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.


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:



Release Day – Angels All Around

I’m thrilled to announce the release of Angels All Around, the latest book in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. My essay, “Prayers and Positive Thoughts,” was selected as one of the 101 stories for this publication.

About the Anthology

Good things do happen to good people, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels All Around, is filled with 101 fascinating tales, demonstrating how miracles can happen when and how we least expect them.

The book offers glimpses into the lives of people who find themselves in extraordinary, unexplainable situations, their prayers answered and their lives forever changed. It’s about the anonymous angels who touch our hearts and save our lives, and the astonishing power we can find within ourselves. From miraculous connections and answered prayers, to divine intervention and inexplicable healing, to angels and messages from heaven, these stories prove that miracles can happen, every day, to people from all walks of life.

Excerpt from Prayers and Positive Thoughts

“Are you praying?”

In many circumstances, this question would be deemed intrusive and inappropriate. But considering the source—my mother—I didn’t take offense. If anything, I was embarrassed to admit that prayer was the furthest thing from my mind.

Over a month had passed since the specialist oncologist had delivered the diagnosis: Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Stage IIIB. While I had shared the stage, I had kept those first three words to myself. I didn’t want family and friends Googling IBC and discovering the seriousness of the diagnosis. In 2004, the five-year survival rate for IBC was 30 percent. As for the ten- and fifteen-year survival rates, the percentages were in the single digits and not even worth considering.

Buy Links

Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (US) | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Note: Guelph Public Library has six copies of Angels All Around.


Adjust Your Stance

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.

Each month, I pick up a copy of the Oprah magazine and read it from cover to cover. My favorite column is “What I Know for Sure,” written by Oprah Winfrey herself. In 2014, Oprah released a small hardcover collection (also available in eBook format) of these monthly reflections. Here’s one of my favorites:

Every challenge we take on has the power to knock us to our knees. But what’s even more disconcerting than the jolt itself is our fear that we won’t withstand it. When we feel the ground beneath us shifting, we panic. We forget everything we know and allow fear to freeze us. Just the thought of what could happen is enough to throw us off balance.

What I know for sure is that the only way to endure the quake is to adjust your stance. You can’t avoid the daily tremors. They come with being alive. But I believe these experiences are gifts that force us to step to the right or left in search of a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Let them help you adjust your footing.

Balance lies in the present. When you feel the earth moving, bring yourself back to the now. You’ll handle whatever shake-up the next moment brings when you get to it. In this moment, you’re still breathing. In this moment, you’ve survived. In this moment, you’re finding a way to step onto higher ground.

Source: What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey, Page 35.


Movie Review: Blinded by the Light

Set in the suburban town of Luton (England), this film is based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir about growing up Pakistani in the late 1980s.

Javed (brilliantly played by Viveik Kalra) longs to escape the restraints imposed by his domineering father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) and the bigotry of the town. A creative soul, Javed finds solace in his journals as he focuses on getting good grades. Manchester University—200 miles away—is his best (and only) hope.

Everything changes when a fellow classmate (Aaron Phagura) gives Javed cassettes of Born in the U.S.A. and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Transfixed by the music, Javed experiences an immediate connection with Bruce Springsteen. Typewritten lyrics start to swirl in what can only be described as a literal windstorm.

With the Boss as his guide, Javed starts to make changes in his own life. He drops Economics and signs up for Creative Writing, writes essays and poems about Bruce’s lyrics, stands up to local skinheads, and approaches his high school crush Eliza (Nell Williams).

On the homefront, Malik loses his factory job, and Javed’s mother Noor (Meera Ganatra) works twelve- to fourteen-hour days to keep the family afloat. Father-son relations intensify as Malik becomes more over-bearing, dismissing Javed’s writing dream and forbidding him to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert.

As the economy stalls and more people lose their jobs, white supremacy rears its ugly head. A violent skinhead march interrupts a Pakistani wedding, reminding us of the racial tensions that still exist in 2019. The indignities suffered by the Pakistani families are appalling. And what is even more heart-wrenching is the powerlessness of the community.

With the help of a dedicated English teacher (Hayley Atwell), Javed becomes more confident in his writing and goes on to achieve local and international acclaim.

A must-see film that will evoke many emotions. Bring tissues.