Monday, February 5, 2018

It Worked For Me

Diet...one of the ugliest, most useless words around. Yep. I have written about this before. And I do have something new to say so I'm writing again.

First...I've tried just about everything. Exercise. Counting calories. Diet plans. Over a year ago, the hunk and I joined Weight Watchers. He lost 55 pounds. I lost 15. And stumbled to a halt.

Changed up our menus. Switched around how I used my points. Still hung in there at 15 pounds and no counting down. My glucose counts were fluctuating all over the place. And yes, I was miserable.

Then one night I watched a short piece on television. You know the kind I mean. Three minutes with the lead in, "It might not be what you're eating, but when..." Absently, I listened while I had my dinner. But as the woman in the piece listed her medical issues, and explained exactly what she changed (as part of a study group at Johns Hopkins), I paid more attention. Then I thought...why not? What did I have to lose?

Well, it turns out, the first week I lost .8 pounds. The second week I lost 1 pound. Hmmmm. And the sugar? Dropped significantly, with six days out of seven coming in well under my top target number of 120.

What did I do? I stopped eating after six p.m. That's it? That's it. I have water to drink.

But what about other dietary changes? I didn't change anything else because this was a test for that one factor. I will give it four weeks. If it continues to hold true, then I'll slowly add other changes. By then, the weather should be better so I can resume my walks.

Why is six p.m. the magic number? Well, actually, it isn't. The crucial number is six hours before you go to bed. For me, that's midnight. Will it work for anyone? Maybe not.

But as I said...what do you have to lose?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Just One More Page

Me: I'll come to bed in a few minutes...I just have a few pages.

Hunk: How many is a few? The rest of the book?

Me: Possibly.

When was the last time you sat up late reading a book? Do you remember the book title? The author? Or have there been so many you can't remember anything at all about the book?

Back when I was a much younger woman, the hunk and I moved to Houston, where I didn't know a soul. He went to work all day, then worked an evening job while I 'kept' house and cared for three kids under four. To save my sanity, I borrowed zillions of books from the library which was quite fortuitously only two blocks away.

And it was there I discovered Georgette Heyer. It's been a life-long love affair. I have a copy of every single one of her books--in print. For me, she's not an author I read digitally. Why? I don't know.

I remember the first book of hers I read. It was Sprig Muslin. I read it in my bathroom while everyone else slumbered in a silent apartment. Why in the bathroom? Well, it was the only place I could go where I could close the door. So, I sat on a cold, hard toilet seat cover and read that book in the flickering over-the-sink lights. I laughed. I laughed so hard I slid down between the toilet and the bathtub. That's some serious humor.

I have since read that book numerous times. I confess it's not as funny the second or third time around, but at that time in the lonely early hours before dawn, it was a life saving story of laughter and romance, a story I desperately needed right then. For that very reason, it will always be one of my favorites. There are many others. It's hard to choose when you get right down to it, but that's the way when you find a treasure.

There have been others. Books that I mourned when I reached the end while simultaneously reveling in the wonderful satisfying ending. Morning Glory by Lavryle Spencer. The Arthurian cycle books by Mary Stewart. The Last Breed by Louis L'Amour. Birthright by Nora Roberts. The Road to Dusty Death by Alistair MacLean. The Freedom series by Anne McCaffrey. White Fang by Jack London.

I expect most readers could compile their own lists. I hope so. I believe that lure to wile away the night reading, whether in the bathroom, or under the covers with a flashlight, or curled up with a comfy afghan in a recliner is probably one of the most important experiences in my life. Books...a life saving love affair.

Just one more page!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Shell Game

For the last two years, the citizens of the United States have been caught up in a gigantic shell game as though they were a bunch of gullible tourists. They've gambled time after time on the possibility of knowing exactly which shell is hiding the pea. And they lose, lose, lose.

In order to win at the shell game, the player must know one thing...what is the operator's game plan? The sad thing is, most players don't even know the operator has a game plan, let alone what that plan might be. Part of the game plan, actually a significant part of the game plan, is the group of shills in the audience. It's a con game, after all.

In our national shell game, the shills are the congress. No one seems to get it. You have to have eyes in the back of your head to catch the shiftiest shills, but without them, there would be no shell game. For instance, this last weekend, they staged a big bullfeathers crisis for the country. And while our attention was diverted, the operator imposed a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. The U.S. producers of the panels are thrilled as the foreign competition was undercutting their business. The installers of the panels are NOT thrilled as their working costs will go up. There are no long term winners here because the jobs lost won't be covered by the jobs won. There ya go. Typical shell game.

There is much discussion about Russian Trolls and how they influenced the elections, the daily processes of our government, even the payoffs in congress. They're the hidden shills in the shell game. The problem is the citizens stumble around in the alleyways, fascinated by the bright shiny noises the shills are making and never feel the sticky fingers picking their wallets right out of their hands.

There is no 'good' political party. There is no 'Christian leader'. All we have are a bunch of shell games with shady operators and greedy shills. And regardless of the illegality of the games, the folks responsible for overseeing things are all looking the other way.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Try The Gazelle

Dieting is a misnomer. Actually, it should be called making healthy choices. Most of us don't because that would required thought, planning, money, blah, blah, blah. Truthfully, we enjoy the bad foods more than we enjoy the good foods.

The hunk and I attend Weight Watchers--mostly so we weigh in on a regular basis. The program is an excellent starter program for individuals who want to make changes in their eating choices. For the rest of us, it can offer support when we go wild with those bad choices. Or perhaps another member can offer some alternatives so we can change up our menus.

But! It mostly boils down to daily choices. That's what it's all about. What we eat--and how much we eat--determines the final number on the scale. Or as our leader says, the feedback from the scale tells us whether we're making good choices. The longer you spend time paying attention to your choices, the more conscious you become when faced with an increasing array of choices.

For instance, hamburger, fries, and milkshake. Yeah. Sooooo fattening. Eh, fried chicken, salad, and tea. Hmmmm. Fried. And how much dressing is on that salad? And is it sweetened tea?

Well. I eat stuff. I eat ice cream once in a while. I relish every bite. And then I'm done with it until the next time I go visit my friend Jane, because that's when I eat ice cream. I look forward to it. But there isn't any at my house. That's the key. If you're going to eat something that's a less than healthy choice, eat it someplace else. And then walk away.

When we started W.W., my breakfast added up to 28 points. I was only allowed 32 total points for the day. Butter = 5 points per pat. Jelly = 3 points per tablespoon. Creamer = 2 points per 1 ounce. Heh. When's the last time you measured creamer? So, I made some changes. And I squirreled my breakfast down to 13 points. I made substitutions. I tried the gazelle.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Value of Time

Almost everyone in the picture above is dead. The youngster sitting on the car roof is in his seventies. The fellow out on the edge of the picture on the right is my dad--he's eighty-seven. And the guy, second on the left in the front is his brother who is eighty-three. The dark-haired woman behind the third man in front is...in her nineties and unfortunately, not really sure who the rest of us are.

Now, I guess you're wondering why I'm telling you this. It's simple. Time is precious.

When I was a youngster, most of the folks in the picture were around all the time. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and of course, my own parents. Within ten years of the time this picture was taken, my paternal grandfather died of a blood clot during surgery and my mother died in a car crash. Both were unexpected and far too young to be dead.

While I was growing up, there were times when I had occasional flashes of wisdom to realize my family members wouldn't always be around. When you're young, you think your life will always be the same, but I'd lost my mom so underneath that veneer of security, I knew that wasn't true.

Once I was an adult, I had a better idea of life's realities, but still...old age was far off. And then it seemed it wasn't as far off as I believed. My older family members started dying--some of old age, some of cancer, and others from other ailments. Abruptly, the family circle was down to three or four.

A couple days ago I spoke to my father. It was a casual call, checking on them because I know the weather is bad where they live. We talked about everything from the neighbors, to the unusual snow on the ground to an acquaintance of theirs who brings negativity to an entirely new level. None of our conversation was earthshaking or soul searching, but it was reaching out, touching his heart. He mentioned another person he tried to call several different times, but after very brief conversations this individual always had something to do. Dad said, "What he really means is he doesn't have time for me."

I try to call my parents at least twice a week. They live 1800 miles away. I can't just drop by whenever I want to see them. But I can call. I can spend whatever time they have to talk with me. Do they tell me the same old stories over and over? Yep. Do they lose their train of thought? Oh, yeah. So do I. Do I love them? With all my heart.

Some day, probably not too far in the future, they'll be gone. And then, all my precious time won't bring them back. So if you have someone you love, pick up that phone. We all spend time on things we find important. Ask yourself, just how important are they? Enough to give up a television program? Or a computer game? Or any of the other silly nonsense we spend time on?

Make the call.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Series Bible

Ah, the adventures of writing a series. Who can remember all the details--especially when you make up the world and culture as you go along? Well, that's where a series bible comes into play. It doesn't make any difference how you organize it as long as it suits your working style.

Some people keep their info on a spread sheet, some use paper and pen, and others use a program similar to OneNote, and others might even use index cards. The important thing is to keep that sucker up to date. And of course, remember where you put it when you finished your last book.

In the process of revising/updating/editing my Mystic Valley series, I found out just how much I've forgotten. It took a while (emptying closets, book shelves, trunks, etc.) but I finally located the bible for the series. I was pleasantly shocked to discover it required minimal additions and changes--even with all my revisions. In effect, I was reinventing the wheel with my revisions. If I had first consulted the bible, then I wouldn't have had to recalculate time lines. Bah!

Today is an 'update the bible' kind of day. If I work through it quickly enough, then I'll get back to my edits on Dancer's Delight. Might even finish those tomorrow. And then it will be on to Traveller's Refuge. The exciting thing for me is to see how intricate and detailed the world I created really is. Over time you forget your own accomplishments. This has been a reminder for me. I'm a world class creator.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chronology Interrupted

Over the years, I've had numerous discussions with other authors about their feelings when reading their older books. I would say the number one complaint by most of them is grammar/punctuation errors. As I prepare my older stories for republication, I'm mortified to find that is not my number one issue. Nope, my topper is the wild, chaotic time-line in this series.

In one book alone, a character was in turn fifteen, a budding warrior, seventeen, a Champion warrior, sixteen, a hunter, and finally the future High Clan Chief--all in a period of two months. Another character took his warrior vows at two different times in two separate locations in the same period.

In the previous book, the main character accomplished various tasks in two weeks, five weeks, eight weeks, but the entire time elapsed was two months. I'm poor at math, but even I can tell that doesn't add up.

One character was forty-five when the book started and fifty two when it ended...six months later. It's a good trick if he could pull it off.

Next to all of the time-line errors, the excessive 'thats' and 'justs' and other annoying issues are all non-starters. It appears I will need to start back at the beginning with a series of maps and a detailed chronology and family tree lest I end with someone marrying their great aunt Susie three years before they were born!

Heh. I always loved solving a good mystery. Game on.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Internet Life

Recently, one of the individuals I follow on Facebook posed the question, "How much time do you spend on social media and what is the major benefit you receive?" Most of the posters responding totally skipped the benefit part of the question and just listed the amount of time they spend online.

I could have done the same thing, but instead I thought about it and then pointed out the major benefit for me--and likely for a lot of others--is the opportunity to interact with other people. Because of medical issues, I rarely speak face-to-face with people. If the hunk and I go for a walk, we're careful to stay a safe distance from other walkers. He does the shopping while I read in the car. Without the Internet, it could be a lonely life.

But... through the miracle of the Internet, I can interact with friends, fellow authors, readers, family...in fact, I have the opportunity to meet far more folks than I would otherwise. Through the magic window, I can read the news, laugh at kittens, sympathize with folks caught up in various disasters, chime in with my opinion on various issues, and read what others think about the appalling political situation in our country. I can reach out to fellow authors with encouragement and advice. I can share photos with my family. None of it would have been possible fifteen years ago.

Do I spend too much time on the Internet? Of course, I do. We all are guilty of that. But for a growing segment of the population, the magic window provides a necessary chance to cast off our shackles of loneliness, to become less hermits and more citizens of our world. Not everyone grabs the opportunities afforded to them, but for me...it's a life saver.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Kissing Bits

Editing an older book, especially one written for a publisher known for their 'steamy' offerings, can be something of a conundrum. Do you tone it down? Heat it up? Leave it as is?

I know some authors who face similar challenges with technology. It doesn't take long for the entire world of electronics to whiz into an entirely different orbit. Since the series I'm working on has NO technology to speak of, that isn't one of my problems.

But the kissing bits is something else to ponder. I've really looked at the story I'm currently editing, trying to judge what to do. And I've concluded the series will be best left as is. Yep, it's a bit steamy. But the central theme of the series is the cultural differences between one world and another. And how the new-comers face dealing with those differences is what the books are about. Therefore, trying to write around the steamy bits would be counter to the story.

In this case...yeah, the kissing bits have to stay.

Anytime an author edits/revises/changes an older book for the current market, there are always going to be issues the author has to decide. Life and cultural mores change sometimes in the blink of an eye. If you don't believe this truth, just think back over the last year or two. Cultures constantly evolve, whether technologically or morally or financially. Five years ago, people and corporations routinely used checks. Now almost all money transactions are via electronics. Music was sold by CDs. I have no clue how it's sold now as I quit buying when I couldn't figure it out any more. Movies have skipped directly from the theater to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

For the most part, I believe leaving a book intact as written is best. Corrections (grammar, punctuation, spelling, and time-line issues excepted) should be minimal. After all, that book was written at a particular stage of the author's development. That's where they were at that time. And for me, at that time in my life, I was writing darn excellent steamy romance stories.

If I'm lucky, I might do so again.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Editing Shenanigans

As many of you know, I was previously affiliated with a publisher that's no longer in business. I spent most of a year wallowing in my 'oh, woe is me' mode before settling down to work on republishing my books. The hunk gave me a nudge by providing funds for new covers. And once I had covers, how could I justify sitting around on my duff while the books languished on the computer, hidden away like steamy secrets. And so.

I located the most recent version of Dancer's Delight and started wading through the story, making the changes I've long wanted to implement, deleting all the 'thats' and 'justs' and other over-used words, and changing some to more appropriate words. Around half way through, the hunk proposed we take advantage of the holiday sales to replace my aging computer and he tossed in a huge new monitor as I'm also aging and need a bit of a push with the old eyesight.

When I finally was able to return to the manuscript, I had no idea where I left off. Yep. You would think I would have some notion, but I've just read it too many times, so I decided to give my eyes a rest and printed out the entire thing.

In the process, I was reminded of something I've always known, but sort of shuffled to the back of my tired brain. Editing on paper is vastly different from editing digitally. Our brains and eyes process the printed word quite differently than digital. I expect some of the bad editing we see in other's books is due to this very thing.

But there's another advantage to editing on paper--at least for me. I love using my handy-dandy red pen, slashing through unneeded words, scribbling alternate dialogue in the margins, and noting down bits of research to take care of. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and yeah, power. Power I revel in over my own work. There isn't the same fulfillment when working on the computer. And I also believe the slower business of reading and editing on paper allows me to contemplate the words I'm working with. It allows me to mentally 'hear' the dialogue and descriptions. It permits me to ponder the inner rhythm of the story.

It's going to take a while longer than I planned to finish editing this story, but already I can see it will be worth it. And after all, that's the main thing isn't it? When this book is for sale, I'll know I've presented the very best of myself.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Logging Off


So...the end of 2017. It was quite a year. Alarms, anxiety, anger, and aggravation abounded. I'm not going to go there today. Today, I'm going to find something positive. I'm not sure what it will be yet, but surely there is something.

I've noticed a lot of folks on Facebook are taking time to express their thankfulness and gratitude for the support they've received from their online friends. And you know? That's a good thing. In this day of scurrying to and fro for jobs, errands, work, school, it's a blessing we have the Internet to keep in touch with our loved ones and friends.

In the past, reaching out and touching someone meant writing a letter, stuffing it in an envelope, slapping a stamp on it, and entrusting it to the United States Post Office. And then you waited. And waited. And waited. And if you were lucky, the recipient might actually write back to you.

Then, phones came along. Of course, it was quite expensive to talk to family and friends unless you waited until late at night. Then cell phones came along. And we can talk to anyone, anywhere. Between the Internet and our cell phones, there's really no excuse for us to fail to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones. This coming year, I resolve to keep in touch more.

Life has been pretty good this year. As I told my father this afternoon, I woke up every day. I have food, shelter, and clothing. Everything after that is icing on the cake. Too often, we forget to count our blessings. This coming year, I resolve to be more mindful of all the blessings I receive.

For all my friends and family out there...may you have a most blessed and peaceful new year.


Friday, December 29, 2017

The Late Christmas Child

My last Christmas post for 2017...

Christmas 2003. It was a busy, busy year. In June we moved from New York to Maryland because the house hunk was transferred. Moving is always stressful, but this time it was particularly so because we lived in our last home for nineteen years. So much stuff. So much stuff to sort and get rid of or throw out! Then in mid-September Hurricane Isabel roared into Maryland. Fortunately, we were not near the flooding, though one of the trees behind our building ended up on our balcony.

Our younger daughter was pregnant, due in late December. We made arrangements to stay with our oldest son. Our daughter and her boyfriend were staying in a small room so Christmas was celebrated at our son's apartment. No baby. It appeared that the baby was in no hurry to arrive. We made arrangements to wait the baby out, but by December 29th, we were running out of our medications and reluctantly made the decision to go home the next day. That afternoon our daughter called, "Don't go yet! I've started labor!"

In a little while, her boyfriend called. "She wants you to be here when the baby's born." So we hopped in the car and made the forty-five minute drive across the Hudson River to the hospital. When we arrived, he was waiting for us and ushered us up to the maternity floor.
She didn’t quite make it for Christmas, but on December 29th close to midnight, the househunk and I were with my daughter and her boyfriend, present when Daisha Monet made her entrance. 

Witnessing the miracle of a new baby never gets old. The precious gift of a new life—especially at Christmas—is a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

She's fourteen this year. Happy Birthday, baby!!!