Friday, November 10, 2017


HOLIDAY WEIGHT GAIN

Preparing for Thanksgiving



            Unless you’re stranded on a desert island, being held prisoner in Myanmar, or   are accidentally locked in your storage locker, you’ll be stuffing yourself on the big day. The trick is to give yourself permission to do that without eating more and more every day leading up to Thanksgiving as if you were training for an Olympic event. 
             That isn’t as simple as that sounds. Anticipation makes moderation difficult. Your devious brain will be telling you, “Go ahead. You’ll be overeating on Thanksgiving anyway, you may as well eat whatever you want until then.
Sound familiar?
            Use your brain to help you, not sabotage you. Remain aware of your eating habits.
Don’t starve yourself. Eat sensibly. And get enough sleep! Sound strange? Then you’ve never noticed how much more susceptible you are to food urges on days that you’re exhausted. Getting enough sleep is the best way to be good to yourself and prevent eating binges.
My tips for this week are for those of you—and myself—who are going to be doing the cooking on Thanksgiving. Cooking is a task requiring more that one tip!
1.  If your family and friends are used to having appetizers set out, prepare some that you can pass up. For me, that means herring, a shrimp plate, and stuffed mushroom. I know, it’s really weird not to like those things, but I’m a picky eater except when it comes to junk food. So for me, no chips, cheese, or mixed nuts on my coffee table.
 2.  At the big meal, indulge only in your favorites and pass up the other dozen side dishes. I’ve practiced this one for a while now, and believe me, I’ve never been reprimanded by the hostess since I so obviously enjoy what I am eating.
3.  Make sure to have a supply of disposable plastic containers for leftovers. Send the tempting, high-calorie items home with your guests and don’t take no for an answer. This will require extreme assertiveness on your part when they protest—and they will. Be firm.

Dear readers,
        Remember, Thanksgiving is one day out of three hundred sixty-five. The free
pass you give yourself to eat the things you love on that day is for one day only. Go ahead and indulge, then move on.
         Enjoy!

Marla

Sunday, October 29, 2017





Holiday weight gain starts in October! 



            I used to gain ten pounds every year during the holiday season.
How was that much weight-gain possible? It was easy—I started in October. Then I struggled to take off my “Christmas fat” in January and February.
            That shameful acquisition of holiday bulge began in October with Halloween candy. (And I don’t have children to blame its presence on.) Any candy that comes into this house during October is for yours truly. Terry, my significant other, may snatch a piece or two, but he’s not haunted by the same carb addiction as I am.
October is candy month.
            Then there’s the snacking during football games—an annual ritual—the home team couldn’t win if I weren’t encouraging them with the cheers of my crunching.
            Everyone knows what happens in November. In November I vow that I will NOT gain weight over the holidays this year. But, having made that vow, the terror of holiday goodie deprivation niggles at me. The only cure for this tweak of conscience is—guess what?—you’ve got it—a bowl of buttered popcorn and the last of the Halloween candy.
            Then comes the mother of all eating events, Thanksgiving. It would be a sin to diet on Thanksgiving, wouldn’t it? How else would I show my thankfulness except by indulging in everything the buffet has to offer? Someone went to a lot of trouble to cook all that goodness; it would be rude to pass it up.
            I hardly need to remind you what December brings. But I will: parties, Christmas cookies on display everywhere you go, gifts of home made treats, boxes of fudge and chocolates . . . the list goes on.
            I’m not sure January would be the same without digging out my “fat” clothes, bemoaning my food transgressions of the previous ten weeks, and joining a diet group for the umpteenth time. It’s all part of the post-holiday depression syndrome, that and the drifts of snow that nearly cover our west-facing windows.
How have I managed to control my holiday weight gain?
I joined TOPS, weigh in every week, and have been doing so for more than four years now. Has it gotten easier? Not really, but now I face the holidays prepared and with support. Follow this blog through the holidays for tips on how to avoid taking on the snowman shape.
Till next time,
Marla

Tip #1  Halloween Candy.
If you can possibly avoid it, don’t give out candy. Give it to your neighbor to pass out for you or leave the house during trick-or-treat time. If you must have treats to give out, be sure to buy something you don’t care for. Or pass out apples. Or small toys.
Tip #2  Dealing with leftover Halloween candy

I turn all candy over to Terry, he locks it up in the garage, and only gives me two pieces a day, no matter how many I ask for. If you don’t have someone to hold your candy for you in a home-style Fort Knox, throw it out or give it away. But if you throw it out, make sure it’s in the garbage with something disgusting enough to prevent retrieving it in a moment’s mad craving!
Tip #3  Football snacking
Have sensible snacks on hand. Unbuttered popcorn, veggies with yogurt dip. Or, and this one is my favorite, schedule your lunch or your dinner during half time depending on the time of the game, that way you won't be starving as you watch and will have food to look forward to.

Sunday, September 24, 2017



Manuscript Organization and the Independent Writer




I wish I could tell you that I have some amazing and simple organization skills that I can pass on to you.
I don’t.
What I can tell you is what NOT to do.
I’ve learned everything the hard way, even making some mistakes more than once. The problem is I write long books, therefore only using things like editing, proofing, Mail Chimp, uploads to Amazon, and Author Central, as infrequently as once a year. It is difficult to establish a learning curve for those things that doesn’t dip into nothingness in between uses.

Here are a few hints on how to avoid costly errors.

1.     Slow down.  I know, I know, everyone tells you to crank out your books as fast as possible and get them uploaded immediately. But having once uploaded the wrong manuscript, one with errors still in place, I can assure you that taking time to double check your manuscript every time you get one back, and before you upload it, will pay off.

2.     Delete early versions. Develop a system that works for you. Date or number every version of your work, and get rid of the old ones as soon as possible. Again, number and/or date them to avoid confusion.

3.     Keep a writing journal. Devote a notebook just to keep track of your promotions, your proofing, editing, formatting, reminders, etc. Date entries and list tips on using things that come up only once in a while. A large planner works great for this and is worth the investment to keep everything in one place.

4.     Post a weekly goal list in front of your computer.  I use a small index card every week and list about five things that I’d like to get done that week, then post it in front of my computer. One of the items is always the number of pages I want to get done that week in the latest book. Change the list weekly and check off what you’ve accomplished.



Dear readers,
We are having a very warm weekend here in northwest Wisconsin as I write this. I’m one of those weird people who love fall and winter, and I’m eagerly waiting for some cool, crisp days!
I’ve just added my latest book to Amazon, and as usual, made some serious errors in the process, which inspired this blog. Hopefully, you will find it helpful.
Have a happy autumn,
Marla




Friday, August 18, 2017

Discouragement and the Older Writer






Is discouragement with writing any different for the older writer?
The older writer has the same pitfalls as any author, in addition to a whole other field of sinkholes.

A lot has been written by and for writers about not giving up. Advice pours forth like rain in April and nervous writers drink it up.

For the older writer, many of our distractions, problems, setbacks, have their own unique characteristics. A different group of life events causes us to have serious setbacks. Some of the most troublesome for our writing careers are not things like school starting, getting married, a new career, or a demanding job. They are painful interferences, like the death of a friend or loved one, being diagnosed with a serious illness, caring for a sick parent or loved one, or even taking the grandkids in for a week. These things can cause an author to set their writing aside and even give up on it entirely.

How to keep writing no matter what

1.    Find ways to stay positive.

Life is too precious to waste days being anxious or depressed. Find a good book on how to stay positive. If you’re pressed for time, keep it in the bathroom and never sit down without reading a page.
Being happy and being positive are decisions we make.
Choose to be happy.

2.    Keep in touch with friends.

Relatives are wonderful, but it’s friends who listen to you vent and cheer you up when all is grim. Take time out for lunch with a friend, see a movie, or just chat over tea and coffee.

3.    Establish ties with other authors.

This one not only got me to be a writer, but my author friends have kept me writing over and over again every time I was ready to give up. Find other authors in your area; your local library is a good place to do this. If that doesn’t work, they are easy to find online.

4.    Keep writing every day despite what life throws at you.

Joe Konrath, (if you aren’t familiar with him, check out his blog) one of the most successful eBook authors, writes 3.000 words a day, every day, and he will stay up into the wee hours to maintain that word rate on days that he is busy with other activities. His favorite advice? BIC – butt in chair!
You don’t have to write 3,000 words a day like Joe, but try to dedicate even 30 minutes a day for writing.
Every week I write a list of about five, to-dos for my writing. The first one on the list is the number of pages I will write that week. Rather than a daily amount, I keep it weekly, to about 14 or more pages a week.
Find a method that works for you.

5.    Explore helpful tools.

Try a mini recorder, carry a small laptop, an iPad, even a small notebook to take advantage of any downtime when you’re away from home. I have a friend (much more technically advanced than myself!) who uses a voice activation tool to record her writing directly to her computer. Don’t let an opportunity to write pass you by.


Dear Readers,

The months after the holidays can be a good time to write, and this year I had a three-month recovery period after hip surgery in late January. I was wheelchair bound and had figured on getting a lot of writing done—I didn’t.
I did read a lot of books, though, and made some progress on my newest novel, but nothing like I’d hoped.
Criticizing myself for that indulgence got me nowhere. It took time, but I finally got back on track. The best way not to get into that state is to stay on track in the first place. That thought inspired me to repeat this blog.

Hope you find it helpful,

Marla


Some suggested reading:
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, by Martin E.P. Seligman

Happy for No Reason, by Marci Shimoff

Friday, April 28, 2017


How Many Characters Are Too Many?

  



  
Will using too many make readers lose interest?


Some critics complained that my first novel had too many characters. Even a good friend, who loved the story, told me she had to take character notes as she was reading to keep all of them straight. So when I wrote my next book, I used a lot fewer characters to make sure that particular complaint wouldn’t happen again. Guess what? There were reviewers who said even that book had too many. Every reader has his own tolerance level.
How important is it for authors to worry about having too many characters?
I write and read suspense. As a reader, I have to agree that sometimes the use of large numbers of characters gets confusing. But it’s  hard to write good suspense or a good thriller with just a few characters. Remember The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy? Yikes! If there were ever books requiring the reader to take notes, those were the ones. A few of the names were even spelled very similarly. And that series was on the NYT bestseller list for years.
            So what makes a tolerable character list for readers? And why will readers accept dozens from some authors yet complain about too many from authors with 10 or twelve? Readers—we want to hear from you!
            Here are some ways to keep your reader abreast of your characters:
1.     Do keep characters’ names different. Avoid names that sound alike, look alike or even begin with the same letter.
2.     If possible, introduce characters one at a time, with scenes in between the introductions. There’s nothing harder to follow than getting hit with an entire team of law personnel, for example, at the same time.
3.     Try not to switch points-of-view within a scene. This is a basic “rule” of writing style, however, I’ve seen some famous writers breaking it when doing dialogue between two main characters. Unless you’re in their league, stay away from it. It’s difficult to do it effectively without confusing the reader.
4.     Find creative ways to remind the reader of who a character is and how he fits into the story when he hasn’t been mentioned for a while. Keep in mind every reader won’t be reading the book straight through and will need to have his or her memory refreshed.
5.     Always be sure each character is necessary to your story. Characters, like words, need to be cut if not relevant to the plot line.


Dear Readers,
I hope you are enjoying our early spring. The ice went out early here in NW Wisconsin and the temperature has been above normal. The boats are out on the lake, the trees are budding, and the eagles are circling. Summer will be here soon.
For the last three months I’ve been recovering from hip surgery and have been doing a lot of reading, which has inspired me to repeat this blog on numbers of characters in a book, so my apologies to anyone who remembers it. But, of course, most valuable advice bears repeating.
Have a wonderful week,
Marla


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

WHAT’S LUCK GOT TO DO WITH IT?

FIVE TRAITS OF LUCKY PEOPLE

 
  
March is the month of four-leaf clovers, little green leprechauns, green beer, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We are all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and we all hope to be showered with that famous luck of the Irish.
         The word luck, beaten and bastardized, gets tossed around like a day-old doughnut whenever Indie authors discuss success (or lack thereof) of their book sales.
         The first time I ran a KDP free book promotion, and placed my suspense eBook, She’s Not There, free on Amazon.com, I only had 8,202 downloads at the end of my two days. This result was disappointing compared to those of an friend, who had 26,000 for her book using the same promotion.
When I asked her about it, she said that her success was a matter of luck, due the fact that a popular eBook site noticed her promotion and highlighted it for their readers. I know firsthand that her success is not all due to luck. She is a devoted marketer and spends every available moment working to maintain her books’ sales momentum. Me, I’m addicted to things like playing bridge, reading, and watching soap operas; my marketing ethic is not nearly as fierce!
         Here is a universal truth:
Luck is more likely to happen to those who go after it.
No one wants to hear that. We would all prefer to cling to magical thinking: I’ll get rich when I win the lottery, the perfect man will come knocking at my door, a stroke of fate will send my book sales through the roof.
         It ain’t gonna happen!


Secrets of Lucky People

1.    They believe they will be successful. Research shows that if you believer you’ll succeed, your odds of hitting a lucky streak go up. There is no magic involved—expectancy is a real driver of results. Expecting something as opposed to wanting or hoping for it, will affect your decision–making and you’ll put in more of an effort than you normally would have. Find ways to stay positive and expect success—it works!

2.    They Notice What Others Miss.
a.    Lucky people are more open to random opportunities. They notice chance situations and act on them. They are flexible in their thinking, and it’s that relaxed, open attitude that allows them to see what others don’t.
b.    Keep your eyes open for opportunities—they’re out there!

3.    They Say “Yes”
a.    Lucky people do not remain passive. Instead, they seize opportunities as they come without endless second-guessing.
b.    When chance encounters occur, don’t over-think them, act on them!

4.    They Switch Things Up
a.     Lucky people increase their chances of getting opportunities by meeting new people and trying new things. Luck won’t come looking for you or call you on your Smartphone.
b.    The more you put yourself out there, and try new things, the more likely it is you will find luck.

5.    They Practice Bouncing Back 
a.     Lucky people don’t let one failure sidetrack their road to success. When you let a bad break get you down, you close the door on new situations that could lead to a lucky break. Closely linked to the first trait, expecting the best, bouncing back means you will have a greater chance of success with each failure, because you’ll be trying more often.
b.    Regard every bad break as an opportunity to find the right course for you!

Dear Readers,
         So many of us, myself included, wait for that magical break that will mean success for our writing. But magical thinking delays success. Practice these habits of lucky people and reap the rewards.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
Marla
Note: I seldom repeat a blog, but this one on luck has been so popular that I repeat it every March when everyone's thinking bout the luck of the Irish.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Don't Turn Out the Lights - A review










When I was working on my first novel, one of my earliest bits of writing advice was never kill off or injure a pet because most people were pet lovers and doing so would put them off.

This advice came back to me in the very opening pages of Don’t Turn Out the Lights.

The prologue, which the author termed an Overture, was such an extreme example of this, that the scene haunted me for days. A man out in a severe snowstorm, aided by his devoted dog, comes across a cabin where (an extremely gory scene) he finds a mutilated woman’s body, still warm. He decides he has to take her corpse to his car and leaves the cabin with her body. Back in the storm he discovers that a pack of wolves are waiting to devour him. He believes that the only way to make it to the car with the body, is to sacrifice his dog to the wolves and he commands the dog to attack the wolf pack. If that isn’t bad enough, the author describes the sounds.

I would have stopped reading right then, but the author quickly covered up the scene by telling the reader it was a dream. Too late. The disgust was already stuck in my mind.

After that opening, the book became quite interesting, so I kept reading, foolishly, as it turned out. In a later scene, an intruder injures a woman’s dog so badly that his leg has a bone sticking out. Rather than take him to a vet, Christine calls her boyfriend, who she no longer trusts, and asks him to call his friend who is a vet. When he refuses and hangs up on her, she forgets all about the injured dog and goes to work the next day without pursuing the poor thing’s injuries. Hard to believe, since she lives in a big city, that there wouldn’t have been an emergency vet service available.

I rarely do reviews on books I don’t finish, but these two scenes took me so far out of the story—which could have been good without them—that I put the book aside for something better that didn’t describe cruelty to animals. Unfortunate, because otherwise the book had an interesting plot.

My advice to other readers is to avoid this book unless you don’t care for animals or can tolerate reading about their abuse