So, if the format for your preferred reader isn't yet available, don't worry. In the meantime, if you'd like to read the first chapter, for free, just click here and enjoy!
That's right! 27 Stages - a.k.a. the "cycling novel" - is now available in ebook on Amazon (worldwide) Kobo, and Smashwords! It will soon be available on Apple, Sony, Barnes and Noble and other ebook retailers.
So, if the format for your preferred reader isn't yet available, don't worry. In the meantime, if you'd like to read the first chapter, for free, just click here and enjoy!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Thanks for dropping by for this week's Thursday Thirteen. Since I'm very busy, preparing for my trip to the US next week and wrapping up all the work on 27 Stages, I thought I'd share a few pics which have inspired me throughout the long slog from start to finish.
So, yeah, it's a blog of cyclist photos. *clears throat*
Anyhoo... Please, allow me to present to you
Thirteen Photos Which Inspired 27 Stages!
This is *literally* the moment where the story started taking shape in my head. As I watched Cancellara receive the maillot jaune, I was speaking to my husband on the phone (he was in Italy, I was in the US). When the camera panned out and showed Cancellara on the podium, I said, without thinking, "I want to lick his legs." My husband didn't miss a beat and said "If you can catch him, go right ahead." That moment, combined with the team politics on display by the Astana riders (specifically Contador and Armstrong) led to the creation of 27 Stages.
There is a scene in 27 Stages which was written before I saw this photo, but which mentions a photo Abby takes over her shoulder without even looking, after sensing someone is watching her. When she looks at it later, she finds Federico was in the crowd after all. This is *literally* the sort of image I imagined her capturing.
And there you have them: Thirteen Photos Which Inspired 27 Stages.
Of course, there were many, many more photos than this to inspire me since 2009. I simply can't share them all, though.
Which is a bit of a shame, really.
And I know I owe you at least one more pic, so...
I hope this will do.
Friday Eyecandy Supplement
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's time for another Thursday Thirteen, and this week I have a special treat for everyone. You see, back in 2008-9, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of good writers on the Harper-Collins Authonomy website. I read many great books while they were still in their development stage, but there was one book in particular which stood out in my estimation. One, a psychological thriller (which is not a genre I normally read), was so good, I read all of the available sample and asked for more of it. I was generously given the still-incomplete manuscript to read at my leisure. To this day, it is the only book I've managed to read while sitting at my computer.
Well, now, that book - called Affinities - is available for purchase, along with another thriller, Subculture. Both are well worth a read, but you might also want to get to know the author a little better, first.
So please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with the lovely and talented (and former Authonomite), Chris Hollis!
Thirteen Questions for Chris Hollis, Author
1) So, Chris - tell me something about yourself.
Well, I’m a mid-thirties writer, fighting off life while I try to make my mark. Writing is the one job in entertainment where you can still be considered at the start of your career in your thirties. Many of the greats didn’t reach their stride until their kids were all grown up (not that I have any).
2) When did you first get bitten by the writing bug?
That’s not so easy to pin down. Winding back the clock, I was originally an aspiring (failed) cartoonist, then a director-without-a-camera, which turned into a screenwriter. Book writing evolved some point in my early twenties. I dabble. It’s always been one of my problems – disciplined, but rarely focussed.
3) Tell me about your books.
I have two available as of 2013 – Subculture and Affinities. Both are thrillers, and fast, but the similarity ends there. Subculture is an action-packed, breakneck, A-to-B kind of affair, whereas Affinities is a good deal more complex. Even I can’t remember all the different threads I wove into it. Every inanimate object has a specific pathway through the novel, developing in the reader’s eye, something like a character.
4) Which book was the greater challenge to write?
Easily Affinities. That kind of detail takes time to get right. After six years of putting it together, I just wanted to write a nice linear plot, something you could read on a sun lounger in a couple of days. That’s Subculture. Still, both are child’s play compared to a couple I have on my desktop. Ten years hasn’t been enough to call them finished...
5) How much research do you do when you're writing?
Copious and endless. Google images helps me to write descriptions, then I look up sunset times, weather forecasts, road names, people names. You can’t afford not to research every last little detail. It also helps to write Q&As as you go along, to remind yourself what the overriding point of the novel is. Then you can research your own research!
6) What genre do you prefer to read? What are your favorite books in that genre?
I’m into soft sci-fi and paranormal. Different genres, but they boil down to the same thing – an ordinary protagonist versus a strange adversary. Giant monsters and spooks. Think Triffids, Martians, vampires in a 1990s sense. Vampires are a bit different now, I feel. Less edgy, less fun.
You can’t afford not to research every last little detail.
7) What made you decide to be an Indie author?
I would have baulked at the concept ten years ago, determined to follow in the footsteps of the people who inspired me. Then one day I realised it should be the readers who decide what they like, and nobody else. So now I’m out there, along with two billion other authors, walking the fine line between shameless self-promotion, and blindly hoping to get noticed.
8) When you're writing, do you need noise or silence?
Great question. Silence, and it’s a bone of contention. When I’m doing a first draft, ambient noise is acceptable, but when it comes to doing that perfect paragraph – I mean the one where every word just flows poetically – it has to be silent like the grave for miles around. Hence why my output isn’t higher. One book a year is hard enough as it is when you struggle to concentrate like I do.
9) What's your typical writing day like?
Few and far between, really. Sometimes, I stay late in the office and pace up and down, proof reading, lapping up the solitude. But those rare pajama days amount to maybe seven hours of writing, and five of procrastination. They’re fantastic for getting the house clean!
10) Where did the ideas for your books come from/what inspired them?
Someone once said to me “think of a terrorist”, and I had the image I think most people would – a Middle-Eastern bearded man, with a vendetta that many Westerners perhaps wouldn’t understand. I didn’t like the stereotype, and so I decided to make terrorists who were homegrown, but still organised en-masse. The other ground, I felt, had been over trodden. [note: that book became Subculture]
Affinities, at conception, was a one-man play. Every chapter was supposed be a different night in the same location, with just one character. Turns out that would be boring as hell, so I scrapped the idea as I learned how much a story needs both dialogue, and autonomy. You can still see the roots in the first five chapters, though.
11) Say your books take off and you start earning Stephen King money: What is the first thing you purchase?
Remember the speedboat David Beckham rode along the Thames, holding the Olympic torch? I heard they couldn’t sell it. I’d have that. There were lights shining into the water jets that made it look all futuristic.
12) Give me a completely random fact about yourself.
I was the one who left the office window open overnight. Feels good to clear the air.
13) Any final words of advice or declarations to make?
It seems to me that every writer around is part of a gold rush for the ebook market right now, with many struggling to get as many books out there as quickly as they can. My advice is relax. Better to have three great books than six that are merely okay, right? You’ll be tagged with those books for the rest of your life (and then beyond). The other tip is go sit in a sauna. Quiet thinking time, and also nice and warm.
And there you have them, Thirteen Questions for Chris Hollis, Author!
I hope you've enjoyed getting to know him, today. If you're intrigued and would like to learn more about Chris, you can visit his website.
His books are available on Amazon US and UK, in both paperback and ebook.
Affinities (US ebook)
Affinities (UK ebook)
Subculture (US ebook)
Subculture (UK ebook)
No eye candy today (well, unless you count Chris himself) but drop by tomorrow for a tasty treat!
Ciao for now!
I Love You and Miss You, Dad
Four years ago today, my father passed away. I think of him every single day, not just on the anniversary of his death, or on his birthday.
I miss him every day in some small, almost insignificant way. Some days I miss him more than I would have thought possible, after the sometimes rocky and difficult relationship we had. In the end, however, we came to understand each other better, and that made a world of difference.
For that reason, I am glad that I miss him. I am glad to hurt, at least a little, because it means I have a reason to. For a long time, I didn't think I would.
I love you and miss you, Dad.
But you already knew that.
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's Thursday again, and as I hinted last week, this time around I thought I'd share a little info on what I've been doing to get myself back in shape. While my success has been rather modest so far, I am feeling better all the time - and isn't that what it's really all about?
So now, please allow me to share with you:
Thirteen Things I'm Doing to Get In Shape
First things first:
1) I set goals I'm sure I can stick to.
Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? And yet, everyone has, at some point in their life, set a goal without thinking about what will actually be required to reach it. I've done that many, many times, and as a result, I fell short all too often.
This time has been different, in part because when I decided to make some changes I didn't do it with a particular goal in mind. That worked for a while, but when I resumed my efforts after a "holiday break", I decided to be a little more focused, and set an actual goal, which I've just about reached already.
That new focus and having a goal led me to the next item on the list.
2) I started keeping an online food diary.
I have to say this was a significant step in my progress, because of the accountability factor. If I'm keeping track of what I eat, I can't "allow" myself to nibble or indulge carelessly. Knowing how many calories I'm allowed per day (the amount is more than I would have expected!), and knowing how much extra I can eat after exercising is helpful, too.
With this in mind, I use two different programs at the same time (it works for me, but most folks would probably prefer to use only one): MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople. I started with MFP in January and SparkPeople in March. I use them both because of the slight variations between them, and the different nature of both sites. I find recipes and exercise suggestions on both sites, too.
SparkPeople has been more useful in regards to finding exercises I can do, and they have video demonstrations/guides to help you work out more efficiently and correctly.
MyFitnessPal is a slightly more intuitive site as far as the interface goes (in my opinion, at least), and just easier to navigate and enter information on.
As a result of keeping track of my meals and exercise efforts, I find it much easier to judge what I'm doing right - and wrong - in my efforts all around. I also know when I can allow myself a wee bit of backsliding without beating myself up about it.
3) I found ways to eat better.
I searched the internet for reasonably easy, lower-fat versions of recipes I love. While I still eat butter, and sugar, and bread, I just don't eat as much. I barely add salt to anything I cook. I don't drink soda unless I'm dining out or am eating at a family meal. I drink one glass of green iced tea at dinner, and rarely drink more than that (it's not as bad as soda, but still, moderation is key). I make a point of drinking water each day - as much as I can stand - especially if I'm on the bike.
4) I cook more at home and eat out less.
Sometimes this bums me out a little, because I love dining out. Still, I've found a few new recipes where I've sat down to eat and have literally been amazed to realize I could make something that tasty.
5) I don't diet.
As I said above - I still eat butter, sugar, bread and other little no-no items. I have a piece of chocolate almost every night. I allow myself treats and don't deny myself anything. Also, I refuse to cut out any one food group. I don't trust any "diet" which says I can't have fruit, or bread, etc, etc. Moderation and balance is key.
6) I've found exercise I enjoy doing, and I DO it.
This was vital in getting things jump-started. Last spring, I started riding my bike on the paths near my home in Italy. Then, that summer, when I visited my mother in the US, I took advantage of the fact she has a recumbent exercise bike. At first, I rode a couple of days a week. Then I rode every other day. Then I rode every day, Monday to Friday, and took the weekends off. At first I took short rides, just fifteen minutes or so each time, and then I started riding more and more. I kept track of my rides, noting the length and distance and estimated calories burned, and tried to increase my endurance each week.
After I got back to Italy, my hubby and I decided to purchase an exercise bike so I could continue riding in the winter. It took me a while to do it regularly - for all the usual reasons - but by the end of December I was hopping on to ride a couple of times each week and loving how it felt to do so.
For April (at least, until I leave for the US again), I'm participating in a modified version of the 30 Days of Biking Challenge, wherein I've pledged to ride my bike every single day for at least fifteen minutes. I'm allowing myself to ride my exercise bike because we started the month off with some serious rain and cold, and I don't have the right clothing for riding in those conditions.
It's no secret I love riding a bike, so this is quite easy for me to do. I also have the time to dedicate to doing it, which is vital. The thing is, any time spent exercising is good - even if it's just a walk around the block after dinner, or parking farther away from the mall entrance than one normally might. If you can do anything at all - aerobics, weightlifting, walking, whatever - for just a few minutes a day, that helps.
7) I found alternative exercises to break the monotony of my regular routine.
As much as I love riding my bike, I do sometimes need a little variety. I looked into other exercises I could do, without equipment (or with minimal equipment), and made a point of doing them on the days I didn't ride the bike (which for me was usually Tuesday and Thursday). I do wall push-ups, lift small weights and do a few other aerobic exercises I found on SparkPeople. That way I'm active on days I previously hadn't been before, and I use parts of my body that I don't really use when on the bike.
8) I think about why I'm eating - beyond genuine hunger.
I saw that I was an emotional eater, and keeping the food diary pointed that out in greater clarity. I had a substantial weight gain a couple of years ago, during a difficult period, and as I've lost the weight I gained then, I realize I'm also shedding the negativity of that time.
And that encourages me to keep going.
9) I note the changes in my progress, no matter how small they might seem.
Another by-product of the online tracking is the little ticker there which shows me the weight I've lost. I do love seeing that number go up. I also love seeing how much longer I can ride my bike each week. Every time I see those numbers, I see how far I've come and I'm determined to go that much farther.
When I stand in front of the mirror each week (more on that later), I note the physical changes. I take my measurements once a month and note those on the websites, and I also really look at how I am changing, physically. I see how my muscles are increasingly toned and my skin softer and clearer. I have more energy than I used to, and I fatigue more slowly.
I make a point of noticing these things, so when things level out, I know what to watch out for.
10) I don't get discouraged when things seem to level out.
Sure, it can be frustrating when I'm keeping within my limits and suddenly nothing is "happening". I'm not losing weight and I'm not looking any different than I did before. I feel like I'm moving on a plateau of sameness, in spite of my efforts.
I just keep doing what I'm doing, and soon enough, how I feel and how I look is different. Sometimes it's not a physical change, but a mental/emotional one which comes along, and it's usually for the better.
11) I try to be more positive.
This isn't just about diet (in the overall sense of the word) or exercise. It's about being happier and more at ease with myself and the world around me. I still get fired up about things, I still get angry or frustrated, too. But as a general rule, I'm doing my absolute best to get rid of negativity and just be a more positive person.
This, for me, has been one of the most challenging parts of the whole enterprise.
12) I allow myself to feel sad/angry/fed up/whatever.
It might sound contradictory to number eleven, but it really isn't. I allow myself to feel my emotions, whatever they may be. Even negative emotions need to be felt and permitted when they arise. The trick is not to lose control and not give in to dwelling on them for hours on end. Some people want to be angry, or hurt, or sad and refuse to let the emotion go, because (in some cases) they might feel they're allowing whoever/whatever to get away with it if they stop feeling their initial reaction.
If I can, I try to really feel whatever emotion is stirred, for whatever reason. When I feel it leaving me, I let it go. I try not to hold on to it, and I make a point of not channeling it into emotional eating (which is part of why that online food diary helps - if I have to write it down, it makes me think more about why I'm eating, and whether I'm eating for hunger or emotional stimulation/dampening).
13) I made a point of coming to terms with my body, and loving it.
This was a challenge, I admit. I spent some time this winter looking at myself in the mirror and I realized that this chubby, imperfect body was the only thing that has been with me every single step of the way in my life. This body, which I have joked in the past "doesn't like me and I'm none too keen on it, either", has stood by me to the best of her ability from day one.
We've had some disagreements, my body and I. There's no doubt about that. I haven't always been kind to her, and she's taken every form of abuse I could throw at her, from eating and sleeping poorly to ignoring her cries for help, to blaming her for all my unhappiness, when all she was doing was trying to keep me upright and moving forward.
Now, when I look at myself - all of myself, without any pretense and without hiding behind anything - I see that I can undo some of the damage I'd done, so thoughtlessly. In fact, I've gotten to know her better in the last year or so. We've had a lot to say to each other. I've been pushing her pretty hard at times, and she's held on with all her might and done her damnedest to keep going.
And she's done it. And she's still doing it.
And there you have them: Thirteen Things I'm Doing to Get Back In Shape!
Were they what you expected?
Do you have other suggestions to add?
I don't know about you, but...
I really need to get on the bike, today!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Yep, it's been another super-busy week for me, especially since I'm getting ready to return to the US for the summer and have to wrap up a lot of different things: writing, formatting, cleaning, packing - the list just goes on and on.
Unfortunately, that means I haven't had time to dedicate to a Thursday Thirteen this week. But don't worry - I've managed to pull something together I think/hope you'll enjoy.
So, please allow me to share with you:
Thirteen Things Which Made Me Smile This Week!
1) I lost another pound. I won't go into detail here about how many I've lost, but let's say it's been enough to make me happy and give me a reason to smile.
This is almost - but not quite - the final cover.
2) Final edits and revisions are going fairly well on 27 Stages, and that has me smiling, too.
3) My hubby always, always makes me smile.
4) I discovered a new mushroom dish to make for my lunch. Mighty tasty, and around 175 calories for the lot:
350 grams of portobello mushrooms, cut into strips
1/2 tbsp of butter
a dash of garlic powder
one small serving of spreadable cheese, such as a wedge of "laughing cow" cheese
On low to medium heat, melt butter and add a dash of garlic powder to it. Add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes or so, until they start releasing their water into the pan. If necessary, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. When mushrooms are nearly finished cooking (limp and almost uniformly darker in color) add cheese. Stir in until everything is coated evenly with the "sauce".
Serve with a small portion of pasta, with crackers or enjoy it on its own.
5) Watching Doctor Who with my hubby has made me smile - especially while watching the Daleks and the CyberMen trash-talking each other in the Doomsday episode.
6) Goofing around with my hubby's family at Easter dinner last Sunday definitely made me smile.
Fabian Cancellara crosses the line one minute, ten seconds ahead of his nearest competitor at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). In the same race one year ago, after being listed as a favorite to win, he crashed out with multiple fractures to his collarbone and was unable to compete in Paris-Roubaix.
7) That Sunday dinner was accompanied by a viewing of the 100th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen - the Tour of Flanders - which was won by my favorite rider, Fabian Cancellara. That made me smile, oh, yes indeed it did... (and I wept a little, I won't lie).
8) The above moment, also captured live on television, made me smile.
9) The little old lady in purple, here, made me smile. A lot. (I've glimpsed my future self, it seems.)
10) Even when she's driving me crazy, my Doodlebug makes me smile.
11) The fact I've managed to ride my stationary bike every day this week (so far) makes me smile. I'm aiming to ride every day in April until I leave for the US. Wish me luck, eh?
12) This made me smile, too.
And there you go: Thirteen Things Which Made Me Smile This Week!
I hope at least one of these things has brought a smile to your face, too.
Because, let's face it, smiles are always good things.
Especially when they're yours.
Or even, on occasion...
When they're someone else's.
Ciao for now!
Author. Happily Married. Survivor of life with two deranged kitties.
Please note: Thanks to an increase in spam comments, I'll be approving the comments before they post. Sorry!