Saturday, January 25, 2020

New book in the Detective Kendall Halsrud series!

Dear readers,

This fifth book in my Malice series has been a very slow endeavor. It will be listed for sale on any day now. Here are a couple initial chapters for you to preview:

Aisle of Malice

by Marla Madison


Mikayla pulled at the warped screened door, the sharp creak of its old hinges attacking her nerves like nails on a blackboard. Adding to the eeriness of the scene, the light over her entry door at the back of the old house was burned out. Beyond the backyard was a thickly wooded area, which added to her feeling of isolation. She reminded herself how she’d immediately fallen in love with the unique charm of her tiny apartment, which was small compensation at the moment with her fear factor pushing her heartbeat to a rapid pace.
Darn. She should have watched to be sure her date had driven away before she’d rushed from the car and headed behind the large four-story home where her private, isolated entry sat above a five-step cement porch. Their time together hadn’t gone well, culminating in him asking, “We won’t be seeing each other after this, will we?” Mikayla had answered with an honest “No.” So there’d been no escort to her door when the date ended, and she’d had no desire for him to escort her.
And there was no reason to be afraid that he would follow her uninvited. Not really.
The screen door bounced off her rear as Mikayla quickly turned the key in the lock of the inner door and hurried inside, grateful she’d thought to add a deadbolt when she’d moved in.
Gerald Paltrow had seemed nice enough at first. Mikayla worked part-time at the mall in a large sporting goods store, and they’d met in the food court as they were waiting in line for Chinese food. She hadn’t met many people in Eau Claire and had easily acquiesced when he’d asked for her phone number.
A few years older than Mikayla’s nineteen, Gerald had been patronizing and annoying on their date. All he could talk about was sports and cars. They had nothing in common, and the conversation had quickly come to a boring halt. With an unsaid agreement not to extend the night, he’d driven her home right after they had finished their food, skipping the movie they’d planned to see.
The tiny kitchen Mikayla entered from the back door barely held a few cupboards, a small sink, a table for two, and a four-burner stove. Disappointed with how the night had turned out, she pulled a soda out of her dorm-room-sized refrigerator.
For some reason, she still felt uneasy. She peeked out the window over the table, which faced the backyard. In the moonless night and without the light over her door, the darkness held no surprises. There was nothing to see.
She left the kitchen and moved up a narrow staircase to the nine-by-twelve-foot living room. Her bedroom, located off of it, wasn’t much bigger. Her apartment was an odd setup but had a lot of what she liked to think of as vintage character. A mansion in its day, the turn of the previous century, the house had been unprofessionally divided into eight apartments. Hers, the ninth, had been fashioned out of leftover space.
On about the fifth step from the top, Mikayla froze in place when she heard what sounded like footsteps above her. She had a fleeting thought that noises didn’t necessarily mean footsteps and reasoned there was no need to panic because the old house had many unusual sounds.
She heard it again. These weren’t merely house sounds—someone was in her apartment. Heavy footsteps were coming toward her.
Mikayla’s body remained paralyzed. Before she could force her body to move in either direction, a dark figure bolted down the stairs and pushed past her to the bottom of the stairway. Totally panicked, Mikayla lost her balance when the intruder shoved her and tumbled down the stairs in his wake.


Detective Kendall Halsrud gathered the silky fabric above her head and slid it over her body. Her image in the dressing room’s mirror no longer represented her as a police detective. Her long sandy-brown hair graced her shoulders, and the totally feminine, ankle-length, column-like dress fit perfectly. Today’s fitting was only to adjust the hemline.
“Keep your weight balanced,” Patty reminded her. “This is the most important part, and it had to wait until your fit was perfect.” She stepped back and evaluated the wedding dress. “The fit couldn’t be better. You tall gals really show off a wedding dress.”
Kendall assumed a rigid posture and tried to focus on the matter at hand. Her wedding was only weeks off. Adam Nashlund, the love of her life, had expressed his desire to have a formal ceremony in the Episcopal church in downtown Eau Claire. Ironic that he was the one to want a big church wedding since he’d been married before with all the trimmings, unlike Kendall, who’d never made that trip down the aisle.
Patty was the wardrobe maker for Kendall’s friend Nat’s theater group. Nat had offered Patty’s services to make Kendall’s bridal gown because, Kendall suspected, Nat didn’t trust her to buy one on her own. Nat had even designed the dress. When Kendall had accepted Nat’s offer to design it, she’d warned Nat that she would refuse anything too girly—in other words, no lace, bows, beads, feathers, trains, sequins, or ruffles—forcing Nat to get creative.
Kendall had forgotten to say, “No fur.”
Nat had come up with a simple floor-length, sleeveless sheath topped by a cape of the same fabric edged with white faux fur artfully crafted to look like fox. Nat had told her she could flip up the fur-edged hood at the altar, as it took the place of a traditional veil. Kendall had approved the sketch. The dress was beautiful and simple, just what she’d asked for, although she had her doubts that she could do it justice, despite Patty’s constant flattery that Kendall’s height pulled it off perfectly.
Before Patty had even half of the hem pinned in place, Kendall’s phone chimed. “I’m sorry, but I do need to take this.” She really didn’t, but dress fittings were not Kendall’s thing. Being a detective was, and she hoped the call would get her out of her fitting, or at least put it off for a few days. It was unlikely the call was work-related, however, since she was on days that week and it was nearly ten p.m. She stepped down from the fitting platform and pulled out her phone.
“Kendall, it’s Courtney. I’m sorry to bother you, but a friend of mine is in trouble.” Courtney was a young woman who Kendall had met when she and her partner had been searching for a killer. Since then, Kendall’s partner, Ross Alverson, had embarked on an on-again, off-again relationship with Courtney. Kendall wasn’t quite sure where it stood at the moment. Most likely off, since Courtney was calling her with a problem and not Ross.
“What’s the matter?” Kendall asked.
“I don’t know if Ross told you, but I moved into a different apartment a few months ago. I’m on the second floor, and my friend Mikayla has a place in the back. She had an intruder tonight.”
“Didn’t she call the police?”
“She did. Right after it happened,” Courtney said. “But they didn’t stay very long, and she wasn’t comfortable talking to them. She called me after they left.”
“They were both men, right?” Kendall knew that many female crime victims felt intimidated by male law enforcement.
Courtney confirmed her suspicion. “They were. But there’s more to it. She told me she thinks she’s being stalked.”
“Didn’t she tell them that?”
“No. She was too shaken up. They kept insisting that she go to the ER, but she refused. She felt okay physically.”
“Did the intruder hurt her?” Kendall asked.
“I don’t think so. He pushed her down the stairs, and I’m trying to talk her into getting checked out.”
Kendall sighed. She wasn’t sure the situation met the requirements for getting a detective involved. She did have the option of calling the station to see who was on duty that night and ideally find the girl a female officer to talk to. Then she pictured the girl with Courtney, frightened and scared of what would happen to her next. Kendall’s hemming would have to wait. “Give me the address. I’ll be right there.”

I hope these two chapters were exciting enough for you to want to read the whole book. The ebook will be at an introductory price on Amazon for only the first few days. Grab your copy now!

Thank you for reading,


Friday, October 26, 2018


Dear readers,

If you’ve been reading this blog from the outset, you’ll recall that I once blogged on how to keep from gaining weight over the holiday season. I still have to fight the urge to eat all the goodies in sight, but writing those blogs and recalling the tips I submitted have made it easier to resist.
With that in mind, I made up a handy booklet to use to assist you in maintaining your svelte shape from now until the New Year. It is on sale on
Here is an introduction to the beginning:

The Ten Pounds of Christmas

How NOT to Gain Weight over the Holidays

Chapter One

I gain ten pounds every year at Christmas. Some years I’ve even gained twelve. How is that possible? It’s easier than it sounds, actually. My weight gain starts in October with Halloween candy and escalates from there. There’s a little devil inside me who keeps saying things like, “Go ahead. This is the season to enjoy. Worry about it later.”
It’s easy to be swept away in the good cheer and fantastic food that surrounds the holidays. Every day it becomes harder not to fall into a sedated state of overeating. The result of that state of overeating is a struggle to take off the “Christmas fat” in January and February.
All of this changed three years ago when I vowed to put everything I’ve learned about controlling my eating into practice over the holiday season. I refused to allow myself to fall into the habit of ‘the holiday weight gain.’ I anticipated what the hurdles would be on every occasion, made lists, taped reminders to my mirror, and blogged about what I was doing. Did it work? You bet it did! Come mid-January, I’d only gained one pound! I did the same thing last year, but added a few new tips and only gained half of a pound.
This booklet is filled with ways to survive the holidays without outgrowing your clothes. Not all of them will be helpful to you, so invest in a small notebook and copy down the ones that make the most sense for your lifestyle. Keep a journal of your efforts; note what is helpful and what doesn’t work for you. Anything you put in writing adds more meaning to your resolve.
One absolutely necessary step—weigh yourself every day! At the same time, wearing the same clothing, or after your shower, nude. This way, as soon as your weight starts going in the wrong direction, you can follow up with a few days of sensible eating and upgrade your exercise program until it goes back down.
You’ve taken the first positive step by investing in a copy of this booklet. Now, with help and guidance from me, you can design your own plan to stop the ten pounds of Christmas weight gain.

So if you’d like help in avoiding those hard-to-get-rid-of holiday pounds, get your copy now! And please let me know if it works for you and let us know of any tips you’ve found that should be added.

Have a wonderful holiday season,

Monday, September 3, 2018

WRITER’S CONFERENCES – Are they worth the time and expense?


      Are they worth the time and expense?


            Before judging the value of a conference, it’s important to decide what you want to get out of it. If you’re a writer and want to receive tips on writing, you need to find one that offers educational workshops.
Many conferences are geared to readers. The Bouchercon is probably the most popular of that kind. I attended one in St. Louis in 2011, and I did enjoy it, but there were no educational sessions for writers. Almost every breakout session consisted of a panel of writers discussing a particular topic. Panels of writers tend to be more entertaining than educational, although it’s possible to pick up some writing tips.
The conferences I enjoy the most are ones that offer learning experiences, those that teach and inspire. I attended Killer Nashville last week and it was a wonderful experience. The quality of the breakouts was excellent.
For an extra fee, I attended a 2-hour workshop with Jeffrey Deaver. What an amazing experience! In addition to being one of the world’s best thriller writers, Mr. Deaver is an excellent teacher of his craft. Having the opportunity to meet and learn from Mr. Deaver made the conference the best I’ve ever attended.

Considerations before investing in a conference:

1.     Is the conference geared to writers or readers?

2.     Are there breakout sessions that are educational for me?

3.     Is the conference specifically for writers of my genre?

4.     Is the conference geared mainly for traditional writers or does it include independent writers?

5.     What do I, as an individual, want from a conference?

Dear Readers,
I must apologize for the huge gap in my blog posts. No excuses. Just a promise to keep in touch in a timelier manner.
Hope your life is moving in the direction you want,

Monday, February 26, 2018

Two months into the New Year -  And I'm still fat!

By the end of February resolutions have already drifted from our minds. We’ve joined gyms, signed up for diet programs, started the latest fad diet, with no noticeable results. Or, just as bad, took off a fast ten or fifteen pounds only to gain it all back in a week or two after giving up.
What happened to our fresh resolutions?
A resolution, from the word resolve, is defined as firm determination and sounds way too much like restriction.
How about goals? Unlike a resolution, a goal is a something positive that we want to achieve, not a restriction. Positive is good.
The holidays, along with all the food temptations that come with them, have been over for weeks. It’s time to resume normal eating. Normal? Normal might be defined differently for each of us. For me, there is no “normal”. I’m either closely watching my caloric intake, or overeating, seldom anything in between.
It is time to dust off those New Year’s resolutions and turn them into manageable goals. A goal can be as simple as a mental picture of something you want to accomplish or can be a formal outline for a goal’s accomplishment. The most important thing is to choose goals you are excited about achieving in order to motivate you to complete them.

Some goal guidelines:

1.    Write them down. Give them the added formality of typing them and printing them out. You might want to have a separate list for your goals for the week, month, and year. Anthony Robbins advocates a five-year plan—think about what you’d like your life to look like in five years—it’s an eye opener!
2.    Have your goal sheet somewhere you will see it every day. I keep a set of weekly goals on an index card next to my computer.
3.    Don’t try to do too many goals at once. Pick two or three, or even only one if it is something important to you.
4.    The more difficult the goal, the more necessary it is to have a list of action steps you will do in order to achieve it. Divide the steps into long and short-term solutions.
5.    Procrastination can be overwhelming, thus emphasizing the need to have increments toward the achievement of your goal. Begin with that baby step—but begin!
Many years ago, I was stuck in a job I found unfulfilling and I made a goal for the year to change my career path by taking advantage of the tuition reimbursement plan my benefit package offered. I wanted to go back to school for my Master’s degree, a huge task that involved a lot of work just to get started. I took an immediate first step and contacted a university for information about the programs. It was a small step, but the catalogue they sent made the goal real and feel more attainable.
I began classes that spring and graduated three years later.
Make that first step a small one and make it today. You’ll be surprised how it inspires you to keep going.

Dear Readers,
An accomplished goal does not happen by throwing a coin into a fountain and making a wish. If you tucked those resolutions you wrote on New Year’s Day into the pile of detritus on the top of your desk, that’s most likely where they‘ll stay—buried.
Whatever your goal, keep it in sight and take a first step toward its completion. What you focus on becomes more and more real to you.
I wish all of you a healthy and amazing new year!


Friday, January 5, 2018

The holidays are over.
 Now what?

My last blogs were designed to encourage myself and others like me get through the holidays without gaining weight—or at least only gaining a pound or two. Since most of us have a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in 2018, I thought talking about how to accomplish that goal would be helpful.
An accomplished goal does not happen by throwing a coin into a fountain and making a wish. One of the best ways to achieve a goal is to use creative visualization. Athletes use the technique to get in their optimal zone by picturing a winning season. What you focus on becomes more and more real to you. If you tuck those goals you wrote on New Year’s Day into the pile of detritus on the top of your desk, that’s where they‘ll stay—buried and forgotten.

Using visualization:

1.                    Twice a day, assume a relaxed position, close your eyes and picture what you and your life will look like when you’ve accomplished your goal.

2.                    Make sure to include a mental video of you making the steps necessary for success.

3.                    Picture yourself overcoming the obstacles that are sure to fall into the path to achieving your goal.

4.                    Incorporate as much sensual data into the picture as possible.

5.                    Remember, don't forget that what you focus on becomes more and more real to you. Rerun that picture of your goal in your mind throughout the day.

Whatever your goal, keep it in sight and take a first step toward its completion. join a support group, begin an exercise plan, start a food diary. Make a list of the steps involved in reaching your goal.
If I’ve learned one thing about losing weight, it’s this—no one method works for everyone. Part of your goal is finding a plan that you can live with.

Dear readers,
      Thank you for following me through this series of weight-control blogs. I am an author of suspense novels, and also a woman who has battled with my weight since I was a child.
      Many of us who love to read and write have an even more difficult time, as our favorite pastime does not burn calories!
Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful new year,


Saturday, December 16, 2017

The week before Christmas

 - Sugar’s Slippery Slope

     Last week on my annual three-day gambling and shopping getaway with girlfriends, a friend gave me a jar of goodies that she’d baked. They were delicious. Don’t ask me how much I consumed on my drive back home; I’m afraid I lost count!
     Why is it, after being given a wonderful treat like home baked cookies, I eat them like they’re the last ones I’ll ever enjoy? If any of you readers have a good suggestion on how to put the brakes on grazing, please share it!
   Last week I was on the edge, and now I’m at the bottom of the goodie barrel, fluffy as a marshmallow snowman. It is not a pleasant feeling. I’ve slid down the slippery slope for three days; now it’s time to follow my own advice and return to sensible eating until the next food “event”. With only nine days to go before the big day, there are many more temptations ahead.
     I’m pondering why it’s so impossibly difficult to get back on track after three days of free-reign eating. The mouth wants what the mouth wants, hard to control as a cat! I must accept the inevitable truth—in order to keep from gaining pounds this season, I have to eat less than normal on days when there are no parties or other eating occasions luring me to overindulge.
And meanwhile, thank goodness for stretch jeans!

Tips for Christmas week.
1.  Don’t let a few out-of-control days lead to a week of binging. Accept it, forgive yourself, and eat lean whenever possible.
2.     Put gift treats out of sight. (Or in the trunk!) Allow yourself one or two each day as a reward for your resolve.
3.   Think before you drink! Most alcoholic beverages have 90 calories or many more. Substitute coffee, tea or water for them and save your calories for the things you can’t live without.
4.   Plan ahead. At the beginning of every day, take a few moments to consider your schedule. On party days, cut back on your fat and carb intake during the day so you can afford to splurge at the party.
5.    Remember it’s cold and flu season. Be sure to get enough protein, fiber, fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and ward off all the bugs that are going around.

Dear Readers,
Hope these tips help keep you on track (or close!) during the party season. Have a wonderful, happy and healthy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Preventing Holiday Weight Gain

Christmas Treats—Yeeks!

     Thanksgiving is behind me. I indulged, bulged, and managed to get back on track. And then I started my holiday baking. Making treats to give as gifts is a holiday tradition, which once started is as difficult to get rid of as a yeast infection.
     For more than twenty years I’ve made candy to box up and give as gifts to friends and relatives. Everyone loves my fudge. Unfortunately, so does the cook. Over the years I’ve at least cut down to making two varieties. But two or twenty, the dilemma is the same. How do I keep from stuffing gift goodies into my greedy mouth?
     When Terry and I each had our own house, I shipped it to his garage in sealed containers until I was ready to box it up and give it as gifts. Keeping the candy in our attached garage now, makes it just too darn accessible.
     And everywhere I go, Christmas goodies are out, even at the library and the bank. A few bites here and there, and I’ve upped my daily calorie allotment to code red. I’ve had to wrack my sugar-drenched brain to come up with a few useful suggestions.
     Here goes.
1.     Pass up public goody trays by forming a mental picture of the unsanitary conditions surrounding them. Think about people sneezing on them, children handling each one before deciding, and how long they sit out exposed to who knows how many dastardly germs and menacing viruses.
2.     During the holiday season, few of us has the time or the inclination to write out a food plan every day, but develop a mental plan and stick to it. Plan to allow yourself two or three of your own homemade treats after supper, and keep that in mind when you walk past the cookie trays on display wherever you go.
3.     If you are making treats, box them for gift giving as quickly as possible. This includes a gift tag with the receiver’s name. I find that if I do this, it keeps my fingers out of them. Then store them with a neighbor!
4.     When baking cookies, make everyone else’s favorites and avoid your own.  If that’s impossible, again, allot yourself a few after dinner. I find that allowing myself that small indulgence keeps me from pilfering the gift boxes every time I walk into the garage.
5.     And one handy tip I’ve turned to lately—chewing gum. Hard to snarf up those random treats with gum in your mouth!

Dear Readers,
Every holiday season is a challenge for anyone watching their weight. The best way to keep from gaining is to stay aware of what you’re eating. Even the small things can help. Enjoy the parties, the lights, and celebrate the season!