Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't Mess with My Coffee!

Guess what? I gained weight!

Yeah, I'm not excited about it either.

I know from experience if I don't take steps now to get back to my happy-weight, I will continue to gain. And that means grouchiness, unpleasantness, and a list of other yucky moods I tend to indulge in when I'm "fluffy."

Diets and I don't get along, so I don't do them. But when I make an effort to watch my calories, eat higher quality foods, and *gulp* exercise regularly with intensity, I always get back to my goal weight, and I usually can maintain it.

I have one rule. Don't mess with my coffee!

To kick start my motivation, I stopped at the library and checked out their Health section. Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salad by Christine Avanti, CN, sounded fun, so I headed home and cracked it open. Sometimes books like this can be too dry and boring, but Skinny Chicks sucked me right in. The testimonials and easy-to-understand biology lesson convinced me to try her method.

Christine discusses how carbohydrates convert to sugar in our bloodstream, so she recommends always eating a combination of carbs and protein to slow the insulin train down. I've read many, many books and articles about diets, and this one makes sense to me. You're not eliminating food groups or starving yourself. You're just eating a meal that contains protein, carbohydrates, and a small amount of fat, and you're eating every four hours.

My one resistance to any diet is the effect it has on my coffee habits. Skinny Chicks allows you to drink coffee, but I have to watch my carbohydrate/calorie additions. This means balancing my coffee with protein (like eating a yogurt or an egg), which isn't a biggie, but when I read the label on my favorite flavored creamer, I about choked. The carbohydrate level is way too high (considering I double the serving size with each cup I drink!), and the ingredients contain bad fats.

Logic gets me every time. I will try--try, mind you--to healthify my coffee for one week, but if it's hurting my day in any way, I'm going right back to my favorite creamer. Right back.

How do you maintain your weight? Do you have one rule about health plans?

Have a fantastic day!

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Dingbat Dog

Our mini-dachshund Sophie has been with us almost four years, and though she's calmed a big, she still regularly acts like a dingbat.


As I'm writing this post, she's staring at me from the floor. I bend to pick her up, but she scurries to the side. I resume typing. She "begs." I'm like, "what?" She puts her front paws on the edge of my chair. I roll my eyes and grab her, setting her on my lap.

Heaven forbid she sit anywhere without a blanket over her. No, that wouldn't do. So I have an old blanket on my chair that she can snuggle into. She'll curl up and sleep for hours...unless I print something. Then it's a bark-a-thon. The printer clearly contains evil.

Another quirk of our wiener dog? She has issues with ceiling fans. One whirl and she's jumping at it and barking because, again, the fan is a threat. Will it kill our entire family if she doesn't alert us to the madness?

Dinner time brings out an interesting habit. Sophie tippity-taps her paws over to her dish, proceeds to take one piece of kibble out, moves it three feet away, and then eats it. Why? We will probably never know.

Sophie can be a lot of fun. If my son and I play catch, Sophie joins us, and yes, she'll trot through the yard with a baseball in her mouth! She's faster than all of us, too. She likes soccer, football, and any other sport that involves running and a ball.

Our dog might be a dingbat, but I still love her!

Do you have a pet? What weird things does it do?

Have a terrific Monday!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Is a Simple Goal Eluding You?

Two years ago I came across a magazine at Barnes & Noble called Success. The articles inspired me, plus the magazine included a CD with interviews. Listening to leaders share their advice made my mom-taxi commute less of a chore. I kept the magazine (it's in my office) and refer to it whenever I need a jolt of motivation.

The online version of Success brims with helpful articles, too. "Tiny Habits" by Jennifer Chang (article is linked) made me pause in a good way. In it, Jennifer shares how she was unsuccessful at one simple goal--flossing her teeth--until she tried the Tiny Habits method.

Maybe you're great at flossing. But what about drinking eight glasses of water a day? Or jogging for thirty minutes? Or writing five hundred words? Sure, these goals sound simple, but for most people, actually sticking to these tasks is complex, difficult.

If we've tried and failed at a goal in the past, how can we make it a habit now? Enter Tiny Habits.

Based on the research of Professor BJ Fogg, Ph.D., Tiny Habits involves starting small, finding an anchor to act as a trigger for your new behavior, and celebrating immediately.

For example, if you want to drink more water throughout the day, your small start might be to fill a glass of water. The anchor to trigger it? Filling the glass whenever you get up to use the restroom. If your glass is still full when you get up, you'll be reminded to drink the water. Pat yourself on the back each time you fill that glass!

Since I'm on a mini-health kick, I'd like to add small strength moves to my day. I'm going to add a 15-second plank to my routine before I check my e-mails.

Small goal? 15-second plank. 
The trigger? The "Mail" button will remind me of my goal. 
Celebrate? A wink, fist-pump, big smile? I don't know! I guess I'll find out!

For more information on incorporating Tiny Habits, read Jennifer Chang's article, "5 Tips for Turning Your Tiny Habits Into Big Results," and check out the website of Professor BJ Hoff, Ph.D.

What simple goal has been eluding you? Is there a Tiny Habit you could start?

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Creating Your Story's Timeline

Ah, a new story! A little idea bud to nurture and feed until it grows--talk about exciting!

Whenever I pursue an idea and develop it into a book, I go through a process of brainstorming until I'm ready to write. One important detail? The story timeline.

Sometimes the timeline will determine the story. For instance, if I wanted to write a Christmas book, I probably wouldn't set much, if any, of the book in the summer--I would focus on autumn and early winter to give it that Christmas feeling throughout.

For most of my books, though, I figure out the characters and their goals before thinking about a timeline. Their goals typically determine when the book will start and how much time will pass.

It's important to consider genre when thinking about timeline.

If you write suspense, there's bound to be a "ticking time bomb" element. As you consider what has to happen from point A (the beginning) to point Z (the end), think carefully about a realistic time frame. If the book unfurls over a course of twenty-four hours, break each hour down and make sure the plot can really fit. If the book spans a month, try not to devote twelve chapters to day one.

Maybe you're writing historical fiction--a sweeping saga. The book could chronicle more than a year. You couldn't possibly write every day of the journey. Think about what details deserve page time and if there are weeks or months you can skip and wrap up in a short summary. Do this before you get to page 265 and realize only one month has passed.

If you're writing a romance novel, please honor your audience. Most romance readers simply will not find it believable if your hero and heroine meet, fall in love, overcome their obstacles, and get their happily-ever-after in a few days time. I won't give you a hard-and-fast rule, but use your judgment and respect your readers.

The book I'm currently plotting features two characters with goals that require a four to six month commitment. The goals are seasonal, which narrows when my book can start and end. By coming up with clear character goals before I start writing, I'm able to plan the ideal setting and timeline.

Questions to help you determine your timeline:

-   What genre are you writing?

-   How sweeping or compact is the story?

-   Do the characters' goals impact the timeline? Example: A woman wants to purchase and renovate an old building. The timeline would need to be anywhere from four months to over a year.

-   Are their seasonal limitations? Does any of the plot hinge on the weather?

-   If you are working with a long timeline, how will you keep the pace tight? What action can happen "off-screen" and summarized?

-   Is this timeline realistic?

Do you have anything to add? I'd love to hear your tips!

What pet peeves do you have about fiction timelines? 

(No surprise here, but mine is the romance where the hero and heroine fall in love and get married after a week's time. Ugh.)

Have a terrific Wednesday!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Woolly Bear Caterpillars

One of my favorite things from childhood was finding woolly bear caterpillars. I grew up in the country, in Michigan, where woolly bears are common. Their fluffy bodies remind me of a kitty's tail. I love cats!

Over the years, we've moved to different areas, and once routine woolly bear sightings became rare. Imagine my delight when I saw five of these caterpillars this weekend.

I posted the following picture on Facebook Saturday. This was one of the caterpillars I came across.

A few friends of mine discussed the winter ramifications of the stripes. A narrow brown band supposedly means a harsh winter while a wide brown band signifies a mild winter. One problem? This one had a black band rather than a brown band. The colors had flip-flopped! The other woolly bears I saw had the traditional black bands with a wide brown stripe.

I'm going to use my unscientific analysis to predict a MILD winter. Hey, why not? The markings must mean something, right?

Here are a few links to learn more about the cute woolly bear caterpillars.

Do you remember any special insect from your childhood? How do you predict a mild or severe winter?

Have a lovely Monday!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Let's Talk Reading Habits!

I'm currently reading three books. Yes, I said three. This is pretty normal for me!

1.  Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker
2.  The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
3.  God's Story Your Story: When His Becomes Yours by Max Lucado

I've been reading Kate Walker's book for two weeks, and I'm about halfway through it. Why so much time for one slim book? Easy! I'm studying it chapter-by-chapter, taking notes, and fitting it in during my less busy days.

Max Lucado's book jumped out at me from the library. I couldn't NOT start reading it. I'm almost to the mid-point and anticipate finishing it this weekend. Very uplifting.

David McCullough's book isn't to be rushed through. It's one to savor. Full of fascinating historical and personal details of Americans who spent time in Paris between 1830 and 1900, The Greater Journey appeals to my love of history and minutiae.

I will be adding a fourth book to this mix soon, too. I came across this goodie by Stephanie Laurens, The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh, and it's been a long time since I've read one of her books.

This brings up the question of the day: Is it wrong to read three books at once? Should a person finish one before starting another? I don't know! I've been this way as long as I can remember. However, I will say that I rarely have two novels open. I tend to only read one work of fiction at a time.

Care to share your reading habits? Do you have more than one book open? Or do you finish one before starting another?

Have a fabulous weekend!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

4 Things I Love This Week

Four Things I Love This Week:

1. My local walking route exploded in autumn colors, and I actually jogged most of the route!

2. Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd rocked my world. Several people recommended this book to me in the comment section of one of my old blog posts. I finally got around to reading it. Wow!! 

3. The movie, Enchanted April, charmed the socks off me. Gorgeous setting, terrific characters, and happily-ever-afters all around--what more could I ask for?

4. Still haven't turned on the furnace. For those of you who endure cold winters, you know the mental satisfaction of keeping that furnace idle as long as possible!

What are you loving this week?

Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tigers, Lions, and Wolverines

What a weekend for sports!

My beloved Detroit Tigers are pushing through the ALCS series with mixed results. It's frustrating to watch games that should be in the bag get lost in the final innings. Yes, I'm a little bitter this morning. :)

On a higher note, my somewhat beloved Detroit Lions are 4-2! They look more disciplined this year, and I am very happy with the addition of Reggie Bush. I still watch with one eye open and one eye shut, but it feels good to win some games.

Unfortunately, my beloved University of Michigan Wolverines have struggled all football season, and Saturday broke their winning streak. *sigh* Unless the offensive line gets better, I don't see us winning key games.

Autumn is my favorite time for sports. This year both my kids are involved in fall sports too, and they had a great weekend. We've been blessed with incredible weather this year. No sitting out in pouring rain for this mom. :)

Right after Halloween my brain switches to all things Thanksgiving and Christmas, so for now, I'll embrace baseball and football. And who knows? Maybe this year will the be year one of my teams wins the big championship!

Do you watch fall sports? Who is your favorite team?

Have a fabulous Monday!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Anxiety and Heaven

I was driving last week and a number of issues pressed heavily on my heart. I thought, when does it get easier? I've been blessed with seasons where everything clicked. Sure, there were minor annoyances, but nothing that kept me up at night or never seemed to be resolved. I wanted one of those times back.

Golden fields of corn ready to harvest and the brilliant blue sky worsened my mood further. How could it look so perfect and my spirit be in such disarray?

It won't be like this in heaven. The outside will match my insides. It will be perfect. There won't be any more of these hard seasons.

I've never really longed for heaven. I like living on earth! But it hit me that my entire life I truly have been waiting for heaven--the place of perfection where we no longer experience the worries, pain, and fears of this world. I've been longing for that way of being pretty much every day of my life.

Think about it.

No more:

- Sticking my foot in my mouth
- Head colds
- Worries about my children
- Tears over lost friendships
- Regrets about things I could have done better
- Disharmony with my loved ones
- Loneliness
- Imperfection
- Mosquito bites

(Had to throw the last one in there.)

Anxiety is normal--no, I'm not recommending it! But someday all the pain we deal with will disappear, leaving us in the state we're meant to be in. With God. Forever.

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NIV)
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

(From The Bible Gateway--this is a wonderful resource to look up passages or terms in different translations.

Do you get weighed down by the anxieties of life? Keep praying!

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Made to Last: Interview with Melissa Tagg!

You are in for a treat today! Melissa Tagg, author of the inspirational contemporary romance, Made to Last, is here, answering my questions. Melissa writes for Bethany House (publishing home of several authors I love including Jody Hedlund and Becky Wade), and yes, I loved her debut novel! My review is later in the post. :)

Melissa, thanks for being here today! Let's get to it!

1. In Made to Last, the main character, Miranda, has a natural talent for working with wood. Do you have wood-working skills? What are you naturally talented at?

Haha, um, no…I’m really not at all talented at wood-working. Although, truthfully, I guess I’ve never really tried that hard. But I do have a clear memory of my high school shop class teacher walking past me and just shaking his head. LOL!

I am naturally good at dumb things like remembering tons of classic movie trivia and saying the alphabet backwards (for real). I’m also good at accidentally starting fires and tripping. And to be serious for a moment and in hopes of not sounding at all cocky, I do think writing comes somewhat naturally to me. But I know I’ll always have more to learn as a storycrafter. :)

2. Miranda has an assortment of men in her life: her manager Brad, fake husband Blake, ex-fiancé Robbie, and, of course, Matthew, the hero and reporter. Let's say you had these men to choose from, who would you pick? (I'm loving Blake!!)

Ohhhh how I love this question. Brad and Robbie are easy no’s…Brad because he’s a little too suave and polished for my taste and Robbie because he flaked out on Miranda. :) But choosing between Matthew and Blake? I don’t think I can do it. If we were just talking Made to Last, I’d choose Matthew in a heartbeat…he is funny and sweet and he sees deeper into people than most, probably because of his career as a journalist. I love that about him.

But now that I’ve been working on Blake’s story for months now (it’s called Here to Stay and comes out May 1, 2014), I’m seeing all his deeper layers too. Plus, he’s just hilarious. And underneath his goofiness, there’s a wounded vulnerability that tugs on your heart.

I don’t think I can choose! Ooh, how about this: Whichever one goes the Pinnochio route and becomes “a real boy!” first…that’s the one I choose.

3. What has surprised you the most about publishing your debut novel?

Hmm, two things, I think:

     1. The busyness of it all. People said this would be a busy season. But I think in the back of my head I was all, “Yeah, yeah, cool, I can handle it.” Um, now I’m a little less confident of my ability to juggle. Haha!

     2. The joy of reader support. Ever since I’ve started on this writing journey, I’ve been blown away by the support of fellow writers. But now it’s also readers, too, who are encouraging me on a daily basis. I’m so grateful for that!
Melissa, you've been an inspiration to me in many ways. Your deep faith comes across in everything you do. Your talent as a writer sucked me into your book (can't wait for your next one!). And your friendship means the world to me. Congratulations!

Made to Last

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that’s how it looks when she’s starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she’ll do anything to boost ratings and save her show–even if it means pretending to be married to a man who’s definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda’s every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth–and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she’s built come crashing down just as she’s found a love to last?


Melissa Tagg ~

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter turned author who loves all things funny and romancey. Her debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013, with a follow-up slated for summer 2014. In addition to her nonprofit day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers founded by award-winning author Susan May Warren.

During her reporting days, Melissa interviewed presidential candidates and llama farmers, rode a hot air balloon and flew a plane, and once found herself face to face with a buffalo. But today she gets her kicks by letting her characters have their own fun. She's passionate about humor, grace and happy endings.

My Review (5 Stars!!)

Wow! *fanning myself* Melissa Tagg blew me away with her debut novel! This is the kind of romance I love--terrific writing, lovable characters, gorgeous setting details, humor, a little sizzle, and a very satisfying happily-ever-after! I loved this book!!

From page one I sympathized with Miranda (Randi) Woodruff. She's in a predicament, feels very guilty about it, and has strong reasons for staying in it. Enter two men new to her life: Blaze and Matthew. I'll admit it--I loved Blaze. Praying he gets his own story. Yum! But Matthew is the hero in THIS book, and he's fabulous.

I laughed out loud so many times, I lost count. I can't wait to read more from this talented author!!

(I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own--I loved this book!!)


Thanks so much, Melissa, for being my guest!

Do you watch home-improvement shows? Which one is your favorite?

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Help? Caramel Apples

I've unwrapped Kraft caramels and melted them per the instructions on the bag.

I've also attempted to make homemade caramel.

For some reason, my caramel apples always end up with a wad of goo on the bottom and a too-thin layer on the remainder of the apple.

What am I doing wrong??

For all you caramel apple gurus out there, I'm begging for your help. I love these treats. I want a recipe that will ensure an even coating of caramel.

The pre-made apple wraps aren't bad, but I feel like I've contaminated every square inch with my fingerprints by the time I get them to stick. Plus, they get expensive!

Do you have some tips on making the perfect caramel apple? Please share!!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Not Becoming a Recluse: 2 Minute Resolution

I've been too much of a homebody lately. When driving to the gas station seems too much of a bother, I know I need to get out more. So this month's 2 Minute Resolution is to Not Become a Recluse!

October 2103: 2 Minute Resolution


Not Becoming a Recluse

Do you ever get reclusive tendencies? How do you combat them?

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Disappearing Key: Interview with Wendy Paine Miller!

I am SO excited to host Wendy Paine Miller on my blog today!! Wendy and I "met" online years ago through our blogs. I was immediately drawn to her deep, lyrical writing style, not to mention her humor. We became friends. Critique partners.

Earlier this year we chatted, and she mentioned her idea of releasing this off-the-wall novella. I read it. Was BLOWN AWAY. My goodness, this woman can write! Wendy graciously agreed to answer some of my questions, so let's get to it! 

1. The Disappearing Key has a twisty concept. What sparked the idea?


I almost feel like answering this one with if I told you you wouldn’t believe me. Life is stranger than fiction. A culmination of experiences and ponderings I’ve wrestled with intersected, and so the concept of The Disappearing Key was born. Things as routine as my mom getting vitamin B shots in her ear to help with her Ménière's disease, to having to turn my daughter’s orthodontic palate in the roof of her mouth every night, to knowing what’s it’s like to love someone with a brain tumor. Like I said, a random combination of things collided in my brain to trigger the idea for this novella.


2. You took a break from writing full length women's fiction to write this novella. What did you like about writing shorter fiction?


The pressure. And the challenge. Let me explain. I felt strongly about crafting fully developed characters with intricate storylines. But doing this in half the length of a novel can get tricky.

I also did it to experiment. It’s exciting for me to explore new methods of writing.

In this particular work, I loved how the point of views unraveled, how each of the main characters had an opportunity to share.

3. What surprised you the most about preparing this piece for publication? Did you have a favorite moment? (I love your cover!!)

What a phenomenal question. Seeing the cover for the first time was certainly a highlight. I was also surprised at all the details that go into launching a successful work.
Lastly I must admit I never imagined how rewarding it would feel to receive feedback, from the professional edits to the initial endorsements. It made the entire experience more real and reminded me of the beauty behind why I write—to reach others.

Wendy, I love your last point that as writers we long to reach others. When our manuscripts sit on a flash drive or in a file cabinet, our spirit cries out because we want to share our stories. I'm so glad you're sharing yours!


The Disappearing Key

Gabrielle Bivane never expected parenting a teenager would be this hard, but she never expected stillborn Oriana to live to see fourteen, either. The night of Oriana's birth, Gabrielle and her husband Roy fused their genetic and engineering geniuses to bring back all that was lost to them—at a cost.

The secret must be kept.

Oriana Bivane senses she’s not like the other girls her age, but the time has come for her to change all that. She’s tired of secrets, but does she confide in the wrong person?

The life-giving key, suddenly missing, must be found.


Wendy is a native New Englander who feels most alive when she's laughing, reading, writing or taking risks. She's authored nine novels and is currently writing what she hopes will be your future book club pick. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies and online sites. Wendy lives with her husband and their three girls in a home bursting with imagination and hilarity.
She's represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency.



My Review (5 Stars!!!)

The Disappearing Key may be a novella, but it packs the punch of a full length book. Wendy Paine Miller explores ethical choices about life, stillbirths, and the secrets we keep. Told from three very different viewpoints, the story of Oriana's mysterious birth and ongoing "treatments" unfolds with breathtaking intensity and will have you questioning until the very end.

Ms. Miller excels at lyrical storytelling with an honesty prized in modern fiction. Her word choices remind me of music, but her control over the tension impressed me the most. This story just does not let up! No spoilers, but be prepared to turn pages way past your bedtime!

A remarkable debut. I can't wait to read more by this talented author!


Thanks again, Wendy, for being my guest. Congratulations!!!

The Disappearing Key is available now at Amazon (click to purchase!!) and other online retailers!

Do you have a question for Wendy? Chime in!

Have a lovely Wednesday!