United States of Love: Happy Birthday!

United States of Love … HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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‘It was so funny and romantic … (There) was so much romance and fun going on I totally loved it! A wonderful author who I hope to read more from.’ Amazon reviewer, Angela.

It’s a year since Sue Fortin’s HarperImpulse debut, United States of Love was released, and we at Romaniac HQ wanted to wish it a fabulous 1st birthday. It’s a great, romantic read with a handsome, hot hero, and a strong heroine who has many dilemmas to overcome.

I wonder what Tex is doing to celebrate. A big hog roast in his restaurant, perhaps, or a trip home to America see his family …

 

And with Sue’s second novel, a fast-paced, gripping suspense, Closing In doing well in the charts, it’s a double celebration!

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‘I would urge anyone who enjoys a good, fast paced psychological thriller to read it – you won’t be disappointed!’ Room For Reading

Along with her novels, Sue is a contributor to Romaniac Shorts, a collection of flash fiction and short stories to suit all tastes. Her third book for HI is expected soon.

So it’s bottoms up, chin-chin and cheers.

Happy birthday, USL

xxx

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Pst … Who’s doing the bumps?

Coming through the airwaves : Nicky Wells

Today, I’m delighted to welcome author and radio presenter Nicky Wells onto the blog.  Many of you will know Nicky through her Romance that Rocks Your World books, but more recently she has also taken on the role of radio presenter.

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Nicky, can you tell us a bit about your radio show, please?

Hi Sue! Of course I can, but first up, thanks so much for inviting me back to Romaniac HQ. It’s always such a pleasure to hang out here! Now then, my radio show. It’s called BOOKS ROCK, and it’s a show where books and their authors and readers take centre stage. Because, as you know, I love writing, I’m an avid reader, and I’m addicted to music. It seems the ideal combo to me! Every show features two authors and two readers, often bloggers. The authors talk about writing-related matters and their books, and the readers give their perspectives on the theme of the day—e.g. research, or point of view—plus their top reads for the month. So far, we’ve had authors such as Jill Mansell, Talli Roland, and Tracy Bloom on the show—plus of course, your good self! We also have a ‘reality radio’ segment whereby we’re tracing the progress of Karina Jackson, a local aspiring writer. You might say I’m putting her through a creative writing course live on air. Then again, you might say we’re simply talking about her progress. I’ll leave that up to the listener to decide, but the idea is to give idea and inspiration to other emerging authors out there.

BOOKS ROCK airs on Siren 107.3 FM at 11 am UK time on the third Saturday of every month (and then again the following Tuesday, usually about 7pm)—people in the Lincoln area can listen live, and the rest of the world can tune in at sirenonline.co.uk. Plus, of course, the podcasts are available from the Siren FM website. This is the bit where I get to say, ‘here’s one I made earlier…’ :-)

http://www.sirenonline.co.uk/archives/9589

How did this role come about?

Ah. Well. Please don’t laugh. *coughs* I had a dream. No, really. I woke up one morning with the concept for the show and a sample schedule for the hour-long programme all ready in my head. I went downstairs to my office to set the whole crazy notion on paper before it got away from me. And then, before I could think about it twice, I zapped the whole thing to one of the producers at Siren FM via email. I’d been involved in Siren FM through The Midweek Drive for about eighteen months by then, so it didn’t seem a big deal to present a crackpot idea—they’d either say yes or no. As it happened, they said yes—within about two hours of receiving the proposal. I was delighted, and now I get to make a monthly radio show. Awesome!

You certainly sound very natural on the radio and definitely put me at ease when I was a guest. Is it as easy as you make it sound?

Thank you so much for saying that! LOL! Is it as easy… now there’s a question. You see, I love it. I’m a chatterbox by nature and find it virtually impossible to shut up. I’m timid in person, but somehow the medium of radio, the one level of remove from face-to-face interaction, seems to take away the inhibitions—never mind that my ramblings go out live on air! I also have a professional background of interviewing senior business executives both in person and by phone, and I think it’s probably that which gives me the confidence to just ‘chat.’

Turning to your writing, you’ve certainly given us a lot of fabulous rock romance books over the past few years, which has been your most favourite one to write?

*laughs* Are you asking me to pick between my babies? I’m afraid I don’t have an easy answer for this one. I have a tendency to be in love with my most current work in progress, but I guess that’s normal. Here’s a few thoughts. Sophie’s Encore made my heart sing, if you pardon the expression, because I was able to give a perfect ending to the story that I’d dreamed up. Also I had found the courage to inject a lot more drama and a lot more heat into my writing, so I felt very grown up, as a writer, when I finished. Fallen for Rock, my fourth full-length novel, was a fun story from start to finish, and I found myself jumping up and down with excitement and punching the air in victory a few times on Emily’s behalf. So that’s a favourite! And right now, I’ve finished my next Christmas novella, and it’s such a sweet, warm and cheerful story that I feel all gooey and overcome, even though I wrote it myself. Seriously, if it’s goodwill and fairy tales you’re after, then watch out for my next release. Plus I’m seriously in love with the cover—it’s all dreamy and starry and just perfect, in my humble opinion.

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So, what’s on the horizon book wise? I’m crossing my fingers you have something lined up for us in the near future.

I do indeed! Let me tell you a bit more about the Christmas novella then. It’s titled Fairy Tale in New York.

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Here’s the blurb:

When rock star Jude gets stranded in New York with his family on Christmas Eve, he has no idea that he is setting in motion a chain of events that will turn their Christmas into the most magical one yet…

No good deed goes unpunished, or so it seems to Jude and Carrie on the morning of the twenty-fourth of December. The previous day, they gave up their London-bound flights to someone in crisis. And now, a spectacular whiteout is grounding all planes, and Jude, Carrie, and baby Maya are stuck far from home.

Tired, hungry, and just a little panicked, Jude loads his family into a cab and returns to their hotel. But there’s no room at the inn, and not even a platinum credit card will make a difference. Snow is falling heavily, and the family is facing a very bleak night indeed.

How do you celebrate Christmas with no place to stay, no food, and no presents? Join Jude, Carrie, Maya and a cast of colourful characters in this fairy tale story of Yuletide in New York.

Fairy Tale in New York is available for pre-order from Amazon now and launches officially on 10 November. I can’t wait to share this one!!

Thanks so much for being our guest, as always, it’s a pleasure to chat with you.

Thank you, Sue, for inviting me again. Big hugs to you and all the fabulous Romaniacs, you totally rock, ladies!

Cass Peterson: One Night in San Francisco

Cass Peterson: One Night in San Francisco

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A change of pace here at Romaniac HQ today, as I welcome erotic romance writer, Cass Peterson to the couch, to chat about One Night in San Francisco.

Here’s the blurb:

Nicky and Liam have only twenty-four short hours to find out if their instantaneous attraction can develop into something more than an electric mile-high fumble. San Francisco has everything they need to put their previous disastrous relationships behind them, but when they lose touch with each other almost immediately, fate seems to have other ideas. As the precious hours tick away, Liam moves heaven and earth to find the woman of his (filthiest) dreams before she leaves the city. Will he get to her in time?

 

L: Cass – welcome to Romaniac HQ. We’ve had a wild weekend, so please excuse the wine boxes and loose socks.

C: Boxers? Oo er Laura – so the rumours about Romaniac HQ are true?

L: That’s boxes, not boxers …

Without further contemplation or ado, tell me a little about Cass Peterson.

C: Hmm, I’ll take your word for it. Right, where do I begin? This novella started with a challenge from a friend who more or less dared me to see if I could do it. Cass Peterson is my pen name – Cass is after the late great Mama Cass Elliot, and Peterson from an old BBC Alan Plater series called The Beiderbeck Tapes, featuring Peterson; the man with no name. I love James Bolam, who played the main character (he wasn’t Peterson, just a rather grumpy secondary school teacher). It’s about jazz, love triumphing over cynicism and woodwork. Brilliant.

L: I loved The Beiderbeck Tapes. Barbara Flynn played the long-suffering wife, I recall.

Is One Night in San Francisco your debut? Are you able to reveal some of the story?

C: It’s my debut novella – around 20 000 words, some of them very naughty words too. The story begins on a night flight to America after lights out, when Liam realises what one of his fellow passengers is doing under her blanket to while away the time. Their friendship takes off very quickly (takes off – see what I did there, Laura?) Nicky and Liam seem perfectly suited but they only have one night before real life takes over, and they lose each other at the airport. It’s a desperate quest and a bawdy romp all rolled into one.

I’ve also written a couple of rather rude short stories published in anthologies; Smut By The Sea Volume 2 and Smut Alfresco.

L: I understand ONiSF is part of a series to which several authors have contributed. How has that worked? Please explain the process.

C: The series is called City Nights. Tirgearr is a wonderful publishing company to work with. They are based in Ireland but their editors also work from other parts of the UK and America so it’s a cosmopolitan, friendly organisation, and also very flexible. Authors were encouraged to send in their ideas for a ‘One Night In …’ Then cities were allocated, and I was lucky enough to get San Francisco. Paris, Boise, New Orleans and Rome nights have already been released, and the October and November ones are Amsterdam and Edinburgh. It’s a great concept, which could just run and run … There are a wide variety of authors with differing styles so it’s a very interesting project to be involved with.

L: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being ‘Phwoar!’, where does One Night in San Francisco sit?

C: It’s definitely a 5, Laura. You’ll need a large gin in hand to read it.

L: The Romaniacs recently introduced me to gin. It’s the tonic water I enjoy.

As a romance writer, I know my novels must have a HEA or hopeful ending, and readers expect this, enjoying the journey the characters take. What do erotic romance readers expect?

C: Similar. Pure erotica is a whole different ball game (oops) but so far I’ve found that erotic romance needs to have a HEA ending or at least happy for now.

L: What advice would you offer to new writers looking to produce erotic romance?

C: Pour the gin, kick off your shoes and get in touch with your smutty side. It’s liberating, so long as nobody is reading over your shoulder …

L: Great advice, Cass. I attended a ‘Writing Sex’ course and found it fascinating. And enlightening. As a contemporary romance writer, my novels have scenes in that have a certain heat level, and I agree with you – I can’t write them if the kitchen is occupied by anyone other than me.

Now for our Romaniac Quick-Fire Round:

Y-Fronts or boxers?

Oh, boxers. I’m glad you picked up the ones off the floor though, there’s a time and a place for everything.

Musclebound or unassumingly athletic?

My hero in One Night In San Francisco (Liam) is lean and athletically toned rather than muscular, and he’s pretty gorgeous.

Oysters or chocolate?

Oysters for night time, chocolate for emergencies.

Indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors, under the stars.

Charming or cheeky?

Charming with a cheeky twist.

L: Thank you so much for dropping by today and congratulations on your new release.

C: It was a pleasure. Who made these fabulous cream buns?

Always good buns here.

Please do come again …

Laura x

Genre and Voice Part 2 : Joanne Phillips, Sheryl Browne

Welcome to Part 2 of the Genre and Voice blog posts. Last week, we had a great post from Louise Rose-Innes, talking about her switch in genre, you can read her post HERE. This week I’m so pleased to welcome Joanne Phillips and Sheryl Browne, who have both written novels under the romance banner and, more recently, in the mystery/thriller genre too.

 Joanne Phillips

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cupids wayI’’m often asked about why I chose to tackle a different genre (mystery) after being successful with romantic comedies. I think the implication is that my writing would need to be different – that I would have to find a different ‘voice’ for the mysteries. The answer to whether or not that is true turned out to be more complicated than even I expected! In many ways, my natural writing voice is the same in all my books – but of course, the characters are very different. My first two novels had first person narrators, so my voice was channeled through the filter of the main character – I’m not as funny or as interesting as Stella! The mysteries are third person, and here I feel authorial voice is more noticeable. But my writing style in general is changing as my writing improves. I’m studying for a Masters in Creative Writing, and I notice now that my approach to writing on the level of the sentence is very different to when I first started.

As for writing in a different genre, I think it’s great fun for authors to have a go at writing in any genre they enjoy reading. I love cozy mysteries; Iflora_v6__lighter_red_v5 had an idea for Flora Lively and so she was born. I also love reading contemporary romances – but I’m very a very fussy reader, and a romance has to have a lot of depth for me to enjoy it. That’s probably why my novels always have a more serious side, or explore serious themes – albeit subtly! My advice to anyone tackling a change of genre would be to study the expectations/structures of that genre and follow them, but when it comes to voice, to be yourself entirely. A new writer said to me recently that she didn’t like reading other fiction while she was working on her own first novel as she was worried it would affect her writing voice. I think this is a valid concern – we can unconsciously mimic writers we admire – but I advised against getting too hung up on it. It’s actually very difficult to copy voice, our own way of writing will always win out in the end. And that’s what makes us unique.

Joanne’s Website

Sheryl Browne

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When I first started out writing many moons ago, choosing to write in different genres it seemed was a bit of a no, no. Even before social media madness, where online promotion became as essential as breathing, advice from those in the know in the publishing world was to establish a brand or platform, i.e. to stick to your genre thereby fulfilling reader expectation. So have I bucked the trend in choosing to write psychological thrillers alongside poignant romance? Have I confused people in deciding to continue to write both under my own name? Judging by the reviews, for which I am hugely grateful, I think not. I’m quoting a pertinent snippet from one reviewer here: “The Edge of Sanity lives up to its psychological thriller tag, and Sheryl has definitely pulled off the switch in genre with this un-put-downable book!” Thank you, Donna at Room for Reading

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Whichever genre I write in, I tend to explore the fragility of love, life and relationships. If a character calls to me, I simply have to write his story. My books tend to turn around the family unit, looking at family dynamics and the tenuous bonds that hold people together, usually having a strong, but flawed, male lead. I think The Edge of Sanity, though most definitely edgy, does fall into that category. My ‘voice’ therefore, whether writing romance or thriller, or a combination of both, will always lean towards ‘poignant’ storytelling, in so doing, hopefully, delivering what the reader expects.

Sheryl’s Website

Genre and Voice Part 1 : Louise Rose-Innes

Sue : I’ve been asked quite a lot recently as to what genre my second book Closing In actually falls in, there have been mixed opinions by those who have read it as to whether it’s romance or thriller.  For me, it falls somewhere between the two, under the romantic suspense category. All this made me wonder about the placing of a book and if it’s possible to sit between genres successfully or to even write in a completely different genre. I’ve found it’s a topic that causes quite a lot of discussion and, as such, decided to ask around for other authors’ experiences and thoughts on genre and voice.

I had originally intended to do one post on this, but I received such great advice from the authors I approached,  I didn’t want to cut anything down and have it over three installments.

I’m delighted to welcome Louise Rose-Innes to the Romaniac blog today. Louise is probably most known for her romance novels, but has recently turned her hand to a more dangerous story line.

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I have a split personality. With books, I mean. My teenage reading list comprised of young adult romances, and progressed to Joanna Lindsay and Jilly Cooper fairly rapidly. In fact, I remember getting detention for reading the “naughty bits” from The Thorn Birds out loud to the boys in my tenth grade English class.

Running parallel to this was a deep-seated hunger for thriller novels. Sydney Sheldon was my all-time fave. His direct, suspense-laden style has probably influenced my writing more than any other author. Clive Cussler and James Patterson are close seconds. But then there’s also Michael Connelly and Robert Ludlum and of course the all-time spy-master, John le Carré…

Occasionally, I’ll read a Booker Prize winning novel for the literacy value, and because I feel incredibly guilty if I don’t, but other than that my personal book collection is fairly evenly spread between the romance and thriller genres.

Naturally, the same would prove to be true with my writing. When I began, I thought romance would be the easiest genre to master. I’m not convinced I was correct, but the ten years I’ve spent writing the genre have taught me a huge amount about character development, internal and external conflict and (the hardest part) how to write a good love scene. Because romances are character-driven stories, you need to understand your hero and heroine extremely well and develop them and their relationship throughout the story.

Thrillers on the other hand are primarily plot-driven. Planning is essential. All the various elements of the story have to be factored in at the right moment, from clues and red-herrings to action sequences and reveals. And this has to be done in such a way that the pace doesn’t falter, so the reader keeps turning those pages. No mean feat!

There are parallels. The lessons I learned (and am still learning) writing romance, are definitely applicable to thrillers. For instance, I found characterising my protagonist in my current thriller series fairly easy. His faults, his demons, his personal journey are all extremely well developed. The same goes for my antagonist. The depth of character that I’m able to reach in my thriller writing I attribute to the many rejection letters I got when I started writing romance. Those early submission editors saying my inner conflict wasn’t well enough thought out or my characters lacked emotional depth. Hurtful at the time, but beneficial in the long run. :-)

My latest novel, Personal Assistance (Entangled Ignite), is a romantic suspense set in a Middle Eastern kingdom on the brink of an Arab-spring type conflict. The heroine, an employee of the Arab prince, stumbles upon a highly classified document and is now on the run for her life. With the embassy shut, the only person who can help her escape is a disgraced SAS commander with a hidden agenda. But can she trust him to get her out, or will he sacrifice her for his own ends?

Personal Assistance is available now from Amazon and other online retailers. Read the first chapter here…

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Deadline Dramas

I think I need more practice at meeting deadlines and less children to look after at the same time. This is how handing in my RNA NWS report went this year:

Argh! It’s August! What the frig happened to the rest of 2014?

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Okay, don’t panic, you managed to send one chapter in last year when the twins were eight-weeks-old, this year will be a breeze.

Frantic read through and tidy up of the extra 30,000 words you’ve added. Not bad, not great, but will be good to get some feedback so prep to send a partial.

Ah. The printer isn’t set up at home. Smile sweetly at husband.

Printer is set up. Go, go, go!

 

 

 

 

 

Stop! This is so NOT what they mean by a partial!

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PANIC! Why did you leave this til now to sort out? Switch to plan B = Print at local library. Sort everything out whilst they nap then head there after lunch.

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Babies: Why would you choose to not nap today! (Teething I worked out later. Three new teeth cut between them!)

Drink/Snack/Calpol = now we’ll sleep, mummy!

Yeah! *Runs around house gathering sticky labels, envelopes, pens, the magic green form*

Whilst in panic mode you share with twitter your woes and that @SotonLibrary is your only hope. @SotonLibrary tweets back saying they are ready! (Yay, social media!)

Aim to get to library at 2 when it opens. Arrive half an hour later than hoped after lunch (not the relaxing kind, the kind where two cuties lob at least 50% of theirs on the floor) and delightful double nappy change.

The printer works! The staff entertain the babies. We might actually DO THIS!

Rush to post office and IT’S SENT WITH A DAY TO SPARE!

And collapse.

By jove, I don’t know how writers with real deadlines (not involving partials) manage. I suspect it may involve some of the Romaniac staples. Cake, chocolate, and alcohol. Am I right?

 

 

Let Them Eat Cake …

Let them eat cake….

(And we’ll have some too!)

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Jane Wenham-Jones, author of the revolutionary new eating plan 100 Ways to Fight the Flab – and still have wine and chocolate, explains why every successful diet still involves a slice of what you fancy…

No Cake for YOU….

If I told you that you could never have cake again, what would you immediately fancy? Yep, a great big lump of Victoria sponge, or a rich moist coffee and walnut gateau, or a gloriously chocolatey brownie, or perhaps a fresh cream éclair…(insert your own weakness).  You may not even like cake (you strange creature) but if your downfall is crisps (as mine is), pizza, or fresh crusty bread with lots of butter, and I suddenly tell you that if you want to lose weight, it has got to go – ? Well, you get my drift…

There are two big reasons why all diets/eating plans/changes of lifestyle (a lot of books like to avoid the word “diet” to try to pretend you can still eat things you like) eventually fail. And that is, that unless you have a will of iron and a very high tolerance to emotional and physical discomfort (in which case you are probably already as thin as a rake and will already have stopped reading this and be necking down the cake anyway) they all involve feeling either hungry or deprived or both. It is no wonder that nobody sticks to a diet for long and the overweight have a whole shelf load of books promising dramatic weight loss, have tried them all, and are still waddling round the house with a doughnut in each hand. Because it is pretty dispiriting for anyone to face a future in which there is a stark choice between waving goodbye to the notion of cake for the next twenty years or getting your jeans up past your knees.

And if you are a writer, and have already experienced the problem of Writer’s Bottom ( a phrase I take full credit for coining, in my 2007 book Wannabe a Writer? ), you may already be struggling with the zip. But if you can get round those twin problems of hunger and feeling that you’re missing out, you can be the weight you want for ever. And you’ll find it much easier to cope with either one of them, if you do have to, if you know that feeling will be short-lived. Weight loss is a question of attitude as much as what you put in your mouth – a case, if you like, of mind over large quantities of matter.

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So – you want cake? You have cake…. And you don’t put on weight afterwards: Here’s how.

1. Call it Lunch. I recently did just that. A friend had given me a huge slice of homemade mocha cake and it was just what I felt like. So I munched the lot. And did I feel guilty or concerned? I did not. Because  it is all about balance. The carbs were consumed early so there was loads of time to burn them off. In the afternoon I played tennis (I lost). I had grilled halloumi, with tomatoes, basil, and a huge crunchy salad for dinner (low carb), a few peanuts with my wine, instead of crisps (protein!), and a bit more dark chocolate (it just sort of rounded things off) and then, as I do when I have any inkling that the podge might be settling in, I went for a longer walk round the block before I hit the sack.

The net result was? My weight dropped slightly. I’d had: wine, chocolate, cake, bread, cheese, and nibbles. As well as essential vitamins and minerals, some green stuff, and tomatoes.

What’s not to like?

2. Eat Carrot cake and call it one of your five a day. Eat a carrot too. There is a theory that if you lived all day on carrots and champagne, you would get all the nutrients you need. This may be true (tho probably isn’t). All I know is that I would talk too much, think I could sing, and then fall over.

3. Eat a chilli pepper nextThe hotter the better. Chillies (http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/hot-tip-no-1-a-chilli-a-day-keeps-a-lard-arse-at-bay/ )raise the metabolism and the more fiery they are, the greater the effect. Experts estimate that one can expect a 15% increase in calories burned for about two hours after eating a hot chilli sauce. (If you can face cake with chilli sauce – you’re laughing!)

4. Count its calories. If it’s shop-bought cake, it will say on the packet, if you’ve made it yourself you can do the maths, if it comes from that darling little shop you can’t resist, you can probably look up approx values on the internet. Then simply adjust round it. If you bought a cake at 2,450 calories, ate a slice every day for a week, plus 1200 calories of other foodstuffs spread over three meals – including fruit and veg – you would be perfectly healthy and lose weight. (Alternatively you could eat half the cake in one sitting, eat nothing else all day and take a vitamin pill.)

5. Enjoy it! Happy people look gorgeous whatever their shape, and skip through life with an extra zing. This in turn releases endorphins, raises the metabolism and helps burn the calories. So have your cake and eat it and if you do overdo things (a slice is fine, the entire eight inch sponge probably isn’t), some extra exercise and plenty of protein and veg will put things right tomorrow… Bon appétit!

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For more creative thinking on how to eat the things you like and still only need one airline seat, see http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/express-newspaper-features-100-ways/ or bite the (fat-free) bullet and got straight to

http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ways-Fight-Flab-Chocolate/dp/1909520926/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for a fab, flab-fighting post, Jane.