Weighing In

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Winona Kent. Today, Winona shares her wellness journey and new release, Notes on a Missing G-String.

Here’s Winona!

I’ve just turned 65. And in a few weeks, when I retire from my job, I’m looking forward to finally being a full-time writer, instead of juggling 12-hour workdays with my lifelong creative passion. I’ve got a clever countdown app on my phone that displays the months, weeks, days, minutes and seconds to that glorious moment. I am sooo ready for this massive change in my life!

But it’s not the only change I’ve been dealing with recently!

Two years ago I was encouraged to switch to a different writing genre by a very kind agent in New York, and also by my alpha reader, Brian, in England. Brian suggested that I think about having Jason Davey, my main character from Cold Play, as the hero of my next story.

The last time we’d seen Jason, he was a musician aboard a cruise ship in Alaska. What if he came ashore and got a gig playing guitar at a jazz club in London? What if he was now into solving mysteries?

I loved the idea. Jason Davey, professional guitarist and amateur sleuth, is asked to track down a missing musician, and all of the clues lead to northern Canada. The result was Disturbing the Peace, a novella that I published at the end of 2017.

Then, last year, I wrote Notes on a Missing G-String, a full-length novel in which Jason’s asked to investigate the theft of £10,000 from a dancer’s locker at a Soho gentlemen’s club. He initially considers the case unsolvable. But the victim, Holly Medford, owes a lot of money to London crime boss Arthur Braskey and, fearing for her life, has gone into hiding at a posh London hotel.

Jason’s investigation takes him from Cha-Cha’s and Satin & Silk (two Soho lapdancing clubs) to Moonlight Desires (an agency featuring high class escorts) and finally to a charity firewalking event, where he comes face to face with Braskey and discovers not everything Holly’s been telling him is the complete truth.

As he becomes increasingly drawn into the seamy underside of Soho, Jason tries to save Gracie, his band-mate’s 14-year-old runaway daughter, from Holly’s brother Radu, a ruthless pimp, while at the same time protecting Holly herself from a vengeful Braskey—nearly losing his life, and Gracie’s—in the process.

The outline for the novel literally burst out of me – and it provided enough of a boost to my confidence that I decided to tackle something else – losing weight.

I’m a Type 2 diabetic – I was diagnosed in 2009, around the same time that I was hitting menopause. My version of the disease turned out to be particularly aggressive and within a couple of years I was on four different diabetes meds, including 55 units of insulin nightly.

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of insulin is weight gain, which works against you when prevailing medical knowledge suggests that if you modify your lifestyle, get regular exercise, adjust your eating habits and, most importantly, lose some weight, you’ll go a long way towards improving your blood glucose levels and, in some cases, partially or fully reversing your diabetes.

By the time I asked my endocrinologist for a referral to a medically-supervised weight loss program, I was about 80 pounds overweight. I was referred to the Medical Weight Management Program in Coquitlam, BC. The program considers the full impact your excess weight has on your health, your psychological well being and your mobility and involves intensive lifestyle modification where the bulk of the visits take the form of in-person group interactive medical visits. The main philosophy is that your best weight is the weight you can realistically and healthfully sustain and be comfortable with.

I’ve been with the MWM program for a year and a half now and I’ve lost 34 pounds. I’m still dropping. It’s a slow process, but it’s meant to be. The lifestyle changes I’m working on are meant to be lifelong and permanent.

I faithfully use a food journal. I never feel deprived – for instance, I haven’t given up chocolate at all. I’ve learned to treat myself and to be aware of how much of that treat I’m having.

I’ve learned some other great tricks – for instance I adore the savoury scones at JJ Bean but one entire scone is worth more than 400 calories. So I buy three at a time and take them home and chop them into quarters and freeze them. Then I have one of those quarters as part of my afternoon snack every day. Yes, it takes a certain amount of willpower. But if you know you’re going to have a tasty treat at 3pm every afternoon, it’s a lot easier to tell yourself that you don’t have to eat the entire thing right now.

I’ve learned to plan in advance. I have breakfast at home but I take three small meals to work with me every day: a morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack. The snacks include things like cubed cheese, spicy roasted chickpeas, exotic Japanese and Chinese pickles, chopped celery, sliced orange peppers, wasabe peas…anything that satisfies that need for something tasty and satisfying to put into my mouth. I weigh it all out and stick to my eating plan.

And I’ve learned to be a “mindful” eater. My food used to disappear so quickly I didn’t even realize I‘d eaten it. Now, I stop to actually taste and enjoy what I’m putting in my mouth instead of mindlessly chucking it down.

Aside from being 34 pounds lighter – which has had a positive influence on nearly everything in my life, from dropping a couple of clothing sizes to just feeling better physically and having more energy – I’ve managed to reduce my nightly insulin dose to just 5 units. The plan is that, after I’ve lost a few more pounds, I should be able to stop using it altogether.

I love my newfound hero, Jason Davey, and I can’t wait to see how Notes on a Missing G-String is received.

And I’m still counting the days ‘til my retirement. Now that I only have 21 days, 9 hours, 17 minutes and 52 seconds left, I’m very much looking forward to the next chapter in my life (and the next chapter in Jason Davey’s sleuthing career)!

Buy Links

Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)

I read this book in two sittings and had trouble putting it down. Ms. Kent has a way of drawing me into her stories and keeping me hooked until the end. It helps to have an intriguing protagonist like Jason Davey, who has a knack for stumbling into high-stakes crime scenarios. Like the first installment—Disturbing the Peace—Notes on a Missing G-String is a fast-paced novel filled with plot twists, exotic and ruthless characters, a teenage runaway, and a love child…all set against the seamy underside of Soho.

Next, please!

Where to find Winona

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


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Book Blast: The Fixer-Upper

I’m happy to welcome bestselling and award-winning author Maggie Mae Gallagher. Today, Maggie shares her new release, The Fixer-Upper.

Blurb

Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break.

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he discovers a journal hidden away by the previous tenant and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life.

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed. The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around—even though she should because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing—because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser?

Excerpt

Abby opened the door to two delivery men wearing Styman and Sons logos on their polos. Greg Styman Junior and Teddy Styman were the sons part of the company. They were both relatively attractive guys in a down-home Mayberry type of way, and were young—far, far too young. While Abby might be nearing her twenty-ninth birthday, these two reminded her of students—fresh-faced, with that innocent wide-eyed wonder of youth that people tended to lose by their mid-twenties.

One of the things that had drawn her to the local appliance shop, instead of heading into Denver and one of those big-box stores to make her purchase, had been their willingness to haul away the old freezer free of charge. Styman and Sons would strip it and refurbish any of the old parts that weren’t rusted or still viable and resell them online. It made Abby feel like she was doing something good for the environment because the whole thing wouldn’t end up in a landfill.

Abby was standing on her porch, watching the two guys pull her handy-dandy new deepfreeze from the truck, when she was flattened.

She’d barely had time to issue an umphff before she was on her back on the ivory wooden porch, a hulking brute covered in dark black fur towering over her. She lay on her back, trying to assess the damage as a large, wet, pink tongue slobbered over her face. From this angle, she could tell there were a few parts of the roof overhang that needed to be fixed before winter arrived.

Her hands slid into the soft, short fur, attempting to move the massive beast as it said hello with an almost rabid enthusiasm. Abby would have had better luck moving one of the fourteen footers nearby.

“Rufus, stupid mutt, get off her.” Abby heard the deep baritone filled with abject horror.

Rufus, the mammoth Great Dane, listened about as well as a toddler playing with his favorite toy and, instead of moving off her, decided he really wanted to cuddle and lie on top of her. Her breath whooshed out of her again at the dog’s impressive weight. He had to outweigh her by twenty pounds.

“Jesus, Rufus.” Nate Barnes tugged and yanked the hulking beast of a dog off Abby’s prone form. Rufus seemed to think that meant Nate wanted to play and wrestle around. They skirmished on her porch for a minute or so, until Rufus spied a rabbit and took off after the poor creature.

She was starting to push herself up, mentally assessing the damage, when Nate held out a hand to her, a mask of apology adding a deep line to his furrowed brow. “I’m so sorry. Are you all right? He’s harmless, really. The lamebrain just thinks he’s more of a lap dog and doesn’t realize how big he is.”

Abby felt a few brain cells faint as she accepted his help, placing her hand in his much longer one, noticing that the fingers were rough with calluses.

“It’s okay,” she said as she gained her feet, only to be shocked—and a little turned on—as he ran his hands over her, checking for injuries. As much as she tried to rationalize that it was a police-style frisking, a low burn ignited in her belly. Before she did something entirely stupid, like invite him in where he could give her body a private inspection, she batted his hands away. “No harm done. He seems like a big lover.”

Nate smiled sheepishly as he retreated a step, and it did nothing to lessen his impact.

She almost sawed her tongue in half. See? I shouldn’t talk to people, ever. Especially not after Sheriff Stud Muffin put his hands all over her. The action had short-wired and fried her brain, leading to her precarious foot-in-mouth disease. As if he knew she had been talking about him, Rufus loped back up her porch, making a beeline directly for her or, better yet, her crotch, as he planted his wet nose there by way of greeting.

“Rufus, get off her. Jesus, I’m sorry. He’s normally not like this,” Nate explained, more than a little flummoxed and embarrassed as he tried to yank him off.

It was nice to know the guy was human. After their initial and rather violent meeting, she’d wondered if he was a superhero in disguise. She had hit him with the golf club with her full force and the guy had barely flinched.

Author Bio and Links

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Twitter | Amazon | Bookbub

Buy Links

Amazon | Nook | Kobo

Don’t miss these exciting titles by Maggie Mae Gallagher!

The Mystic Series

Remember Me | Casket Girl

The Cantati Chronicles

Ruptured | Anointed | Ascended

And if you like your romance with a bit of spice and kink be sure to check out Maggie Mae Gallagher writing as Anya Summers on Amazon!

Giveaway

Maggie Mae Gallagher will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Maggie on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.


Invitation to a Twitter Book Launch Party



It’s easy even if you’ve never done this before.

Just go on Twitter your normal way and then click on the search function using the magnifying glass.

Type in hashtag #CSSAngelsAllAround so that you can see all the tweets at the party.

Be sure to include #CSSAngelsAllAround in all the tweets that you post. That way we all see everyone else’s posts.

It’s like a big cocktail party conversation!

See you at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (10:00 a.m. Pacific Time).


Movie Review: Road to the Lemon Grove

Italians and Italians-at-heart will enjoy this humorous–sometimes outrageous–film about a middle-aged Canadian professor, Calogero Contantini, and his recently deceased father Antonio. Performer, writer and lecturer Charly Chiarelli takes on both roles.

The film opens with Antonio awaiting entry to heaven. The voice of God (Loreena McKennitt) informs Antonio that he must make peace with his estranged son before entering the Pearly Gates. Frustrated but determined, Antonio’s ghost haunts (and stalks) Calogero for most of the film.

Antonio has one last mission for his son: Spread his ashes in the lemon groves of Sicily and reunite the two warring branches of the family.

To further complicate the situation, Calogero has only fourteen days to accomplish these tasks. If he is unsuccessful, the lemon grove and all of Antonio’s assets will go to the scheming relatives, led by Vincenzo (Burt Young) and his sidekick Guido (Nick Mancuso).

A series of comical (and sometimes contrived) scenes follow as Calogero argues with his father’s ghost, has a meltdown during a lecture, travels to Sicily, meets the relatives, connects with a beautiful Italian actress (Rosella Brescia), and participates in a final “pasta” showdown.

Flashbacks to Calogero’s youth provide glimpses into the challenges faced by new immigrants during the 1950s and 1960s. I would have liked more scenes depicting these frustrating (often comical) brushes with bureaucrats.

Light and entertaining fare set against a beautiful Sicilian backdrop.


From Rejection to Spectacular Success

While querying the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, I kept myself motivated by reading the success stories that started with stacks of rejection slips.

Here is one of my favorite success stories:

In 1992, teacher and motivational speaker Jack Canfield decided to compile all the stories he had shared on the self-help circuit.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


How to Get Your Story Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Yesterday, Chicken Soup for the Soul released Angels All Around, a collection of 101 fascinating tales about miracles, divine interventions, and answered prayers. I was thrilled to have my essay, “Prayers and Positive Thoughts,” included in the anthology.

Since 1997, more than 250 Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been published and over 500 million copies sold. Each volume receives thousands of story submissions from writers worldwide.

Here are Publisher Amy Newark’s best story writing tips: