The two-week wobble

Yesterday, I got notification of my first royalty payment from Amazon Kindle! To celebrate, I made cookies. Which I’m only allowed to eat so long as I don’t eat anything else. They are chocolate-choc-chip-macadamia-cranberry made with 1/3 wholewheat flour, so technically quite balanced. I think four of those totals probably about 1000 calories (!).

I’m doing all right on the diet otherwise – managing to keep away from late-night mealtimes, and currently comfortably losing at the steady 1lb-per-week rate after dropping an initial few pounds immediately, as usually happens. A couple of weeks in is usually a weak point. I had my day off (a sensible Sunday lunch) and didn’t crack after that, and the reward of seeing the scales creeping backwards when I weigh myself every day is motivation enough – not to mention the clothes I’m looking forward to fitting back into. I have some really cool stuff collected when I was working and earning the occasional dress and shoe-shop…

Last week I was working for Sophie Neville again, finishing her book trailer for Funnily Enough. I’d followed a tutorial online by Declan Conner to format an illustrated version of Sophie’s eBook on Amazon Kindle, which has turned out really well – all the cartoons in it are her own, and I’m very inspired to do an illustrated eBook myself, having seen how great it looks in colour on the Android screen (Kindle app for Android available free from Amazon, or the Android app store).

This was done using Windows again, and the music is from an AVP copyright-free music library CD, that I already had knocking around. Sophie wanted a combination of cuts and transitions, which suits the quirky style.

I tried to do some watercolour painting last night, but it turned out more water than colour. That’s what you get for using children’s paints costing £1.99 – sigh. I was trying out an idea for a book cover on one of my other stories – but it turned out looking like a Comic Relief Red Nose instead of a menacing big red button. Karmically this is probably good news, in some alternate universe.

Today, I’m procrastinating about more everyday things, like the car needing maintenance. And avoiding editing one of my film scripts to mail out, as I’ve decided what my writing needs is an agent to do the selling for me. I’m not into selling. I’m into earning, but not ‘selling’. Selling implies that what you have to offer is not in fact necessary for survival, or is a gamble, like a luxury item or high-risk investment. Although what is high-risk about a two-quid electronic novel (or ten-quid paperback) could be a mystery, and as for necessary to survival – well, I’m not Ray Mears. But you might learn a lot about what it takes to get by in the nightclub scene.

😉

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Today, I will mostly be reading…

Hot Island Nights

Sarah Mayberry, for Harlequin (UK) Mills & Boon

…This one above, in paperback from Tesco’s, special promotions inside the cover. Wow. I’m only up to Chapter 5, and will probably have gone blind by the end, so luckily it’s one of their shorter books. It’s definitely taking my mind off food anyway.

Nice weather to read in the last couple of days, out on the hammock between gardening and hula-hooping and diet shakes. Saw the doctor, who was able to show me that last time I was weighed at a check-up in December 2010, I was 5kg less than now, so it was as I suspected – gradual re-gain of weight lost previously.

I super-glued the incision where the keloid scar was and it’s started healing up in a nice neat line instead of a ropey random-shaped blob like before. As I said, don’t do this at home. If you must fidget while watching TV, do knitting or something. Not DIY surgery. I’ll probably still need to get it checked afterwards at some point, unless God is in a good mood and the whole mark vanishes without trace. I was lucky to have already had it biopsied – just sorry they didn’t take the whole thing out at the time.

So I’m dieting, hula-hooping, catching up with the housework gradually, and started on writing my own straight romantic fiction efforts. Yes!! Finally, I came up with two ideas which have potential. I think giving up on the idea of dating in real life helped. Gave me licence to be totally inventive, and not worry about being judged (not until submissions time, at least). Mills & Boon are running their New Voices contest again next month, and I’m debating whether or not to enter a competition with a public vote (I don’t have that many friends to round up!) or just go for the straight submissions route. I’m tempted to go with the latter. Maybe because it would be the real response when it came, that I could work with immediately on whatever the feedback is. I have a feeling about it of ‘start as you mean to go on’ in the working professional writer sense.

In the meantime, thinking of putting together my ideal hula-hooping playlist. So far, the best of Santana, and Justin Timberlake are getting me going, and have also found remixes of Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, the Beastie Boys, the Noisettes, and Faithless are great stuff to hoop along to. I have a need to test out the hooping potential of De La Soul. My instincts tell me there is something very hoopable in those tunes. Oddly enough I couldn’t get anything out of Madonna. The rhythm was all wrong. She’ll have to incorporate it into her assimilated repertoire of fashion crazes to come up with the right beat.

For custom hoops and jamming, wiggle your way over to Hoop Express and get inspired! 🙂

Day four in the Diet House

Luckily, I’ve found something I wrote when dieting in 2009, that confirms I was losing 1lb a week – so I know what the expected progress is. It’s strange, because I remember in terms of dress sizes, there was a ‘suddenly’ moment when I fit into jeans two sizes smaller than I started out, but realistically, that moment happened about four months in to dieting. It’s about making a permanent lifestyle change, not a quick fix.

I did wake up starving today, with my stomach making those noises it can only make while hinting that it ought to have food inside. So I’m sitting at the computer now with my strawberry diet shake, made with coconut milk in today (another low-calorie alternative I’ve found more digestible than dairy). I’ve taken my vitamins – I take loads, including multi-B, Evening Primrose, and Omega fish oils.

Mostly what I’ve been obsessing about over the last couple of days, is books and storylines. I’m doing all right with a few sales here and there and a few words written here and there on my sequels, I’m not making any money yet – so for me it’s definitely going to be about finding something of mainstream-publisher interest to write about.

While avoiding interfering with further surgery on myself – I did attempt to remove a keloid scar with nail scissors. Please don’t do this at home. There are very understanding doctors out there! Looking forward now to seeing what new kind of scar appears from under the scab. I pierced my own ears aged 12 – successfully, the holes are still functional – but I do know the risks. My rogue keloid scar was the result of squeezing a spot which then refused to heal for two months – so it’s been a reminder not to abuse my skin, and for something so small, the cause of quite a lot of negative thinking recently. Strange how tiny things can cause us so much aggravation. In a ‘how stupid was I?’ way.

It’s just one more thing that makes me realise, I’m not cut out for a relationship yet. If I’m still customising myself, in terms of image, body-weight, whether I’m someone with a large appetite for food or a small one, what I do for a job, what I choose to write about, what I wear, what I watch and listen to, or what I identify with, I can’t be pinned down yet as a defined human being that another would recognise as being their mate. I don’t fit into a paperback demographic of a potential partner.

I wonder how closely our concepts or imprinting by fiction influences us while looking for a love interest? I wouldn’t know, not having found one yet. But perhaps my own voice gives that away by looking for stereotypes, or trying to fit into one. My only examples are in fiction. But if fiction is all escapism, those examples don’t even exist in the real world.

Like today, waking up starving, wondering whether a diet shake was enough incentive to get out of bed. What’s it like for people who have someone to meet up with, to get out of bed to spend time with? To go to bed with, for that matter?

I can ask these things now without having a meltdown because I’m not looking for one. But the not-looking seems to have opened a whole new series of questions. Stuff I hadn’t even thought about before while just being depressed that I didn’t have the one thing I always wanted. And now don’t want. Not because having the expectations that I would get it let me down, but because I’VE let me down, by not being the person I want to be who gets a relationship. I’m not thin or tidy or organised or earning a decent living or having a regular social life, or energetic or being a model parent while DS10 summons demons alone in her room, instead of doing normal teenage things like hanging out with gangs of predatory girls between WHSmith and Superdrug, ogling boys. At least then I’d have something to empathise with other parents about.

But I’m happy so long as she’s happy. If the other demons arrive, they can help with the housework.

Summer tum…

Gremlins-GizmoSounds like a polite way of saying ‘jungle bottom’ but in fact, this post is not about explosive disorders of the digestive system. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is about that realisation upon seeing your holiday snaps, when you are shocked nobody tried to roll you back into the sea while enjoying your beach break.

For me, this started with vague recognition that once more I was only wearing my baggy jeans. Then, a couple of months before giving up my job, starting to feel more tired – and in the last month, those aches and pains returning. No, it’s not age. It’s pasta. And stuff I don’t normally eat, like bread and cake and cookies, creeping back in.

So I climbed back onto the scales, and yes – I’m currently only half a stone short of the weight I was when I decided I needed to lose, and lost nearly two stone, two years ago. It’s crept back on, as so many dieters warn – a combination of comfort eating through stress and depression, lack of motivation, and having no social life to maintain a figure for.

Not that I’m not vain in my own solitary way. I like pretty things, but I am a fully-aware slob. What I’d like to achieve in my ideal world isn’t supported by the reality, and seems to be restricted by hours in the day, the fact I have only one pair of hands to do things with, and lack of people in my life for daily support (or delegation).

But I did lose the weight before, a combination of slim-fast/supermarket equivalent diet shake powder, not eating late at night or just before bed, and Chinese take-out once a week. I didn’t exercise. This worked – not sure why, except I had a combination of strange theories all running concurrently.

One, was the diet shake (calorie-controlled) theory. Weight loss is all about physics and chemistry – burning more fuel than you put in, forcing your body to burn from its reserve tanks. So put less in. I found mixed with cow’s milk it was indigestible, so I used economy soya milk instead, which my body coped with far better. I also cut out sugar in hot drinks and switched it to calorie-free sweeteners (Sweetex was my preference). Any sustained brain tension from artificial sugaring I outlet in writing crime fiction, where twists, turns, paranoia and conspiracies are deemed normal. In fact I quite enjoyed that part.

Two, was a word-of-mouth diet myth, via Hollywood. Don’t eat after 6pm. That way you body has burnt its daily intake by the time you go to bed, so you won’t lay down fat while you sleep. It does work, and it’s best not to eat your heaviest meal late in the day. Think of it as the Gremlins or ‘Mogwai’ Diet. If you eat too late in the day, you might turn into a monster.

Three, eat a big meal once in a while to stop your metabolism slowing down and going into ‘famine mode’ where your body compensates for shortage of food by reducing its burning capability. I went to the Chinese once a week and always ordered the same thing – sweet and sour chicken and special chow mein, and applied the same rule about not eating late at night, so it would be between 6 and 7pm.

Four, don’t take up an exercise routine you aren’t going to maintain. I’d done martial arts in the past, didn’t enjoy bruises, and actually felt too unfit to exercise – I had hip pains anyway, and stood around for my job in nightclub security. So I opted to do nothing. I’ve never been a sporty type, and was a skinny child who read books instead of going outdoors to play – so I knew it didn’t contribute in my youth.

I got from a UK size 14 down to a size 8-10 in about 5 months. All my aches and pains disappeared. It was gradual, and had plateaus of about a fortnight where nothing happened. My diet stopped when one week I couldn’t get diet shakes, and made a batch of cookies, and suddenly just wanted to eat loads of sugary things – and it crept back on again. I’d left one job to do another, was having a depressive phase again – I’d achieved what I wanted, but had no friends to share or to celebrate it with, or to keep me focused, so I just clocked it up as something I was capable of but that hadn’t gained me anything in the real world. Still no social life, still no boyfriend – just me on my own fitting into the smaller clothes in my wardrobe. I think I bought about 15 pairs of shoes to celebrate by myself, but only two of them have probably been worn outside my house. Lack of occasion to wear them more than lack of confidence.

So this time, I hula-hoop now, having already taken it up several months ago – again, on my own, privately, in my own garden. So I have exercise that I enjoy as my added back-up. I need to diet financially as much as for my health – before I saw the holiday photos, I was on the verge of going to my doctor about chest pains – because I can’t afford the weekly food shop, let alone pay for any health or diet club, or take up any out-of-home activity. So it’s just gardening, housework and hula-hooping on the agenda.

The last time I dieted, I had lots of hopeful aspirations about what being slimmer might bring, like a relationship and the confidence to have a social life – now all I’m thinking is it might prevent further illness and an overdraft I can’t repay. I still don’t have those other things, but I guess a realistic reason is as good as a fairytale one. And I really don’t want a man right now anyway. If I don’t currently recognise myself, anyone attracted to me at the moment is unlikely to want this particular look switched for a skinny one. Besides, dating seems to involve eating and drinking fairly often, which would get in the way of dieting. I can’t jump out of planes or do extreme sports for a dating activity, my eyeballs would fall out… (See ‘About Lisa’). So I’m cutting out dating as well as calories. Sorry guys, you’ll have to do without me… LOL 🙂

And I still have my smaller clothes it’d be nice to wear as well.

🙂

Have you had your shots?

First Aid Advice

I live in rural U.K. It’s the time of year when campers and caravanners come in their droves to our tiny townlets, paddle in the rivers, pat the wild animals, barbecue outdoors and live the good life.

Generally speaking, they do everything that the locals don’t do. So it’s not as if they’re getting in the way. It’s all very jolly and very Ealing classic comedy, except when they find once they get out here, for a week or so, that they have to drive to the nearest large town to get a phone network or decent 3G signal. Small beans for the price of a good getaway.

However, whether you are in the countryside or the city, if you and your kids are playing outdoors in the dirt, getting grubby, building up that sluggish immune system supported only by cola, McD’s and KFC, particularly if you are knocking back the more-than-usual pint of White Lightning, Bailey’s, or Chateauneuf du Pape, there are things to keep at the back of your mind that us bumpkins who were brought up on bouts of outdoor-related jungle bottom, projectile vomiting, vermin encounters, bites and splinters of varying sizes, are used to, as par for the course.

Get tetanus shots. They’re free. You won’t get lockjaw. You won’t feel terror when you get scraped by that rusty nail climbing over the stile. If there isn’t a stile, you could be on private property. Make sure the owner knows they’re expecting you, as the countryside often comes with large dogs, licensed firearms, and occasionally bored bullocks who like a challenge.

That black thing stuck in your skin may be a tick. They hate neat tea-tree oil – a few drops applied directly will kill it overnight, or loosen it enough to remove with tweezers. Don’t throw it back in the grass. Flush them down the toilet or put them in the garbage. Horrible things. If a red mark is still visible after a week to 14 days, go IMMEDIATELY to the doctor for antibiotics, as this may be the onset of Lyme Disease – common in areas where there are deer, such as the New Forest.

Leeches are easier to remove, and range from the long black wiggly sort, to little red threads, to small brown leaf-shaped things. Can be found in both saltwater and freshwater locations. Less likely to transmit an infection, but treat any ongoing residual marks or inflammation as you would a tick bite – see your doctor. It is not necessary to bring the culprit with you as evidence, and the doctor might not appreciate this either.

The best way to avoid insect bites is to take Mosi-guard, Autan or Jungle Formula – any good recognised insect repellent – and USE it. Mix it in your sunblock cream to save time if you must, and apply every morning, and before bed – I found this worked brilliantly when I was in Rhodes, where the mosquito is rampant. Anywhere with ponds, lakes, fishing is likely to be a mosquito haven, as the larvae mature in water.

Horsefly bites are very unpleasant. They can inflame an entire limb up to the joint, and cause infections. Make sure you take plenty of Savlon and antihistamine/Piriton with you. Savlon and Germolene also come in handy for those burns sustained while cooking on an unfamiliar stove, or outdoors, especially one-handed while trying not to spill your beer/cider/Jacob’s Creek.

You are unlikely to encounter a giant pirahna while holidaying in the U.K. I would like to quash any rumours that anyone known to me has released one into the wild after outgrowing its tank. It can be seen happily re-homed at a Reptile Centre in South Wales. And it only eats cucumber mostly. In fact I believe it was a Pacu.

Your children may be mixing with other children during the holidays. Hooray! Discreet nit-comb checks may remove another added concern before returning home, unless your child has spent the summer under a sports hoody.

If your children have been enjoying one another’s company in town, our cities do have vermin, and it’s wise to know what they may have come into contact with while exploring. In the U.K, bubonic plague and rabies are virtually unknown, but rats do carry something called Weil’s Disease or Leptospirosis – which is passed via the animal’s urine, so the animal itself does not need to be present for infection to occur. It need not be said that skip-diving and rummaging in garbage is probably not a healthy holiday pursuit. It can lead to kidney failure, and in a few cases, has been fatal. Starting with flu-like symptoms, it is advisable to see a doctor immediately that any contact has been suspected.

Cat offerings left in dirt, and pets in general, come with their own pets, ranging from bitey things, wiggly gastrointestinal-tract things, to fungal things. Ringworm or Dermatophytosis is awesome to look at under your doctor’s special light which will make you believe you are turning into a werewolf at full moon, but a pesky itchy thing that won’t heal up, so if you can’t find your mum’s extra-strong Canesten, the GP will give you some nice fungicide to clear it up. Highly contagious, rather like impetigo, and may need a second treatment as it can recur – being a spore-based infection.

Spider-bites and adder-bites are EXTREMELY rare, but do occur. Go immediately to the nearest major A&E – smaller hospital MIUs (Minor Injury Units) are not equipped for this. Although our local spiders are not known to be vicious, some do have venom, not to mention those that have somehow avoided the Reptile Centre and are currently ‘between owners’. The same is to be said for ‘hobo’ pythons, and escaped tigers, the Beast of Bodmin, that black thing photographed stalking sheep in Aberdeenshire, wild boar (which always have right of way on ANY footpath), and cows. Cows do not have a reverse gear. If you come across cows, either on foot or en vehicle, it is considered polite to give way. A solitary cow is a rather smelly trampling machine. A herd is the equivalent of a road-roller. Nothing is that important that needs to be arrived at quicker, than your destination not covered in hoofmarks and cowpat. And contrary to appearances, females HAVE been known to stampede, or charge, and can be as territorial as bulls.

If you come across something of man-made origin, such as a discarded hypodermic needle, metal or glass of any kind, remove IMMEDIATELY if possible, and wash the wound under soapy running water. Cover and bandage the area with gauze, and if unable to remove object, pad around it and do not flex if at a joint – keep immobile, and cover lightly with gauze without touching point of entry. Take the item bagged-up with you if removed, and go directly to a major A&E. Any suspect item may need to be tested for substances.

The summer of 2011 has already had a lot to answer for. Don’t let a little untreated scratch ruin yours.

L xxx