Celebrating every milestone

milestone

The biggest thing I struggled with when I first started writing was finishing the story. A simple, but fairly important, hurdle. Granted, most of these were short snippets when I was a teenager. I had the attention span of a gnat. But it was my struggle, and it was difficult. It’s easy to be excited about the concept of a story. It’s another thing entirely to put in repeated hours pulling a story into reality.

The best thing I’ve found for beating this is celebrating every little moment. Write 3,000 words a day, even if you have to delete them all tomorrow, because they’re terrible. Finished your 3,000? Time for a cup of hot chocolate. Made the decision to delete them? Maybe time for a chocolate biscuit, because that’s gotta sting.

This time I’ve hit a slightly bigger milestone: I’ve finished the first draft of a book. It’s very exciting to finally see it all down on paper, to know how it takes shape outside of my head. I’m proud of it. I know it’s a good story.

At the same time, there’s no need to get too excited. It’s the first draft, and will need many edits before I even send it to the official editor. It’s also the first in a two-part story, so technically, the story isn’t finished yet! But the book is, and I’m happy with it.

Have you hit any milestones recently, in writing or otherwise? What keeps you motivated?

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Sexy silver foxes

There’s something about grey hair. It has nothing to do with whether the face underneath it is old or young. Grey hair is just gorgeous.

My husband started to grey very young. The first silvery strands were visible when he was around 22, and considering the rest of his hair is jet black, they were very noticeable. He was bothered by it at first, until he realised how sexy I found it. They’re coming thick and fast now, and I’m a very happy lady!

I know I'm not exactly Anderson Cooper's type, but I live in hope that he'll change his mind!
I know I’m not exactly Anderson Cooper’s type, but I live in hope that he’ll change his mind!

It’s not just men though. I’ve long thought that when I start to go grey, I’ll wait until it’s a proper silver all over, and then embrace. Maybe even enhance it with some platinum highlights.

So you can imagine my delight when grey hair became a fashion recently. Some of my favourite beauty bloggers are posting beautiful dye jobs, and I’m filing away the pictures to my inspiration folders!

I still wouldn't have her gorgeous face, but I maintain the hair is stunning on its own
I still wouldn’t have her gorgeous face, but I maintain the hair is stunning on its own

Do you like grey hair? When you start to grey, would you embrace the change or dye over it?

And lastly: did you know a silver fox is not just a sexy man? I’d quite like to hang out with either version, frankly. This little guy is super cute!

Silver (Red) Fox standing on a small hill - CA

Visualising success vs working for it

hustle

Recently I got into a discussion about The Secret. Yes, I’m a bit behind, the book came out in 2006. But it’s amazing how many people still swear by the book.

Just in case you’ve been living under the rock, the book works on the idea that energy attracts similar energy to it. So if you’re relentlessly positive, then health, wealth, happiness will all appear for you. Take it a bit further, visualise what you want, and it will appear.

There’s a grain of truth in this. Taking a moment to clearly think about what you want is quite powerful. The same thing works in reverse with worry dolls. You tell them your worries before you go to sleep, and miraculously you aren’t worried any more. But it’s not the dolls, it’s taking the time to articulate your worries, then sleep on the problem, which often helps you work things out without being aware of it.

Having a clear goal gives you a place to aim all your energies. But then you have to get out there and make it happen! Create opportunities, make time to improve your skills, meet people who can help you.

My favourite motivational motto is “if it was easy, everyone would do it”. Get out there and hustle.

What’s your personal road to success? Do you have motivational tricks that help?

#Girlboss: the reviewed review

GIRLBOSS

I love books that detail how a person rose the top, particularly if that book comes with a heaping dose of female empowerment. I think motivation is like taking a shower – you need a daily dose to keep going!

The book is pretty clearly aimed at the average Nasty Gal customer. Young women, likely just starting out, who might need a quick jolt of reality like “spell check your resume”, “you’re not above doing the boring jobs”, and “be nice at work”. So far so good, with lots of personal anecdotes to keep the story lively and fun.

Until a couple of weeks ago, this book would have rated 4/5 for me. Where it’s thin on ground-breaking advice, it’s fun and interesting. Sometimes it’s also nice for a success story to qualify as a beach read.

So imagine my surprise when someone who’d branded her company (and herself) on female empowerment was sued for discriminating against pregnant employees. It’s claimed four separate employees were fired for trying to start a family. What happened to being nice at work?!

Nasty Gal is defending the lawsuit, saying the layoffs were because of restructuring. It could be true. Convenient, but possible. But I have to admit the entire story has soured my experience of the book. I’m left doubting if it was anything more than a good piece of branding.

Revised review? 1/5.

Love thyself. And cats.

cats

This drifted across my twitter feed this morning, and made me laugh far louder than is decent. There’s no life lesson that can’t be improved with cats.

On a more serious note, body angst is something that so many people deal with every day. We might think of ourselves as a series of interchanging parts, where this bit should be bigger, that bit should be smaller, and then everything will be ok. Except, we’re not cars. We’re people, with bodies that are capable of so much more than fitting into somebody else’s mould.

One of the first pieces of (unsolicited) advice I received when I first started writing romance is that you should always be positive about the woman’s body. You can be as idealistic with her suitor as you want, rippling muscles, the whole bit. It is, after all, a fantasy escape for many readers. But for the woman you shouldn’t be afraid to put in “flaws”, as long as you talk about them positively.

I was slightly confused by this advice. Not because I disagreed with it, but more that the person (a respected editor who know the industry well) felt it was necessary to mention. Shouldn’t we always talk about the women in our books positively? Have a range of gorgeous people, who spark desire in others? Particularly in romance, where bodies will be talked about, sometimes in great detail?

I live a lot of my life according to the principle that the personal is political. I make choices every day knowing that it could impact someone else’s choices, and trying to leave the world slightly better than how I found it. So I suppose while this idea of body positivity wasn’t new to me, perhaps it would be to others. Perhaps while I hadn’t even considered it to be an issue, maybe others wouldn’t have considered it to be a problem.

Anyway, I love the cat advice. Make like a cat today, and love your cute behind no matter what shape it is. And maybe find someone who’ll make you purr.

Writer’s Block: The romance edition

The problem with writing a romance book is right there in the name of the genre. I find I can fake witty banter or fun plot twists, but I can’t fake the emotion. Which means if something is off in my personal life, writer’s block makes its presence felt.

writers-block

The worst that can happen for my writing is a fight with my husband. I’m very lucky with the man I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my life with, but we both work demanding jobs, and sometimes we can go for days passing like ships in the night. Too long in that cycle, and misunderstandings spring up, emotional needs aren’t met, and I can get a bit morose.

Once that mood sets in, writing about people falling in love feels impossible. Luckily my husband is a man of action, and it only usually lasts a couple of days before he moves mountains to make me my usual chirpy self. Then a burst of inspiration will come back!

If you write, what brings in writer’s block for you? Or even, more widely, what blocks your creativity in life?

Beauty Secrets: Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine

Everyone raves about introducing oils to their skin care routine, but have you ever tried sweet almond oil? It’s the best shortcut I’ve ever found for great skin, nails, and hair.

almond

I have particularly sensitive skin. Not sensitive in terms of “ouch this thing kind of burns”, but more like “oh man, I used the wrong mascara and now all the skin on my eyelids has peeled off leaving only a disgusting scab behind”. It’s not very attractive. It’s so bad, I can’t even use the coconut oil everyone raves about, because it’s just too heavy and my skin revolts

Apart from avoiding stress, I’ve found a simple routine is the best thing I can do for my skin. Enter sweet almond oil.

Not only is this stuff ridiculously cheap and found in most supermarkets, it’s also an all-star in terms of delivering vitamins to nourish your skin and hair. It reduces inflammation, so not only will it not cause me to break out in hives, it will also settle any reactions I’m having if I’ve been a bit stressed out lately.

One of the most surprising features is the impact on whiteheads and blackheads. Even though I’m now reaching late twenties, my skin still thinks it’s a teenager. But if I put almond oil on daily, blackheads are cleared out before they even start. A large blind pimple on my neck didn’t respond to a face mask, but disappeared in 24 hours after I put almond oil on it. It truly is a miracle worker!

They only caveat is the amount of time the oil takes to settle into your skin. I’m talking several hours. The way I get around that is using a normal moisturiser with SPF during the day, then when I take off my makeup at night, smothering my face and neck with almond oil. If my hair’s a bit frazzled, I’ll also run some oil through the ends and plait it. Wash it out with shampoo in the morning, and it will be baby soft and well behaved!

Do you have any beauty all-stars? Share your tips, it’s only fair!

Fifty Shades of Theft

Just a week from the latest Fifty Shades release, and tragedy has struck. British police are investigating after a copy of the book went missing from the publisher‘s. It’s feared Grey might be leaked, whether in part, or in full.

_80927642_fifty
What was that? Oh, sorry, I got a bit distracted. Carry on.

There’s part of me that finds this a little bit funny. The book is such a force, we’re so keen to hear Christian Grey’s side of it, that people are willing to steal it. The book was kept tightly under wraps as it was written, only being recently announced. The security around this would have been tight. Stealing a copy was probably very difficult. Reading about a bit of spanking just got even more illicit.

The flip side is a bit more serious. It’s difficult for writers these days. Fewer people read, fewer again read hard copy books. People are more than willing to try and illegally download popular books.

Hours of work and creativity go into a book. All while the writer has no other income, or has to work another full-time job. No matter what the subject matter is, there’s research involved, and it’s often a hard slog getting to the finish line. Stealing someone’s income is a crappy thing to do, however you try and justify it.

That said, if it leaks, I’m entirely certain plenty of people will want the sneak peak. E L James will surely be upset about it, but at the end of the day, she’ll still have a pile of money to comfort herself with.

Would you be eager enough to get your hands on the book that you would read a leak? Or would you restrain (ha) yourself and wait for the legal release on June 18?

Sex as a gift, or sex as violence?

A thought that’s always uppermost in my mind when I’m writing is the genre. Romance. I’m writing a love story, and part of love (hopefully!) is steamy sex, where sparks fly, and all you can think about for days afterwards is that person.

Recently I’ve come across some things that have made me wonder if I’m alone in this view. Revenge porn. Porn in general. Some people seem to see sex as a weapon to use against other people.

A friend of mine recently had pictures of her published on a web site. They weren’t as bad as they could have been, but her job gives her a high profile, and word quickly got around about the pictures. She’s stood down from her job for a while, until it all blows over. These were snaps she took willingly, for a person she was with and trusted at that time. More fool her, huh?

I also made the mistake recently of viewing Hot Girls Wanted. This is a documentary about the amateur porn industry, and it’s unflinching in looking at how the women are treated. It includes abuse videos, which I was possibly naive in thinking wouldn’t be that common. They are.

How could someone possibly find these things sexually enjoyable? Viewing pictures without a person’s consent, knowing they were never meant for you? Viewing video of a pretty young girl being screamed at, beaten, and then made to perform sexually?

It’s always uppermost in my mind when I write, that I want the characters having sex to enjoy themselves. There may be all sorts of internal conflicts about whether they should want it, but they do. Those are always the scenes that are hottest to me. Where people want each other, get each other off, and then bask in the glow together afterwards.

Romance books are often called lady porn (my preferred term) or mummy porn. I don’t mind people seeing it as porn, despite the stigma attached to it. Although I’d like to think there’s a lot stronger story than your average porn video! I’d probably enjoy watching porn as well as reading it, if sex was shown as something beautiful and consensual. Sex is probably one of the easiest ways to flood our brains with happy chemicals and bond with another person. What a wonderful gift to be able to share.

There’s probably little we can do to stop certain people from treating sex as a weapon. All I think we can do is celebrate it in our own lives. Never give in to those who would want us to be ashamed of it, and our bodies. And always be as sure as we can be that those we share it with are trustworthy.

The struggle is real

health

Today started off with a tofu, banana and vanilla soy milk smoothie. I highly recommend it if you have a sweet tooth, it tastes like a vanilla milkshake.

But as the day has continued, good intentions are being buried below the desire for the chocolate cake a colleague baked… And if you’re anything like me, you know that doesn’t stop at one piece.

Then I saw this picture on Facebook, and just had to laugh! Quick, share you self-control tips with me, or all my good healthy intentions are going out the window!