouldn't deprive her of going shopping with her best girlfriend, she shouldn't expect you to give up the guys for her.

4. She's nagless
There is nothing worse than a nag! A great girlfriend knows this and chooses her battles wisely. She knows when to speak up and when to let it slide. You don't want a girlfriend who will give you hell for leaving a couple of dishes in the sink occasionally.

However, if you live together and you stay out all night without calling her, and she lets you have it, then you're setting yourself up for disaster. This is a situation that nobody would let slide — not even a great girlfriend.

3. She gets along with friends and family
A great girlfriend will not only help your mom in the kitchen, listen to your dad's stories and hang out with your friends, but she will enjoy it. She'll make a real effort to get to know and love the most important people in your life. And she won't try to get you to ditch your best buds.

She'll actually empathize with your brother's getting dumped and suggest that you guys take him out to cheer him up. Not only that, but your friends won't roll their eyes and moan when you mention that she'll be joining you guys when she gets off work (yes, women like this do exist).

2. She loves you
If you have found a woman who loves you for who you really are and not who you pretend or try to be sometimes, you should definitely hang on to her. A woman who doesn't try to change you is hard to find. Of course, all women have their slightly annoying habits that their mate has to contend with, but if she really loves you, she will be able to cope with these.

Another way to know if she really loves you is by observing the way she looks at you and treats you on an everyday basis. If the sight of you doesn't seem to faze her either way, and she doesn't really seem to care about what you have to say, she's either playing very hard to get, or sees you as just some guy. But if a surprise visit or phone call from you makes her light up, there's no denying that she loves you.

1. She makes you want to be a better man
Stop making that face... any man who has a great girlfriend or wife will tell you that she makes him want to be a better man. She doesn't have to say or do anything; it just is that way. If you suddenly feel bad about how you treated your sister or find yourself trying to get your finances in order, you might want to think about your motivation for doing so. It could be love.

Do you already have her?
So, if this list seems to describe your current flame, you, my friend, are styling. In fact, you are probably the envy of all of your friends, even if they tease you for losing your status as "king player." However, if the woman you are dating is more like the polar opposite, then I don't think that getting serious with her would be in your best interest — but you knew that already, didn't you.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee
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