Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guestpost: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Greg Messel

by Greg Messel

A trip back in time to the 1950s world of my novels "Last of the Seals," “Deadly Plunge” and “San Francisco Secrets” is full of reminders how much the world has changed.

One of the most obvious changes involves the social mores surrounding smoking. When I began my career in the corporate world in the 1970s, I remember conference rooms being smoke filled with ash tray spilling over with cigarette butts and ashes.

I remember the smoking sections on airplanes. I remember being in the last row of the non smoking section which was pretty much the same as sitting in the smoking section.

Flight attendants still warn you on airplane flights to not smoke in the bathrooms. That warning is about 35 years old now.

Today smokers must huddle around the doorways of office buildings to grab a cigarette outside. There are enclosed rooms at airports for smokers. That's fine with me but it has been a monumental change.

In today’s business world it would be considered appalling if in the middle of an office, someone lit up a cigarette.

In the 1950s, smoking was even more pronounced. My grandparents were both chain smokers and I remember as a child or a teenager, that you could actually see smoke rolling out the door when you entered their house. I was exposed to massive amounts of second hand smoke for years.

My grandparents are long gone but when I picture them in my mind’s eye, they are holding a cigarette.

In my mystery novels set in the 1950s, everyone smokes and pretty much non stop. They are constantly lighting up--even baseball players like Sam Slater.

Sophisticated, glamorous San Franciscans of the 1950s, like Sam Slater and Amelia Ryan nearly always had a cigarette in their hands. Watch movies from the 1950s or 1960s to witness how it was just part the persona of the attractive, urbane persona. Watch an old “Tonight Show” when Johnny Carson smokes one cigarette after another with guests like Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin.

In “San Francisco Secrets” the first thing everyone does when they are in a stressful situation is to light up a cigarette. When Sam and Amelia nearly have a fatal crash on one of San Francisco’s steepest hills, they immediately reach for their cigarettes to light up as they recover from the trauma.

I’ve watched vintage cigarette commercials which played on television in the 1950s. They are funny but somewhat disturbing when you look back on them with our knowledge about the impact on health from cigarettes.

Brands like Kool and Newport touted the soothing effect on a raw throat from their filtered cigarettes. There is a famous ad for Camel’s cigarettes which includes the tag line “According to a recent Nationwide survey: More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette.”

When Sam and Amelia visit Dr. John O’Dell in “San Francisco Secrets”, the first thing the medical doctor offers the couple is a cigarette. At their first meeting, Sam asks the doctor if cigarettes are bad for your health.

Dr. O’Dell advises Sam “there are benefits of smoking as long as you don’t overdo it. I think smoking filtered cigarettes like these Winstons helps,” the doctor says. “It cuts down on the irritation to the throat. Smoking actually releases a couple of chemicals in the brain, which relieves tension and helps you experience pleasure.”

The doctor also tells Sam that smoking can aid in weight loss and releases chemicals in the brain which are similar to the sensation that you experience when you kiss a pretty woman.

The doctor’s advice is the common thinking of the times and the narrative from the tobacco companies. Dr. O’Dell tries to convince Sam that smoking a cigarette is almost as pleasurable as kissing Amelia. Sam’s not buying that argument.

Ah, the 1950s, when you could eat a steak dinner, light up an after dinner cigarette and not feel a bit guilty. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

About the Author:

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol. San Francisco Secrets is his sixth novel and is the third in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper.

Follow news about Messel’s writings and books at

Connect with Greg:

About the Book:

Noted novelist and newspaper editor Edgar Watson Howe once said. “A man who can keep a secret may be wise but he is not half as wise as a man with no secrets to keep”

As the spring of 1958 arrives in San Francisco, it seems that baseball player turned private eye, Sam Slater and his fiancée, TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan, are surrounded by people who have secrets.

A prominent doctor, John O’Dell is being blackmailed by someone who has discovered a dark secret from his past. When the private investigator trying to catch the blackmailer is murdered, Dr. O’Dell hires Sam Slater to try to pick up the pieces. Someone is playing for keeps and will do anything to protect their own secrets.

Meanwhile, Amelia begins her new job as an international stewardess which takes her on adventures to New York City, London, Paris and Rome. In hot pursuit is a womanizing older pilot who has his sights set on Amelia.

Their lives get even more complicated when a mysterious woman from Sam’s past returns.

Sam and Amelia’s relationship will be tested as they work together to solve the mystery on the foggy streets of San Francisco.

Purchase your copy of San Franscisco Secrets:

Book Trailer:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Paperback Pursuer Shall Return!

Hey Readers & Authors,

     Just dropping by to let everyone know that I will be back to reviewing soon! I have been busy with work, family, and Grad school as of late, but I plan on getting reviews out there as soon as everything calms down! Enjoy some awesome author guestposts while I'm gone, as well as some great giveaways! Hope to post in the near future,

Allizabeth (TPP) : )

Guestpost: The First Time by O.S. Gill

The First Time
by O.S. Gill

          Many people that I meet seem surprised that I am so into sci-fi and fantasy, having grown up on an island. I don’t know, I mean I have no actual figures to back this up, but Barbados must have more sci-fi geeks per capita than anywhere else in the world. It’s a small country, very small, only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. But still, growing up here you seem to be immersed in every aspect of pop culture. I know I was.

          The year was 1984, and my Saturdays consisted of waking up and watching as many cartoons as I could. Every Saturday, without fail, no exceptions, it was breakfast cereal and Transformers, and between Optimus Prime and Tony the Tiger, there was nothing more a six year old could possibly need.

          Then one Saturday morning, I woke up and saw that my dad had rented some videos from the store to play on our brand new VCR (to the younger generation scratching their heads, that’s how we used to watch movies before Netflix or Amazon Prime). There were about three cassettes in all, for the life of me I can’t remember what the other two were. But I do remember that one stood out to me, it read “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”. I didn’t know what a Star War was, but I thought it sounded awesome, so I popped it in, and thus my life was changed forever.

          I was totally blown away. Laser swords, they had freaking laser swords and space ships! I have watched many, many movies since that day, but I don’t think I ever recaptured the awe I felt after watching Return of the Jedi for the first time. Lord knows I tried. After that day I watched every sci-fi/fantasy movie I could get my little pre-teen hands on, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Willow, Back to the Future, I was enamored with these wonderful films, in fantastical settings that took me away from my tiny island home for 90 minutes at a time.

          I believe, no I know that’s what drives me to be a writer, particularly a writer of sci-fi/fantasy. I want to create that same feeling for other kids. If somewhere in the world, some kid reads my book, and falls head over heels in love with the world therein, then I would feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I would feel like I finally recreated that feeling. If only for someone else.

About the Author:

          O.S. Gill grew up on the Caribbean island of Barbados. He was educated at The Lodge School, a 300-year-old former British boarding school and the second oldest learning institution on the island. A certified information technology professional, he has worked for The Banks Holdings Limited, a local conglomerate that owns the local brewery (Banks Beer) and Coca-Cola manufacturing plant for fourteen years. A Systems Analyst, he has been positioned in various capacities, primarily dealing with sales and distribution, as well as the sourcing and implementation of new technologies to further business efficiency. He always had a passion for writing and published his first novel, THE KNIGHTS OF GALARIA: THE CRYSTALS OF POWER, in 2012.You can visit his website at

About the Book:

          For Kaz Silverwynd, graduation from the Galarian Knight Academy begins normally, but an the attempt on the life of Xul Xandu, the newly-appointed head of the Confederation of Nations, pushes Kaz and his team into an epic and dangerous adventure. The action ranges from the floating city of Civitas to the underwater empire of Aequoria to the moon colony of Ourea. Kaz leads his band of knights on a perilous journey to stop a madman from achieving his ultimate goal – the conquest of the world of Galaria. Added to the already volatile mix are the legendary Crystals of Power, a collection of beautiful but deadly jewels that could tip the scales of power toward good or evil.
Pick up your copy!

Tour Schedule

Monday, May 6 - Interview with Examiner

Tuesday, May 7 – Interview at The Writer’s Life

Wednesday, May 8 – Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth

Thursday, May 9 – First Chapter Reveal at You Gotta Read Reviews

Friday, May 10 – Character Guest Post at Book Him Danno!

Monday, May 13 – Character Guest Post at My Book Addiction and More

Tuesday, May 14 - First Chapter Reveal at As the Pages Turn

Wednesday, May 15 – Interview at Books Books the Magical Fruit

Thursday, May 16 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Friday, May 17 – Character Guest Post for My Cozie Corner

Monday, May 20 – Character Guest Post for Janna Shay

Tuesday, May 21 – Interview at The Book Connection

Wednesday, May 22 – Book Spotlight at Authors & Readers Book Corner

Thursday, May 23 – Book Review at Vic’s Media Room

Friday, May 24 – Book Spotlight & Book Giveaway at Mary’s Cup of Tea

Monday, May 27 – Interview at The Dark Phantom

Tuesday, May 28 – Guest Blogging at The Paperback Pursuer

Wednesday, May 29 – Interview at Literarily Speaking

Thursday, May 30 – Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Friday, May 31 – Interview at Beyond the Books

Friday, May 31 – Guest Blogging at Parenting 2.0

Monday, May 20, 2013

Guestpost: “Seeds of Evidence”: The Power of Perseverance by Linda J. White

“Seeds of Evidence”: The Power of Perseverance
by Linda J. White

Perseverance. Few really worthwhile accomplishments are achievable without it. Yet sometimes we struggle to keep going. What can motivate us?

In “Seeds of Evidence,” FBI agent Kit McGovern is fighting to persevere. When her husband of seven years divorced her it threw everything she thought she knew into question. God. Christianity. Love. Then a forced job change made her even question the Bureau.

Burdened, Kit retreats on vacation to the island her beloved grandmother called home, Chincoteague, off the coast of Virginia. Jogging on the beach one beautiful day, she finds the body of a little Latino boy washing up in the surf. How did he die? Who is he? Kit can’t let go of the mystery, but the only clues she has to go on are the acorns in his pockets and the tomato seeds in his gut.

Teaming up with a D.C. cop, David O’Connor, Kit follows that plant DNA evidence. Soon, they find themselves in the dark world of labor trafficking.

To win justice for the little boy, Kit and David must fight stubborn superiors, elusive bad guys, sparse information, and their own internal conflicts. They must “lay aside every weight” to run their race—including deep hurts and anger from their pasts. They must persevere in faith.

Likewise, writers staring at an empty computer screen must move forward in faith. Mothers struggling at home with toddlers must press on in faith. Grandparents, caregivers, healthcare workers and teachers, pastors and missionaries—each must find the strength to do the next thing, and then the next thing until the task has been accomplished. How can we find the will to persevere?

“The joy that was set before him” enabled Jesus to endure the cross. What might we endure for joy?

About the Author:
          By day, Linda J. White writes editorials for The Free Lance-Star, a newspaper in Fredericksburg, VA. By night, she plays the “what-if?” game, entanglingengaging characters in “white-knuckle” plots. Her first FBI thriller, “Bloody Point,” was published in 2005. “Seeds of Evidence” (Abingdon Press) will be released in April 2013. Linda’s husband, Larry, was a video producer/director at the FBI Academy for over 27 years. Married since 1970, they have three grown children and now live with two dogs and two cats on two beautiful, wooded acres in Virginia.

You can visit Linda’s website at

Connect with Linda!

About the Book:

          Stressed-out FBI Special Agent Kit McGovern returns to her grandmother’s Chincoteague Island home in search of peace. But when a little boy’s body washes up on the beach, Kit cannot resist throwing herself into the mystery of his murder. Her only clues: the tomato seeds in the Latino boy’s gut, and the acorns in his pockets.

          The medical examiner points out that the volume of tomato seeds in the boy’s gut could indicate he was from a farm worker’s family. But the acorns? Kit discovers they’re from a Virginia live oak, not native to the area where the boy was found. Can she use those to identify his origins anyway? And why hasn’t anyone reported him missing?
          Kit meets David O’Connor, a D.C. homicide detective in Chincoteague recovering from a shooting incident. She makes it clear she’s not interested in a relationship, but their passion for justice is mutual and they soon forge a partnership to find the boy’s murderer. As plant DNA evidence leads them straight into the dark world of human trafficking, Kit and David wrestle with the depths of human evil, with questions of faith, and with possibilities for hope. “Seeds of Evidence” takes readers on a white-knuckle ride they won’t soon forget.
Purchase Your Copy:

Seeds of Evidence Tour Page:

Guestpost: The Benefit of the Basement by Jim Kraus

The Benefit of the Basement
by Jim Kraus

I read somewhere that the best time to write about summer is in the winter. The quote—which I could look up on that thing the kids call the Internet—but I can’t because my office, where I do most of my writing, is in the basement and the Wi-Fi signal is pretty weak and while I can get my Google homepage, I can’t get to the Internet without a lot of staring at a page that is 5/23rds loaded.

All that to say, is that I’m sort of cut off from being connected down here.

Even the family, if they want to reach me, have to shout from the top of the basement stairs. Plus, they have to wait until there is a break in the music. I still play CDs down here. I know. I’m a dinosaur. And unconnected.

That distance, however slight, gives me space to wonder and day dream and imagine. I have a bookcase down here, filled with books that I never refer to. If I had my druthers (and I’m not sure what a druther is, except that I want some), I would leave the office completely empty, save for a desk, a lamp, a chair, and my 40-year-old Sony stereo that sounds better and warmer than any newfangled electronic music device. I also still play actual vinyl records. I know . . . a dinosaur.

In order to truly see—in my opinion—you have to have solitude and distance.

There is no greater time to feel love than when one is apart from the one you love.

There is no better time to build an imaginary world than when you are removed from the current one.

I love writing in the dark, often still, often chilly, unconnected basement. I am not tempted by the TV, or the computer solitaire game, or even a view. I do have a window down here, but my back is to it and I do not want to fear someone watching me from the outside. (I saw too many scary movies as a kid.)

See . . . I’ve already started spooking myself out.

Be alone, be cut off—even for a little bit—and let the creativity flow.

What wondrous things are these rooms hidden from view, hidden from the problems of the day. Stay hidden, and write, for then the truth shall come.

About the Author:

          Jim Kraus is a longtime writer and editor who has authored or co-authored more than 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His best-selling humor book, Bloopers, Blunders, Jokes, Quips, and Quotes, was published by Tyndale House Publishers, sold more than 40,000 copies and inspired several spin-off books. Jim, and his wife, novelist Terri Kraus, and one son, live in the Chicago area.

          Also residing with them is a sweet and gentle miniature schnauzer named Rufus. Coincidently, Rufus is also the name of the dog in Jim's recent book, The Dog That Talked to God. "What a coincidence," Jim said. "What are the odds of that happening?" They also share space with an ill-tempered Siberian cat named Petey. Coincidently, Petey is the name of the cat in Jim’s most current book, The Cat That God Sent, by Abingdon Press.

          Jim recently was awarded a Master of Writing Arts degree from DePaul University. "Now, I am able to write more better," Jim said. (Yes, that is supposed to be humorous.)
Passionate about writing, Jim loves to create true-to-life characters. "I tend to be the one at the party that is on the edge of things--observing how folks act and react. Plus, I'm not that crazy about people in general--so it works out fine." (Again, it's supposed to be funny.)

Visit his website at

Connect with Jim!

About the Book:

          Jake Wilkerson, a disillusioned young pastor who is an expert at hiding his fears, takes on a new assignment in a small, rural church in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. It’s a far piece from anywhere and full of curiously odd and eccentric people, including Sally Grainger, a single woman and veterinarian who dismisses all Christians as “those people,” and Tassy, a young runaway with a secret.

          His first day on the job, however, Jake is adopted by Petey, a cat of unknown origins and breed, but of great perception. Petey believes that he is on a mission from God to redeem Jake and bring him and his quirky friends back to the truth.

The Cat That God Sent Tour Page:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Guestpost: Robert Henry on Incline It Baby, Intervals, and Exercise + Nutrition = Health

Incline It Baby, Intervals, and Exercise + Nutrition = Health
by Robert Henry

          The title of this post sums up the highlights of an impromptu video I shot a few weeks ago with Deborah Klein, MS, RD. Deb contributed to the nutrition content of my eBook, “AGE RE-DEFINED: Take Control of Your Health, How You Feel, And How You Look: Even In Your Forties & Fifties”. She is published by McGraw-Hill: “The 200 Super Foods That Will Save Your Life”, which is a great resource. (It has tons of recipes in addition to complete info on nutrients and health benefits of the foods presented.) Deb is also the Health Director of Organic Liaison in Los Angeles.

          First, I talked about specific health benefits I received from re-booting my commitment to exercise and nutrition, beginning four years ago at the age of 52 and about the general philosophy of re-defining one’s age. Then, I talked about interval training (just scratching the surface), and made reference to one of my exercise mottos: “Incline It Baby”. I like to do incline sprints, incline walking lunges, and, of course, incline treadmill.

          In one of the takes - not the final cut – Deb asked how much incline on the treadmill, 5 or 6? I responded that I’ve gotten up to 24% on the treadmill – for brief periods. (Incline is expressed as a percent slope or gradient; 1% = 1 foot vertical rise for every 100 feet of forward travel; 24% = 24 feet of vertical rise of 24 feet for every 100 feet of forward travel. That might not be exact, but you get the idea. As a pilot, for example, I knew that a 5000 foot runway with a 1% slope was going to have a 50 foot difference in elevation from one end of the runway to the other. Leave it to me to throw in a flying reference whenever possible.)

          Last night was a gym cardio and abs night. For cardio, I did treadmill. My walking speed intervals (3.0 mph) reached 20% incline and my running speed intervals reached 9.2 mph at 3.0% incline. At walking speed, I don’t use arms for momentum/propulsion, regardless of incline. I’m 56 (57 next month). Challenge yourself! You’ll have to work up to this if you are a cardio novice or if you haven’t been challenging yourself.

         I started the session with sideways and backwards walking at 5.0% incline: about 30 paces sideways right, 60 paces backwards, and 30 paces sideways left. I usually do this cycle twice, but tonight I did it once.

         My total calorie burn during the workout - per the machine, which may or may not be accurate – was 427 calories in 31 minutes, an average of about 13.8 calories per minute, meaning that I was burning a lot more than that during the most challenging minutes of the intervals. (There is also post-workout calorie burn, especially with interval training. And arguably better cardio results, because of the higher intensity reached during the most challenging of the intervals. As a general rule, if you always work out at the same low intensity, that’s what your body will adapt to: the same low intensity.)

         For abs, I did 67 reps (not all in one set) of “hanging abs”, using elbow slings and a chinning bar, and 120 reps of machine “side crunches” (60 left, 60 right).

         I still have one more cardio workout and one more resistance training workout to get in this week (Friday and Saturday).

And here is a link to the video:

Stay healthy, fit and well.

About the Author:

          As a Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Coach, and Wellness Coach, Robert Henry motivates individuals to transform into healthier, fit versions of themselves and to explore the mind-body connection.

          As a writer, blogger, speaker, and media commentator he informs and inspires his audience to commit to a healthy lifestyle by reminding them “you can get better instead of getting older”.

          At 52, after years of enjoying good health, Robert was challenged when a visit to the doctor’s office revealed his health profile had changed and he was no longer the emblem of health he had been. That alarm, that wake-up call, that unprecedented need to lose body fat and the doctor’s statement “You’re not getting any younger” ignited something within him.

          Robert was challenged for the first time with the need to lose weight and re-boot his commitment to fitness or be at risk for potentially serious health issues. He refused to accept age alone as the determining factor of his health going forward.

          Fitness became such a priority and passion that working out was no longer enough. He began studying and learning as much as his could about fitness, nutrition, and wellness. His appetite for learning led him to earn four certifications: Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Certified Personal Trainer from the National Council on Strength and Fitness, Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition from the International Sports Sciences Association, and Certified Wellness Coach from Spencer Institute, an affiliate of the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association. He has also recently taken additional course work in Sport and Exercise Psychology at California State University. To learn more about Robert’s certifications, click here.

          His law school education (Juris Doctor, Southern Methodist University) and his experience as an attorney distinguish him with analytical skills, which he now applies to his study and work in health, fitness and wellness. While still in his teens, Robert progressed from Student Pilot to Certified Flight Instructor. Later, he became a professional jet pilot. In the fitness realm, he has been a training client and is now a trainer with multiple fitness certifications. All of this gives him unique perspective as both teacher and student, and as both trainer and client. To Robert, learning is a lifelong process. Robert’s latest book is the health/fitness how to book, Age Re-Defined.

Visit his website at

Connect with Robert: 

About the Book:

          Your state of health, how you feel, and how you look are more within your control than you think – even in your forties and fifties (and beyond). This book addresses exercise, fitness, nutrition, wellness, and the mind-body connection. Its purpose is not to promote a particular exercise program or a particular diet plan – although its coverage of exercise, fitness, and nutrition is extensive – but rather to inform, educate, and motivate the reader on the importance of being proactive in one’s own health, fitness, and wellness.

          Even if you are already physically active, this book can assist you in evaluating the effectiveness of your current exercise efforts. A foundational background in exercise and fitness concepts is provided. Not only does this book cite to numerous authoritative sources, but it also conveys the author’s own philosophy of exercise and an informative overview of his own exercise and nutrition regimen. The author, who is 56, shares his own motivating journey and the positive results he achieved through exercise, nutrition, and the mind-body connection, with particular emphasis on the challenges faced by him in his early fifties and the favorable results he achieved at that age by “re-booting” his commitment to health and fitness.

          The importance of nutrition is explained and heavily stressed. A Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition is a contributor to the nutrition content. One comes away with an awareness of quality nutrition and its role in optimal health, fitness, and wellness, and with a good working knowledge of the kinds of foods and eating habits which are most beneficial.

          As stated in the book’s Introduction: This book is about believing in yourself, maintaining inner strength, and understanding exercise, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. This book is also about getting younger instead of getting older, discovering your inner athlete, and becoming and remaining healthy and fit in both body and mind. This book is for people who have never exercised but who would like to start; for people who would like to know more about good nutrition; for people who exercise but have not seen results; for people whose fitness level has declined and who want to re-ignite their fitness quest; for people who choose to be proactive about their own health, fitness, and wellness; for people interested in the mind-body connection; and for people who reject negative self-talk and self-limiting stereotypes about life after the age of 50. All ages are welcome.

Book Excerpt:

Although I didn't know it at the time, this book had its start in a doctor’s office in West Los Angeles, in October, 2008.

I had been thin my whole life and was very thin as a child and teenager. I was not a “jock” in school, and I did not like physical education or gym class in the slightest. When I first began to exercise – at the age of 30 – I wanted to add some muscle mass and therefore some weight. I was healthy, 5’11” tall, and weighed about 148 to 150 pounds, with no exercise history, although I had begun to pay more attention to healthy eating habits at age 29, for example by ordering fruit instead of French fries, and by eating more fish and less red meat.

Physically, I seemed to blossom in my 30s and 40s. My thin frame acquired some “tone”, some definition, some “cuts” – particularly my arms. I became stronger. I had also aged very gracefully and looked younger than my chronological age, that is, based on preconceived notions of what a certain age (40, 45, 49 – you name it) is “supposed” to look (or feel) like.

Okay, so a new me emerged in my 30s and 40s and was still there on my 50th birthday (in 2006). I had a lean, toned physique and good general health, and I looked and felt younger than what someone my age was “supposed” to look or feel like. In my 30s, my weight slowly increased (from the addition of muscle mass) from 148 to 153 to 158 and into the 160s. I weighed about 170 when I turned 40 and remained in the 170s throughout my 40s.

Fast forward to 2007 and 2008: A combination of factors led to what was for me an unprecedented gain in body fat (and weight, but from fat, not muscle) at the ages of 51 and 52. (I don’t have any pictures, but, trust me, the extra pounds were there.) I believe this was due to the long-distance commute to my job at the time (which, in L.A. traffic, often took hours a day away from my free time), the staleness of my exercise regimen (which some weeks had gotten down to twice a week of not-so-high-intensity weights and no cardio), and paying less attention than I should have been to my late-night carb intake. In addition to my work as an attorney (which involved the long commute), I was also on call part-time as a co-pilot on jet charter flights. My passion for flying aside, this further disrupted my workout schedule at times.

Eventually, my weight reached about 194. My waist was inches larger than it had been two years before, and in fact bigger than it had ever been.

So, in October 2008 when I visited the doctor for a routine blood workup, I expressed my concern about my unprecedented body fat.

The blood workup showed some adverse changes in my health profile. The doctor said, “You’re not getting any younger.” My reply: “I refuse to accept that.”

The doctor went on to recommend more Omega 3 in my diet (no argument from me there) and said, “Lose five to ten pounds. Your numbers (triglycerides, blood pressure) should go back to normal after that.”

That alarm, that wake-up call, that unprecedented need to lose body fat and the statement “You’re not getting any younger” (to someone who had always looked and felt younger than he was “supposed” to, and who always had a lower body fat than the general population) ignited something within me.

I had engaged the services of a personal trainer during my first year of working out, and again for six months during my eighth year of working out in 1994. Both of these trainers were great, but we lifted weights (free weights or machines) inside the gym and did not cross-train.

In January, 2009, I hired another personal trainer, who I had met months earlier at the gym. I said to her, “Take me outside. Make me climb stairs. Make me run. And show me some new stuff in the gym. The doctor said to losefive to ten pounds; I want to lose at least fifteen and be more fit than ever.”

And so, at age 52, I began this leg of my journey: the discovery of my inner athlete, my renewed and greater-than-ever commitment to my health and fitness. I reminded myself that I had flown a plane as a teenager, that I had always done well in school, that I had drawn upon my inner strength when my parents died less than four months apart when I was 21, and that I had gone on to complete law school and pass the California Bar. This was my health, dammit. This mattered more than anything.

My trainer and I started working together in January 2009. I climbed stairs. I ran track. I sprinted and performed various outdoor drills. We tweaked my diet and added to my gym regimen. By April, the weight was off.

In terms of waist size, I had been buying waist size 33 for several years before the weight gain. Fifteen to 20 years before, in my early to mid-30s, I bought size 31 and 32. In late 2008, my waist size was approaching 35. In April 2009, I bought some 33s as I had before the weight gain, only to find that they were too big. I began buying waist size 32, which fit comfortably. So, in terms of waist size, we had turned the clock back fifteen to 20 years in less than four months.

But this wasn’t just about waist size. I was more fit than ever, and more committed to and passionate about fitness (and nutrition) than ever. Mission accomplished. (For my 53rd birthday on April 30, 2009, I did a strong outdoor stair session by myself in the afternoon, adding push-ups as well, and then I lifted weights in the gym that evening. Celebrating fitness was the best way to celebrate my birthday that year. The more standard dinner celebration had already taken place a couple of weeks ahead of time.)

As I write this is September, 2012, I have just received blood test results which indicate a very significant decrease in “bad” cholesterol, a very significant increase in “good” cholesterol, and a very significant decrease in triglycerides when compared to my blood workup of October 2008. The 2012 numbers are as follows: HDL (“good” cholesterol): 52; LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 75; total cholesterol: 138; triglycerides: 57 (the 2008 number was 270). These numbers are reportedly very good for a 56-year-old male, and were achieved through diet and exercise, without any medications. These numbers are not the only measurements of interest. Body weight, waist size, body-fat percentage, blood pressure, and other data are relevant, too. However, these numbers are one group of data to look at, and they have shown dramatic improvement since that doctor’s appointment in October 2008 . (My 2012 results also indicated the lowest possible results for the C-Reactive Protein test, which was not performed in 2008.)

Back to 2009: After a couple of months of training on my own, I resumed workouts with my trainer, although somewhat less frequently than before. (During and after the weight loss, the sessions with my trainer were not my only workouts. Sessions with her were always in addition to training on my own in the gym. At this stage of my fitness evolution, my trainer’s role included the cross-training realm. Beginning exercisers who employ a trainer will typically train only with their trainer at first.) During this post-weight-loss period of training, my fitness level reached greater heights as my trainer introduced new and more challenging elements to my workouts. My passion for fitness was now fully unbridled. When I wasn’t working out, I needed to be learning more about fitness, so I began to pursue my own personal trainer certification.

In August 2009, I became a Certified Personal Trainer. In February 2010, I received certification in fitness nutrition. In 2012, I added the highly respected designation of a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and I also became a certified wellness coach.

In December 2010, I was approached in the gym about being involved in a digital media project that required participants with good physiques. That particular project didn’t materialize, but meeting with the folks involved inspired me to consider my own digital media presence. In 2011, we video recorded some of my outdoor training. In 2012, I decided to take things to the next level with a website and blog (, and with this book.

This book is about believing in yourself, maintaining inner strength, and understanding exercise, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. This book is also about getting younger instead of getting older, discovering your inner athlete, and becoming and remaining healthy and fit in both body and mind.

This book is for people who have never exercised but would like to start; for people who would like to know more about good nutrition; for people who exercise but have not seen results; for people whose fitness level has declined and who want to re-ignite their fitness quest; for people who choose to be proactive about their own health, fitness and wellness; for people interested in the mind-body connection; and for people who reject negative self-talk and self-limiting stereotypes about life after the age of 50.

Because I’m well into my 50s, and because of my own recent history, in writing this book we have focused on persons over the age of 40. However, my own fitness awareness began at age 29 and continued to evolve throughout my 30s, 40s and 50s, and is still evolving. Fitness, good nutrition, and wellness benefit people of all ages. So, even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’re welcome to come aboard and to keep reading.

Book Trailer


Tour Page

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Guestpost: Alana Terry on The Beloved Daughter

Alana Terry on The Beloved Daughter

          In a time and place where many people get their current events from their Facebook newsfeeds, I try to stay a little more informed about what’s going on in the world. I’m no current events junkie, by far, but I do like to know what’s happening.

          Unfortunately, I don’t often feel like news stories leave me with enough of a “big picture” to understand what’s really taking place around the globe.

My solution may sound a little ironic at first; I delve into fiction.

          Over the past ten years, I've found that a good novel can teach me more about a country, a people group, or a historical event than I could glean from reading nonfiction.

          Several summers ago, when fighting in Syria was so severe, I picked up a novel written by a Syrian national. I learned more from those 300 pages about the Syrian people and their centuries of conflicts than I ever could have gathered from online news sources. And I enjoyed a great story to boot.

          Some readers pick up a work of historical fiction and end up grateful that they learned something about the past. My method is somewhat backwards. If I want to know more about a country or a time period, I seek out fiction from or about that era in order to understand it better.

           Several years ago, I started writing a novel set in North Korea. It begins with the horrible famine in the 1990s, where a young girl and her family are struggling to survive from day to day. The story follows the protagonist into her adulthood and into contemporary history. The Beloved Daughter doesn’t explain the nuclear program in North Korea. It doesn't relate the (unsuccessful) history of UN sanctions and impositions. It doesn't give you the name of Kim Il-Jung’s wife/partner/whatever she is. But I hope it does give readers a glimpse into the lives of the North Korean people.

          You can’t look at the news without seeing North Korea in big flashing letters. But a news story about (another) threatened missile launch doesn't tell you what it’s like to grow up in a North Korean village where people are starving but might get shot for stealing a potato. It doesn't tell you about the fear everyday North Koreans face in this totalitarian regime.

          If you want to learn more about a particular place or event, why not log off CNN, put down that newspaper, and pick up a novel?

About the Book:

In a small North Korean village, a young girl struggles to survive. Catastrophic floods have ravaged her countryside. But it is her father’s faith, not the famine of North Hamyong Province, that most threatens Chung-Cha’s well-being.

Is Chung-Cha’s father right to be such a vocal believer? Or is he a fool to bring danger on the head of his only daughter?

Chung-Cha is only a girl of twelve and is too young to answer such questions. Yet she is not too young to face a life of imprisonment and forced labor. Her crime? Being the daughter of a political dissident.

“The Beloved Daughter” follows Chung-Cha into one of the most notorious prison camps of the contemporary free world. Will Chung-Cha survive the horrors of Camp 22?

And if she does survive, will her faith remain intact?

“The Beloved Daughter” won second place in the 2012 Women of Faith Writing Contest.
Purchase Your Copy:

About the Author:

     Alana Terry is a homeschooling mother of three. “The Beloved Daughter” is her debut Christian novel and won second place in the Women of Faith writing contest. Alana is also the author of “A Boy Named Silas,” the story of her son’s complicated medical history and “What, No Sushi?” a children’s chapter book about the Japanese-American internment.
Visit her website at or connect with her on 

Tour Schedule

Monday, May 6 - Book Featured at Examiner

Tuesday, May 7 - First Chapter Reveal at The Writer’s Life

Wednesday, May 8 – Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth

Thursday, May 9 – Interview at Review From Here

Tuesday, May 14 - Guest Blogging at The Paperback Pursuer

Wednesday, May 15 – First Chapter Review at Beyond the Books

Thursday, May 16 – Interview at The Dark Phantom

Friday, May 17 – Character Guest Post at As the Pages Turn

Monday, May 20 – Interview at Pump Up Your Book

Tuesday, May 21 – Interview at Literarily Speaking

Wednesday, May 22 – Book Trailer Reveal & Book Giveaway at Wanted Readers

Thursdsay, May 23 – Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Friday, May 24 - Book Review & Guest Blogging at The Book Barista

Sunday, May 26 – Book Review at Create With Joy

Monday, May 27 – Interview at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, May 28 – Interview at Blogcritics

Friday, May 31 – Interview at Between the Covers

Monday, June 3 - Interview at Examiner

Tuesday, June 4 – Book Trailer Reveal at Bookworm Lisa

Wednesday, June 5 – Guest Blogging at The Book Fairy Reviews

Thursday, June 6 – Interview at Books Books the Magical Fruit

Friday, June 7 – Book Review at Seasons of Opportunities

Monday, June 10 – Book Review & Book Giveaway at Deco My Heart

Tuesday, June 11 – Book Review at Gina’s Library

Wednesday, June 12 – Guest Blogging at Literal Exposure

Thursday, June 13 – Interview at Book Marketing Buzz

Friday, June 14 – Book Trailer of the Week at Pump Up Your Book

Monday, June 17 – First Chapter Reveal at Margay Leah Justice

Tuesday, June 18 – Guest Blogging at Literarily Speaking

Wednesday, June 19 – Book Review at A Peek at My Bookshelf

Friday, June 21 – Interview at Beyond the Books

Monday, June 24 – Interview at You Gotta Read

Friday, June 28 – Book Trailer Reveal at If Books Could Talk

Monday, July 1 – Guest Blogging & Book Giveaway at Tina’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 2 – Book Featured at SheWrites

Wednesday, July 3 – First Chapter Reveal at Read My First Chapter

Friday, July 5 – Interview at Digital Journal

Monday, July 8 – Guest Blogging at Hezzie-D’s Books and Cooks

Tuesday, July 9 – Interview at Blogger News

Wednesday, July 10 – First Chapter Reveal at Bookin’ Around

Thursday, July 11 – Book Featured at Plug Your Book

Friday, July 12 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, July 15 – Interview at My Devotional Thoughts

Tuesday, July 16 – Book Review at My Devotional Thoughts

Wednesday, July 17 - Book Review at My Cozie Corner

Friday, July 19 – First Chapter Reveal at Parenting 2.0

Monday, July 22 – Book Review at A Well Watered Garden

Wednesday, July 24 – Book Featured at Authors & Readers Book Corner

Friday, July 26 – Interview at American Chronicle

Friday, May 10, 2013

Giveaway: Firmoo Sunglasses and E-vouchers!!!

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Please visit the Firmoo site and then comment on the giveaway blog post by writing which pair of eyewear you'd love to win. This is the only MANDATORY task for you to be a valid contestant! Only those who follow the task can win Firmoo's grand prize or E-vouchers.

Enter Below!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Guestpost: How to Invent a Character by Carol Nicolas

How to Invent a Character
by Carol Nicolas

          You may have wondered how you would go about inventing a main character for the book you want to write. To me, the most important part of a story is the characters. If I don’t like the main character, I’m not going to read the book, no matter how many awards the book has won or how well it is written.

         So, first create a character that your readers will relate to, like, and admire from the very first page. For a young adult book, your main character needs to be a teenager. Sit down and write out exactly what they look like. They don’t have to be stunningly beautiful (which isn’t realistic), but it helps if she or he is at least a little good looking. Let’s say you’ve decided your main character is a girl named Sandy. Describe her. Perhaps she has shoulder length, soft, shiny, dark brown hair, green eyes, and a sensitive mouth. She’s five foot four, wears glasses, with a petite stature. She’s fourteen years old, just starting high school.

          Now, what is Sandy like inside? What is she good at? What kind of grades does she get? What does she care about? What are her faults? To be a believable character, Sandy must have both good and bad qualities. Let’s say that Sandy loves music and plays the piano. She gets fairly good grades, and she loves the color red. She is also messy and unorganized. She broke her leg in kindergarten, so ever since then she has avoided sports.

          Now Sandy needs a family, friends, and a town she lives in. Describe them all. Let’s say she has two fairly ordinary parents who love sports but are hopeless at music (tone deaf), an older sister who is a tremendous athlete and whose basketball team went to State, a kid brother(a baseball player) that she fights with all the time because he is obnoxious and is always getting into her stuff. She has a crush on freshman David Bell, who is very handsome but doesn’t notice her. She has two friends from junior high, but they are more outgoing and flirtatious with boys than she is.

         Now, what is the crisis that Sandy is going to go through so that she will grow? What problems, trials, challenges will she face? Let’s say that Sandy’s parents are pressuring her to try out for a sport in high school. This is their last big chance to be proud of their daughter. They don’t understand why she is constantly banging away at the piano. They don’t even understand that Sandy is talented. But Sandy has some solace: everyday she can go to her grandmother’s house, play piano, and get the acceptance that she craves. And then, one day, her grandmother dies... And a music-loving vampire moves in next door.

          You’ll start writing your story, and suddenly Sandy will take over and start doing things you never predicted. It will be the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you. Soon you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the keyboard. The story will unfold before your eyes, and you will care deeply about her. Okay, are you ready? Now go out there and start writing!

About the Author:

          Carol Nicolas lives in northern Utah (USA) with her husband. A native of Canada, she attended BYU-Idaho (formerly Ricks College) and obtained a bachelor's degree in education from Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah USA). A teacher, mother of five, wearer of silly socks, and fan of sci-fi/fantasy books and films, she enjoys growing herbs and vegetables, painting, and researching her family history. She likes rock, pop, Celtic and classical music. She has traveled throughout Europe; her favorite city there is Paris, though the romance of Venice is a close second. She speaks American English (with a Canadian accent after she has been talking with her Canadian family on the telephone for just a few minutes), as well a basic modern Greek, which she studied for 4 years to be able to communicate with her husband's family on their bi-annual trips to Greece. Her deepest secret: she hides chocolate in her desk for emergencies!

Her latest book is the YA paranormal, The Sixth Power.

You can visit Carol's blog site at

Connect with Carol:

About the Book:

          Tania Westing, a high school senior, is one of the Gifted Ones, descendants of an ancient family with seven special powers. Some of the powers are common, and some are rare.

          Until her geneticist brother Tom was murdered, Tania lived an ordinary life. Now hidden in her mind is a clue that will reveal Tom's research, including secret formulas to unlock all seven powers. During spring break, Tania meets and falls in love with handsome Dan Maclean. When Tania reveals her rare power to heal, the evil Gifted Ones who killed Tom suspect Tania has his research and formulas and come after her. Tania must learn to use her powers to help save Dan's sister in time to keep Tom's secrets safe.

Purchase your copy:

Book Trailer:



Sometimes, even when you know that death is imminent, you just have to go ahead and complete your small task in the great plan, Tom thought as he glided through the still, dark room. His bare feet made no sound on the smooth, hardwood floor. He felt strange sneaking around like a thief in his own house.

Tom paused at the ornate chess set on the living room coffee table. His sister, who always played white because his dad insisted she have the first move, could lose in three moves if she wasn’t careful. Tom moved her bishop. There, that should buy her some time. Too bad his own problems weren’t so easily solved.

The grandfather clock ticked steadily in the elegantly furnished living room. He had to hurry. He used his Gift and sent out a mental sweep of the La Jolla neighborhood. None of El Calavera's men were in the area, though he had spotted them following him earlier that day. He knew they were close and would catch up to him. He planned to be far from here by then.

Tom entered the study and sat down at the family computer where he and his sister had spent many hours playing on-line games. He accessed his email and opened a file he had sent earlier from Triumph Genetics Lab. At once the virus he had created began to destroy all the files in every system.

“Forgive me, Tania. You’ll understand someday.”

He opened the door to his father’s bedroom and moved noiselessly to the dresser. His father had set up a shrine there: a vase of gladiolas and lilies, his mother’s framed picture, her gold cross on a fine gold chain, and a pair of fat purple candles that illuminated the room and sent the fragrance of lavender through the air. Three sympathy cards stood open on the left. In the center was a bronze box with a plaque engraved with the words ‘Maria Valdez Walters Westing.’

“Mother.” He kissed his fingers and touched the words.

He glanced at the rumpled bed. His father must have taken a sleeping pill; his mouth was slightly open and his breathing hoarse and ragged. Tear stains glistened on the side of his haggard face. Tom bent down and kissed his father’s forehead. “Love you, Dad,” he whispered. Sorrow flooded Tom’s heart. He knew he was about to cause his father even more grief. He touched his father’s forehead and sent a specific command to his subconscious.

Next, he went to his little sister’s room. At fourteen years old, Tania was already a beauty: tall and slender, with straight black hair that fell past her shoulders, and smooth, light brown skin. She was so much like their grandmother. Her eyes were closed, her breathing slow and peaceful. Her favorite book, The Lord of the Rings, lay beside the pillow where it had slipped from her loosely curled fingers, and her bedside lamp cast a dim glow into in the dark room. He wondered if she ever turned it off at night now. Even in sleep, she looked a little sad. His heart ached.

He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Sweet dreams, little Sis. Remember me. Take care of Dad.”

Tania surprised him when she opened her large, dark eyes and grinned. “Gotcha! You thought I was asleep, didn’t you?” She sat up and wrapped her arms around him. “Are you home for the weekend?”

“No, I just stopped to say goodbye.” He squeezed her tight, memorizing her.

She sniffed. “You smell weird.”

He sighed, released her, and sat down next to her on the edge of the bed. Tania was much too observant, but he would let her play their game. “Go ahead. Deduce.”

Tania’s eyes twinkled as she studied him. “You’re wearing old clothes, and you smell like smoke, sea brine, and sweat. There are ashes in your hair. Your left forefinger and thumb are red. Your sleeves and cuffs are wet at the edges. Therefore, you and some of your fellow profs -- no, make that your two buddies at the lab -- those other dolts are much too stuffy to do something fun -- had a hot dog roast at the beach before you came here. Whatever you used for wood had a lot of chemicals in it. You got a little too close to the fire. Try using a coat hanger next time.”

He grinned. “Very good, my dear Sherlock. The hot dogs were delicious. We even tossed the football around.” He was dressed in his darkest jeans, a faded black t-shirt, and a black wool coat, but it was more for camouflage than anything else. There hadn’t been time to clean up before he’d come from the lab. He wouldn’t tell her what he had really been doing there.

Tania reached out and tugged gently on his long, tangled hair. “It’s grown since I saw you last. If you stick around, I could cut it for you tomorrow.”

Tania looked so hopeful, but he shook his head. “No. I can't stay.”

She frowned. “Where are you going?”

He brushed a strand of her hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear. Sorrow clenched his heart, but he didn’t let on. “Away.”

Her eyes filled with tears as she took his hand. “I love you, Tom.” Her words were underscored with a yearning for him to stay, as if those words were strong enough to bring him back home for good, strong enough to heal the rift between him and his father, and make them all a real family again. But nothing could do that now. Their mother’s ashes were three months cold, and soon he would be with her.

“I love you too, more than you know.” With all his heart he wished he could be there to see her grow up and fulfill her enormous potential. Like Tom and the others of their mother's family, Tania had inherited many of the usual Gifts. But Tania was special. His genetic studies had revealed that not only did she have her mother's DNA for the extremely rare gift to heal, but she also had the DNA that would signal the pituitary to secrete the hormone that would activate the Gift. Tania would become a great healer.

As yet, Tania was untrained and barely aware of her Gifts. All their mother had been allowed to do was to teach her to how to hide her uniqueness, to blend in with the normal population. For her own safety, Tania would have to remain that way until Aunt Sarah decided otherwise. The research which he had conducted with DNA samples from those with the Gifts, including his startling discoveries which he had planned to share with Aunt Sarah, would have to remain hidden as well. He was out of time.

Tom took Tania's hand and turned it so that the ruby in the delicate gold ring glittered in the lamplight. This ring was more than just a symbol of the powerful Valdez family; it would shield her mind from those who sought to probe her thoughts. In a few years, when Tania would begin training in her Gifts, she would learn to actively protect herself. Aunt Sarah and the others would keep her safe until then. “Promise me that you’ll always wear this ring.”

Tania squeezed his hand. Her eyes were sad. “I promise.”

The clock struck the half hour. Tom had to get out.

He picked up the book from beside her pillow, removed her bookmark, and opened it to the page he needed. The Lord of the Rings had been one of their favorite stories as children. They had spent so many hours playing together. He smiled. “Remember how we used to pretend to be Frodo and Sam on the way to Mount Doom?”

“Yeah.” Tania grinned.

“We also used to make up riddles for Bilbo to use on Gollum.”

“Those were great times.”

He looked out the window and blinked back tears. He would never see his sister again. His hand rested on the page as he recited. “‘All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.’ Remember that, Sis. Listen with your heart to find the truth.”

Tania’s eyes were on his face, so she didn’t see how he pulled a bookmark from his pocket, inserted it into the book at the passage he had just quoted, and then slipped her bookmark into his pocket. Keep it safe, he silently commanded. He looked down at her, wishing there was more he could do. Then he placed two fingertips at her temple and whispered, “Na dolen.” The command would keep her from remembering this conversation until she needed it.

Her eyes blinked in blank, sleepy surprise. “Tom?”


Carol Nicolas will be giving away a $75 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky person at the end of her tour!
 Enter below!