Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Better Way To Deal With Stress: Self-Care the Kripalu Way

The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health ( is a world-renowned center for natural living located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I've visited the center and was asked to write this piece about transforming stress the Kripalu way. I think you will find it interesting and useful - it may even inspire you to visit the center yourself!   

When Dan Kaplan, 56, of Keene, New Hampshire, came to Kripalu for a Healthy Living program in January 2009, he was more than ready for a change. “I’d been in a pressure-cooker environment for a couple of years,” says Kaplan, who is an entrepreneur in business start-ups. “I was looking for a way to let go of that stress.”
He’s not alone. “We’re seeing more and more people who are feeling stressed,” says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. Why? “Stress is related to change, and the rate of change going on in the world right now is unlike any we’ve ever seen. It’s on every level. Technology is changing constantly, people’s jobs are changing, and the economy is changing. Nothing has a sense of security the way that it used to.”
Although everyone knows what it’s like to feel stressed—we rarely examine its high cost. “We think of it as an inconvenience that impacts the quality of our lives, but it’s so much more than that,” says Susan Lord, an integrative physician who leads programs at Kripalu. “Stress is anything that moves us away from health and towards ‘dis-ease’ in the body.”

The High Cost of Stress

Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, which means hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released in the body to prepare us for action. But if we don’t know how to effectively deal with stress, we constantly remain in a state of high alert, damaging our long-term health. “Because we are human beings and we have a central cortex, we hold images of stress in our mind, keeping us constantly alert and chronically stressed,” says Dr. Lord. “This can overstimulate the immune system and lead to inflammation, which is the underlying process of chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.”
So how do we counteract stress? Ultimately, dealing with stress comes down to self-care, says Aruni Nan Futuronsky, Life Coach and Program Advisor for the Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “Stress is a result of not having enough self-care in our lives to diffuse the inevitable tension that life brings.”

The Path to Peace

The Kripalu approach to stress takes a holistic view, examining and treating the emotional, physical, cognitive, energetic, and spiritual aspects of each individual. “At Kripalu we take a multidimensional approach,” says Kripalu CEO Garrett Sarley (Dinabandhu). “The interplay of the subtle bodies or the different dimensions of the self is critical in actually producing a change in lifestyle to reduce stress.” Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs emphasize this philosophy. “The Kripalu approach is so powerful because it addresses all these different areas,” says Dr. Lord.
In her Transforming Stress workshop, Dr. Lord asks participants, as a first step, to identify the stressors in their lives. For many people, it’s the thoughts they think. “If you have thoughts such as ‘I’m not enough,’ ‘I don’t have enough time,’ ‘I’m not loved or accepted,’ this can lead to stress,” says Dr. Lord, who also encourages students to ask the big questions: Spiritually, how isolated do you feel? Are you connected to nature? To something bigger than yourself? How many of your relationships feed and nurture you, and how many drain your energy? Do you feel appreciated at work?
“Whatever causes you stress goes into what I call ‘the barrel,’” says Dr. Lord. “All the good things you can use to counteract stress are in what we call ’the honey pot.’ To fill it up, you need to define all the different ways—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—you can feel good and connected to yourself and to nature.” Gradually “the barrel” begins to empty and “the honey pot” fills up. “When you change the ratio, you begin to heal,” says Dr. Lord. “Once you see the benefit, this new awareness enables you to make different decisions about what you’re going to do and how you live your life.”

Coming into the Now

One of the most fundamental ways to fill the honey pot is to focus on the breath. “When we’re stressed, our breathing becomes shallow,” says Sarley. “When you breathe deeply, it increases the oxygen level in your body. It makes you both relaxed and more energized. Pranayama breathing is like rebooting a computer.” One practical aspect of yogic breathing techniques, known as pranayama, is that they can be practiced preventatively and/or in direct response to a stressful situation.
Yoga, the combination of breath with movement, is a powerful antidote to stress. “Breathing and movement is a very profound way of coming into that space of now,” says Sarley. “Yoga postures also have a direct effect on the tissues, helping to remove toxins and improve nourishment of the cells of the body.”
Just as important, yoga reduces stress by helping us adjust to change, making us less anxious and fearful of the unknown. “It’s our resistance to change that really makes life more difficult,” says Hartman. “Yoga helps us to accept life just as it is. When we practice yoga, we learn to accept our bodies just as they are and our breath just as it is, and then this begins to translate off the mat. We experience peace.”
Kaplan found this was true for him. “Yoga helps you appreciate where you are. Previously, I might have allowed a stressful situation to get to me. I don’t as much anymore. In my interactions with the people I love, like my wife, kids, and family, I am less inclined to be critical and find fault and more inclined to find their strengths and celebrate who they are.”
One of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it increases our body awareness. “That’s the best preventative health practice that we can have,” says Hartman. “You can start to feel if there is any imbalance in the body. Most people are very cut off from their bodies. But we’re organisms that live on this planet, and our pleasure and pain comes through our bodies. It’s in our bodies that we can feel love and peace, and be in the present moment.”
The experience of healing touch can also help bring you into the now. “Regular massage can help people manage stress by bringing the body back to its natural rhythm,” says Fiona Young, Healing Arts Manager at Kripalu. The health benefits are profound, she says. “Regular massage relieves tension in the fascia and improves circulation, which increases nutrients and oxygen to the cells, bones, muscle tissues, and organs, and helps remove waste products.” At Kripalu, every Healing Arts client is provided with basic suggestions for home care, such as breathing exercises or a positional therapy stretch for the hips and neck. In this way, the benefits are extended beyond the session itself.

Nourishing the Body

Diet is another important aspect of managing stress. “Stress is a signal for the body to fortify itself,” says Dr. Lord, who leads a program at Kripalu called Transform Your Relationship with Food. But many of us reach for the wrong things, such as sugar and fat. That was the case for Deb Corbin, 55, a nurse from Wilmington, Massachusetts, who visited Kripalu in August to participate in Dr. Lord’s workshop. “I’m a severe chocoholic, and I self-medicated with it when I was stressed,” she recalls. At Kripalu, she found a protective and safe place in which to explore her emotional eating through drawing, journaling, and sharing exercises. “It was very cathartic.” A central focus of the program is being mindful: “Now I really pay attention to the foods I eat and really taste them. I don’t use food as a way to run away or escape from my issues.”
At Kripalu, Corbin had an appointment with Kathie Madonna Swift, a registered dietitian, the lead nutritionist at Kripalu Center, and one of the country’s foremost nutritionists. “I’m pre-diabetic and Kathie felt that through my diet changes I would be able to eliminate that condition,” says Corbin. “She really uses nutrition as medicine.”
Swift has clients complete a nutrition-assessment consultation form prior to their visit. “It includes a number of stress-related questions along with a rating scale so I can discover the role chronic stress plays in a client’s life,” she says. Next, she advises clients like Corbin on how to counteract stress by eating right. “Eating a whole-foods, ecologically responsible diet rich in plants—including vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and oils (and, if one desires, clean, safe fish, meat, and poultry)—provides the nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals that maintain our gut integrity and provide the ‘stress-defending’ substances we need.”
The Kripalu approach to stress embraces the art of nourishment and self-care in every aspect of life—an art that is specific to each individual. “Kripalu honors each person’s uniqueness, from genetic potential to lifestyle factors that impact one’s adaptive stress response,” says Swift. Therefore each person’s “stress-less portfolio” will look different; one might include regular dancing, another journal writing, and a third might focus on spending time in nature. What is critical is to begin with one small commitment—a daily 15-minute yoga practice, for example, or a decision to increase your vegetable intake—and to explore and experiment from there as you continue the journey toward stress-free living. 
For more information about natural living and to learn about my natural remedies mystery series please visit!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Meet Casey Feldstein

I have been so busy talking about the count down to Yarn to Go, the first book in the Yarn Retreat series which comes out next Tuesday, I realized I never really introduced Casey Feldstein. Casey has had a rather spotty career history and has a reputation for not sticking with things. She knew after a semester at law school it wasn’t for her. She tried being a substitute teacher and it didn’t work out. She worked as a dessert chef in a friend’s restaurant, but it went out of business. Then she turned to temp work and did things like spritzing perfume on women walking into department stores and handing out samples of chewing gum on a downtown street corner in Chicago.

The only temp job she really liked was working for a detective agency even if her boss, Frank Shaw was a bit of curmudgeon. Mostly what she did was phone work. It turned out she had a real talent for getting people to give up information. Little did she know that the detective agency experience and Frank would both come in handy in her new life.

Deciding that she needed a fresh start, she relocated to her Cadbury by the Sea, California. Her aunt, an actress whose main claim to fame was that she was the spokesperson for Tidy Soft toilet paper, offered Casey her guest house in the picturesque small town on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula. Casey’s aunt also helped her get set up in baking desserts at a local restaurant and baking muffins for the local coffee spots in town. Cadbury has lots of fog and cloudy skies and is a real coffee town.

It might have all just been la di dah happy, but Casey’s aunt is killed in a hit and run accident shortly after Casey moves into the guest house. It turns out that her aunt has left everything to Casey, including her business putting on yarn retreats.

The common question is what is a yarn retreat. Well, the idea of a retreat is that a group of people go someplace out of the way and spend time developing an interest or talent. The yarn part refers to what kind of interest they work on.

The out of the way place is Vista Del Mar, a moody hotel and conference center across from where Casey lives. No manicured lawns here. The grounds are filled with tall Monterey Pines and wind shaped Monterey Cypress and ground cover that grows by itself. Nearby, waves crash against a rocky shore.

Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but let me just say that Casey who doesn’t know a knitting needle from a crochet hook, finds herself up to her elbows in yarn, murder and dessert.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

California Crime Writers Conference

Last weekend was the California Crime Writers Conference.  It was held at the Hilton Hotel in Pasadena.  It was great fun!

First of all, I always find it enjoyable to meet up with friends who also like to write mysteries, and a lot of those who live locally, and even at some distance, were there.

The worst part about the conference was to decide which workshop to attend.  There were four tracks: Craft, Business, Matters of Crime, and Nuts & Bolts.  Some talks I had no interest in because the topic seemed too basic for where I am in my career, but the presenters’ identities often made those sound appealing anyway.  I mostly attended sessions on law enforcement, such as Undercover Techniques--since I do have a lot of undercover protagonists in my Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne books--plus the FBI and Homicide Investigations.  I attended one session on Contracts 101.  Yes, I’m a lawyer, but not only did I appreciate the refresher--particularly since I just received the contract to review for a new mystery series!--but I also wanted the perspective of the two lawyers on the panel regarding the latest changes in the publishing industry.

As to Nuts & Bolts, I also sat in on several sessions on self-promotion.  The more ideas I have, the better, although in the interests of time I do need to pick and choose which to try.

The keynote speakers were amazing: Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George.  Both gave highly inspirational talks, one each day after lunch.  Both mentioned keeping journals as they write.  I’ve kept journals in the past but am now considering starting one specifically geared to my writing career.

I again offer my thanks and kudos to those who put the amazing event together, all officers and/or members of the Sisters in Crime Los Angeles Chapter and the Mystery Writers of America, Southern California Chapter.  I’m delighted to say that I belong to both organizations.

CCWC is presented every other year, and I look forward to the next one.  It’s a good thing there isn’t one next year, though.  Left Coast Crime will be in Monterey, CA, which isn’t too far away, and Bouchercon will be in Long Beach, which is right next door!

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m a conference addict.  CCWC was my third conference this year, and I’m not done yet.

How about you--do you attend many conferences?  What kinds?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blow Ye Winds, High Ho!

Riddle: I can be small, I can be big
And with friends I dance and jingle,
Hide and seek is my favorite game
But life is easier when I am single.
What force can take hours to do
I can do it at once.
What am I?

Well, it was a heckova weekend.  We had two (two!) power outages in our building – both of them halfway events in our apartment.  That is, Friday morning, the power was out in our bedroom, Ellen’s office, bathroom and living room, but on in the second bathroom and my office – and halfway on in the kitchen.  The microwave worked but not the lights, the refrigerator or dishwasher.  And the stove worked halfway: it would turn on but not all the way.  I put the kettle on and left it (the little light indicating the stove was heating up came on) – and half an hour later heard the kettle murmuring to itself.  Out glass-top electric stove heated the water to simmer, not boiling.  No Internet, either, which was a terrific bore.  I got up early Friday (even with no alarm), put my swimsuit on under my clothes and made my way in darkness down the stairs (the emergency lights were mostly off) to our underground garage, and drove over to the exit – and, of course, the door wouldn’t go up when I pressed my in-car button.  There is a rope hanging down to open it by hand but 1) it was too high up for me to reach, and 2) we are not supposed to go off and leave the door open for thieves to enter by.  So I drove back to my spot and came upstairs.  Couldn’t go golfing, because the course was closed due to flooding and fallen trees.  I used those as excuses not to exercise at all.  Friday night the storms hit again, even worse.  And the same peculiar halfway outage struck again.  But this time the hot water heater for the building had gone, so we bathed in cold water.  But everything is back on again here.  There are big trees down in the neighborhood, which is sad to see.  And there were houses struck by lightning and burned down in the area – not our neighborhood – which is scary.  Life can be an adventure.

The weight I lost not long ago is sneaking back on me.  I’ve been slacking off watching what I eat – and that has to stop, as of yesterday.  So here comes the low-carb eating routine again.  For me, it’s the easiest way to lose weight.  And as long as I have a hard-boiled egg in the refrigerator, I’ll not go hungry.

I dropped by my local Barnes & Noble store yesterday to pick up a book to give as a birthday present to a very good friend.  And so long as I was there, I talked to the checkout clerk about maybe doing a signing for my next book, The Drowning Spool, in December, and she promptly sent me to the manager, who is not only in favor of that, he pulled my copies of current titles off the shelf and had me sign them and will make a little display of them right now on the Customer Service Counter.  Hint to authors: don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to clerks in bookstores.  I try to always carry a little stack of bookmarks to give to people.  I try not to be a bore, but I’m always willing to tell people who ask what I do for a living, and illustrate it with a bookmark.

Thought for the day (too wickedly funny!) “It’s true, we have a two-party system in America: The Evil Party, and the Stupid Party. And every once in awhile the Evil Party and the Stupid Party get together to pass something both evil and stupid. That’s called ‘bipartisanship.’” – Steve Hayward (no, I don’t know who he is.)

Answer:  A key.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Less Than Two Weeks Away

The count down has started for the release of Yarn to Go. I know it's real because I got a box of copies in the mail. There is nothing like seeing your book in three dimensions. Someone asked me today if I still get excited or if it is old hat by now. Well, Yarn to Go is the first book in a new series, so I'm sending a whole new batch of characters out into the world. I hope they are received well. And I think if I'd written 100 books, I would still be excited and nervous every time a new one came out.

My bookmarks are ordered. The first of the guest blogs I'm doing has already been sent in, though it won't appear until next month.

At the same time, I am writing the ending of the second book in the series. I have gone through a hard copy of the manuscript up until the last forty or so pages. I have those pages handwritten on legal pads, or the first draft of them. But now that I have gone through the manuscript up to this point and made lots of changes, it is easier to write the end. I don't know if I'll even look at my handwritten pages. As soon as I type in those last pages in the next couple of days, I will set the manuscript aside and do the copy edit of For Better or Worsted which is the next crochet mystery. Crazy as it sounds, I started getting all these ideas for the crochet mystery after that which I will start writing in a few weeks.

It is hard to keep a balance with so many things going on at once. Still I went to yoga tonight and tomorrow it is either indoor cycling or zumba. I know people say they hate to exercise. Me, I love going to the gym. I enjoy the company and the classes make me feel fantastic.

This has nothing to do with anything, but this morning I went to Citibank to make a payment. There were two tellers, both busy and taking forever. Twice bank people came up to me and the other people in line and apologized for the wait. How about this - instead of spending all that time apologizing, why didn't they just wait on us us? It always seems to be that way there. Lots of people in suits doing nothing, while a line waits for a couple of tellers. I deal with a numnber of banks. Wells Fargo practically roll out a red carpet when you walk in and offers lollypops and bottles of water. There are lots of tellers and they are friendly and take care of business. Chase is one is so peaceful, it seems like they are just open for my business. Every time I go to Citibank, they try to get me to open an account. Really? With that service?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Everybody Write!

I used to be an in-house attorney for Union Oil Company of California, aka Unocal.  Unfortunately, Unocal no longer exists.  Its assets were sold to other companies quite a few years ago, ending with a merger with one of them.  But some former employees still meet almost monthly for lunch, and I try to join them as often as possible. 

One of their meetings is today.  Guess who the speaker is.  Me!  And what will I be talking about?  What else--writing!

Sure, I’ll update them on my writing career.  But I’ll also be telling this group of how each of them, too, can write, for fun and maybe for some profit.   

Writing is a vocation or avocation that can be started at any time and can continue throughout a person’s life.  I’ll be encouraging people who haven’t yet started to give it a try, in whatever genre or venue they prefer--fiction or nonfiction, traditional publishing to any kind of online or other type, book-length or just short articles or blogs... anything!   

They can write about whatever they wish, preferably something they’re passionate about, as Chrystle encouraged earlier this week--as passionate as I am about pets, especially dogs.  They can write about themselves--who they are, what they’re doing, what they want to accomplish.   

Will they enjoy the talk?  That remains to be seen.  But I’ll definitely have fun--and I hope I inspire at least one of them to give it a try!

How about you--if you write, what was your inspiration to start?  If you don’t, what would be the best inspiration to get you started?
By the way, I’m having fun with my latest release, an e-novella in my Pet Rescue Mystery series: NONSTOP SPANIELS.  Like the cover?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Golf, Anyone?

Riddle (A very old one): A man in prison has a visitor. Afterward a guard asks the inmate who the visitor was. The inmate replies: “Brothers and sisters I have none, but that man’s father is my father’s son.” What’s the relationship between the inmate and the visitor?

I haven’t got a thing to say, so I’ll talk about my golf game, which is wildly uneven lately.  Last Tuesday I went downstairs to a stretching exercise offered by my building.  It lasts about twenty minutes, uses those elastic bands, and is conducted by a physical therapist.  I went immediately from the exercises to the par-three, nine-hole golf course and shot a brilliant game – well, brilliant for me.  Only one par, but the rest were bogies or double bogies, with really long drives right down the middle of the fairway.  Well, one went into a sand trap that flanked the green, but I got the ball out the first try, and it went right up onto the green.  Then it took me two tries to sink it.  On Thursday I played in my league, so beforehand I got out my own elastic band and tried to do the same set of exercises before I went over for the game.  I did better than usual – but not nearly as well as I had on Tuesday.  Sunday the course was booked solid so I went to the driving range and did very badly, being clumsy and uncoordinated.  I’m going to play again today after the stretching exercises.  Anyone care to place a bet on how I’ll do?

Did any of you know there’s a “counter melody” to “Anchors Aweigh”?  I learned it in boot camp a thousand years ago and hadn’t encountered it since.  But it’s on YouTube.  It dates to World War II and begins, “Waves of the Navy, there’s a ship sailing down the bay, And she won’t slip into port again until that victory day . . .”  Very pretty when sung at the same time someone else sings “Anchors Aweigh.”  I bet Betsy Devonshire knows it.  Now if Connor knows “Anchors Aweigh,” I could write a cute scene.

Answer:  The inmate’s visitor was his son.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Use Your Passion to Fuel Your Writing!

Use Your Passion to Fuel Your Writing  

By Chrystle Fiedler

Natural remedies have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, my mother practiced natural cures such as tea bag baths for sunburn, homeopathic remedies for colds and allergies, arnica oil for sprains and bruises and, of course, chicken soup with garlic was always a staple. I’ve used this passion to fuel my journalism, non-fiction and  cozy mysteries too. Today, I’ll show you how I did it and how you can too!     

The Path to Finding My Passion

My journey to becoming a published writer/author began after I graduated from Boston University with a degree in communications. But it wasn’t a straight path. I was young, I was unfocused and I tried everything. I had over 60 jobs, including working in advertising, newspapers, radio, and television writing and production in Hollywood. But none of it felt like the right path.

After much soul searching and advice from others I decided that I wanted to be a magazine writer. The idea of being my own boss was very appealing and I also wanted to help others by providing useful information through the written word.   

So, in 1998, I moved from California back to my hometown of Greenport, NY and started my new career.  I knew that I wanted to write about health, specifically, natural health. Once I focused on what I wanted to do, my passion became clear. Since then, I’ve written articles about natural health for many magazines including Woman’s Day, Natural Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Vegetarian Times and Remedy magazine.    

This led to writing non-fiction books about natural remedies: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Remedies (Alpha, 2009), The Country Almanac of Home Remedies (Fairwinds Press, 2011) with herbalist Brigitte Mars and the Beat Sugar Addiction Now! series with Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a holistic MD.

Writing Cozy Mysteries, Naturally

When it came to fiction, my agent, Ann Collette of the Helen Rees agency in Boston, suggested that I use my background in natural remedies to create a cozy mystery. The natural remedies mystery series was born and thankfully contracted by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster in 2011.

Writing mysteries is the most fun because I get to create my own unique universe and populate it with interesting and lovable characters. I’ve chosen to make my protagonist a naturopathic doctor named Willow McQuade, ND who also owns and runs a health food store called Nature’s Way Market & Café in a three-story Victorian in the heart of Greenport. Her boyfriend is a hunky ex-cop named Jackson Spade and she has a rescue dog named Qigong (which is an ancient Chinese practice).

To reinforce the natural remedies theme, I decided to feature a natural remedy at the beginning of each chapter and sprinkle them throughout the book. I focus on a different type of natural cure for each mystery. SCENT to KILL: A Natural Remedies Mystery focuses on aromatherapy, DEATH DROPS, various natural cures and the book I’m writing now GARDEN of DEATH, medicinal plants.  

Now that you’ve read about what I’ve done, it’s time to think about how you can discover your own passion! Try looking at these categories and see if it sparks an idea you can use:

Your passion might be:

A famous person: Author Joanna Slan, writes mysteries the Jane Eyre Chronicles, Susan Wittig Albert writes the Beatrix Potter mysteries. What famous person inspired you? Who do you want to know more about?

A time period: Do you live for the Victorian era, or anything from the 1700’s? The 1800’s? 1900’s? Now? The Future?

A place: Another one of my driving passions is my hometown, Greenport, NY. This sleepy fishing village is now a thriving tourist destination. What place do you love to visit or dream of visiting? New York, Hawaii, or one of my favorite cities, London?

A pet: Author Linda O. Johnston writes a cozy series about pet rescue and I include this theme in all of my books too. Ending pet abuse is one of my passions. Do you love animals? How have they made your life better? How can they inspire your writing more?  

A practice: Tracy Weber, runs her own yoga studio and is now writing mysteries about yoga. Author Rosemary Harris is a master gardener and writes mysteries about gardening. Is there some practice you do that you have a passion for?   
A hobby: My Killer Hobbies ( sisters and I talk about how our hobbies inspired our murder mysteries. Anne Canadeo and Betty Hechtman blog about knitting, while I blog about natural remedies. Think back…what were your hobbies when you were growing up? For example, did you enjoy scrapbooking, photography,  drawing, or collecting books, stamps, or dolls? What hobby do you enjoy now? Can you see a way to write a mystery about it?     

An interest: Are you crazy about coffee like Cleo Coyle or nuts about cheese like Avery Aames? What can’t you get enough information about? What kind of magazines do you read? What articles interest you the most?

Let Your Imagination Run Wild!

One of the first steps in finding your passion is to think about these categories. Let them run through your mind, when you walk your dog, or take a shower or are cooking dinner. Play with it, imagine and keep the portal open. Write down all of the thoughts and don’t judge them! You are learning about yourself, what interests you and what you want to pursue and create around.

Once you figure out what your passion is, consider how you might use it in your writing:

·       If you want to write a cozy mystery think of a world you could create that features your passion. What might your protagonist do for a living? Where do they live?

·       If you want to write a novel, think about how your passion might make your characters more three-dimensional and real.

·       If you want to write non-fiction think about how you might translate your passion into a non-fiction book proposal. 

·       If you want to write a story about your hobby as a journalist, research publications that might be interested and pitch ideas to editors.

Whatever you do, remember, the most important thing is to relax, open your mind and have fun with the process! 

Please share what you've learned here or by visiting K.M. Weiland's informative blog and leaving a comment: 

If you share on Katie's site, you still have a chance to win a copy of my new book SCENT to KILL: A Natural Remedies Mystery! Katie has tons of helpful stuff on her site so sign up for her newsletter too! 

Here’s the scoop on Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery

“Scent to Kill is a well-crafted mystery…Devotees of natural medicine and aromatherapy will enjoy the tips that appear at the beginning of each chapter and scattered throughout the text.” Publisher’s Weekly   

Willow McQuade, naturopathic doctor, along with her hunky ex-cop boyfriend Jackson Spade, attend a party for a psychic TV show that is filming on Long Island’s idyllic East End. However, Willow is much more interested in visiting the estate’s lavender farm, seeking inspiration for the new aromatherapy workshops she'll be holding at her store, Nature’s Way Market & Café.   

Before the party is over, Roger Bixby one of the producers is dead and the police suspect murder. Roger was working on the show, MJ’s Mind, with Carly Bixby, his ex-wife and the new girlfriend of Willow's ex from L.A., TV writer/producer Simon Lewis.   

After Willow leaves the party, she gets a frantic text from Simon asking for her help. Since Simon had a fight with Roger earlier in the evening, and because of his death is now the primary shareholder in Galaxy films, Willow's ex becomes the prime suspect. Simon begs her to crack the case and clear him of the murder. MJ McClellan, the psychic and star of the show also asks Willow for help. She hires Willow to provide natural remedies, including aromatherapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga to soothe the agitated crew of her show. 

To find the killer, Willow has to deal with ghosts in a haunted mansion, a truly dysfunctional family, death threats and “accidents,” while trying to untangle a homicide identical to one committed during prohibition. Thankfully, Jackson has been hired to provide security and is there to watch her back and help Willow solve this spooky mystery.

For more information on natural remedies, my books and writing tips please visit:!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Where Does the Time Go?

How did summer sneak up on me? Yesterday, I noticed the kids were out of school already and that peaches and cherries aren’t pricey exotic fruit anymore. The apricots on my little tree are almost ripe. And the days seem to stay light forever.

I have been so focused on the edits for For Better or Worsted, finishing Silence of the Lambs Wool, and doing promotion for Yarn to Go, I did not notice May go by. Were there really 31 days?

June is doing a pretty good job of sliding by, too. I still have a long way to go with the rewrite of Silence of the Lambs Wool. The count down to July 2 when Yarn to Go comes out is fast approaching and I have bookmarks still to order and guest blogs to write. Any day I expect to hear from my editor that she’s sent the copy edits for For Better or Worsted and needs them back in a week.

I am immersed in Silence of the Lambs Wool for now. It is to the point where even tonight in yoga during final relaxation I was rewriting dialogue in my head. Though really mornings are my most creative time. My characters seem the most anxious to speak and tell me what’s going on when I’m drinking coffee and writing with a pen.

It helps that I’m writing about a town on the Monterey peninsula and I love that area. What makes it even better is I have given the real town a different name, so that I can move things around to suit my story and make up a history for the place.

One of the continuing characters is a part-time magician which has made me think a lot about the mechanics of magic. It also makes me grateful for the magic class I took with the Great Houdanni. As an aside magic doesn’t seem to be a women’s thing. There were 23 people in the class. 20 men and 3 women including me.

Not to sound too corny, it’s time for me to wave my wand and get back to the real magic of turning my very rough draft into a final manuscript in two weeks.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tip # 1: Don't Go Near The Washing Machine

Many of the friends I email with daily are writers. Near and far.
We take breaks from our work to share our writing highs and woes. As if we were all in an office together,  separated by cubicles. Not the distance
of hundreds, or thousands of miles.
Today my friend Ellen in Tucson reported she was stuck, trying to maneuver two characters into the same room.
I tossed out some suggestions...then added, "Get up from your desk and walk around the house a few minutes. That always helps me. But don't go near the washing machine... or any large appliances."
I added this warning because, if she allows herself to veer towards household messes, she may never get back to those wandering characters. If you give a mouse a dust rag, he's going to ask for the vacuum. Well, some mice.
I don't have time for a long blog today, but wanted to pass on that writing tip.
And also this article of even better writing tips from greater minds than mine.
There is some sage advice here for any sort of work requiring perseverance,
creativity and running the marathon, not the 50 yard dash. (That covers
a lot of us, not just writers, right?)
Hope you find these thoughts as worthwhile as I did.

Just One Day Recap

Yesterday was Just One Day.

What’s that?  It was a day publicized for months on which pet shelters everywhere were to pledge that they would not kill any animals, even if it was just for that one day.

I had a good time popping back and forth to the event’s Facebook page and seeing the mentions of lots of shelters that had taken the pledge. 

I only wish I knew how many shelters took the pledge--and how many animals were actually saved that day, which I of course hope were all of them.  In fact I’d love it if no animals were killed on any day, except those that truly had to be euthanized for health reasons, to end their suffering.

I hadn’t planned on having my e-novella Nonstop Spaniels published around the same time as Just One Day but it worked out that way.   As I mentioned last week, the theme behind Nonstop Spaniels is NKLA--No Kill Los Angeles, which is an initiative of Best Friends Animal Society.  The idea behind NKLA is to get all shelters around L.A., even public ones, to stop killing healthy pets--at any time. 

When I started writing the Pet Rescue Mysteries, I knew what pet rescue was, of course.  I had some awareness that lots of animals were taken into shelters, and many were killed for lack of space.  I had less awareness of the numbers of wonderful people who started private shelters or fostered or did so many other things to at least lessen the numbers of animals that were killed for no reason except lack of space.

 Now I know a lot more--except what actually causes the problem in the first place.  A lot of people love pets.  So why can’t all people be responsible pet owners?  I won’t go on a tirade here but I don’t understand why people don’t spay or neuter their pets at appropriate times to avoid unwanted puppies or kittens from being born.  Or why people decide to give up pets for reasons that ultimately just mean they’re tired of their four-legged family members.

So--I’ll just continue to do my small part to help by writing my Pet Rescue Mysteries--which, BTW, I always intend to be fun and not hit people over the head with a message--and by volunteering at a shelter and trying to remind as many people as possible about the problems.  And by celebrating such wonderful events as Just One Day.

How about you--had you heard about Just One Day?  Did shelters in your area take the pledge?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Being Happily Morbid

Riddle: Why wasn’t Bertha put in prison after killing dozens of people?

I’ve been rediscovering Agatha Christie.  Her stories have a deceptive simplicity.  The characters seem so transparent, obvious cliches.  Her writing is clarity itself.  Yet to tell the story in your own words makes its complexity and deviousness suddenly much clearer.  What a clever mind she had!  Read one of her books, especially the earlier ones, then go back immediately and read it again.  She drops her clues into place so openly it is amazing how you missed it on the first reading.  I’m reading Murder at the Vicarage.  I first read it so many years ago I’ve forgotten who the murderer is – and I’m baffled.  I know the archaelogist isn’t who he says he is, I remember that.  And I think the beautiful woman new in town, Mrs. LeStrange, is a red herring.  I think it’s the doctor, but I can’t figure out his motive.  What fun!

On the other hand, she makes my own stories seem so clumsy.

Maybe because of the long, chilly, rainy spring, I went on a fruit binge.  Yesterday I bought strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, a pineapple, and bananas and chopped them up into a mix I had for dessert last night.  No added sugar, just the fruit.  It was so good!  The low-carb diet I’ve been on meant rare and frugal servings of fruit for a long time, so that was probably another reason my appetite demanded a revolution.  I’m sure my tummy was surprised, but stood up to it very well, and I feel happy and content this morning.  But I’m putting the leftover fruit into the freezer.  One breakout is okay, but the next one should be put off for a while.

I’ve got an important-number birthday coming up in October and am planning a themed party for it.  But the number is a big one, and it’s making me think about things like wills and funerals.  Not in a sad way, but in a businesslike, even celebratory, way.  After all, I’ve been writing traditional mysteries, in which those topics are often central, for many years, so the spillover into real life comes naturally.  And, rather strangely, one of my younger sisters has been doing the same thing.  We’ve been trading good-humored recommendations about who will get her good jewelry and my collection of medieval coins.  What do you think of pre-paid funerals?  And who would you leave your books to? 

Answer:  She was a hurricane.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Natural Remedy of the Week: Fish Oil

Released: 6/5/2013 12:05 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Michigan Technological University
Newswise — Fish oil supplements may protect the heart in stressful situations, according to a recent study. Jason Carter, a researcher at Michigan Technological University, conducted the study with 67 healthy volunteer test participants in their 20s. Over a 2-month period, they were either given nine grams of fish oil pills or nine grams of olive oil as a placebo.
The test subjects were screened for heart rate, blood pressure and other related metrics. At the end of the test period, both groups took a mental arithmetic test that involved adding and subtracting numbers in their head. Their stress response was measured at that time.
Those in the fish oil group showed blunted heart rate reactivity while they were stressed compared to those who took olive oil," said Carter. "Similarly, the total [muscle sympathetic nerve activity] reactivity to mental stress was also blunted in the fish oil group.” There was not much difference between the two groups at rest, however.
Results of the study were published in the May edition of theAmerican Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. It is available online at
Interesting huh? Good brands of non-contaminated, pure fish oil include Nordic Naturals, which is what I like to take. BUT please, talk to your doctor or health practitioner about what is right for you!  
Here are some links with reliable, unbiased information about fish oil supplements: 
Visit to learn more about SCENT to KILL: A Natural Remedies Mystery, natural remedy tips, writing advice, guest posts and info on my upcoming books!  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Catching Up to the Times

I have one of the original kindles. It really isn’t that old, but it seems almost prehistoric with its awkward way to turn pages and navigate menus. I actually packed it all up in it’s original box, thinking someday it would be a museum piece.

I got a nook over a year ago. I tend to forget where I put it and the battery always seems to have run down when I want to use it. The pages are easier to turn than on the kindle and it is a lot less awkward to hold, but reading on still isn’t comfortable.

But the times they are changing and more and more people are reading e- versions. So, I noticed there were apps for nook and kindle on my smart phone.

Suddenly it occurred to me that if I had an e-reader app on my phone, I would probably use it far more than the old kindle or the newer nook. I always have my phone with me, so I’d always have reading material.

The rest of my family tends to be fidgeting with their smart phones all of the time. The first thing they do is put their smart phones on the table if we go out to eat. Since there was no conversation going on the other day because they were both immersed in their emails, I decided to join the trend and took out mine. Why not do something useful, I thought. I looked through the apps and when I saw the one for nook, I clicked on it. In no time I’d downloaded it and signed in to my account and as if by magic all the books I’d purchased as nooks appeared on the screen ready to read. I tried reading on it and it was even better than the real nook I had at home.

With my confidence buoyed by my success, I thought about the kindle app. I have more books on my kindle account and due to the awkwardness of my kindle, have stopped using it, but thought it would be great to have those books available on my phone. So, I tried to repeat just what I’d done with the nook app. It seemed to download fine and prompted me to sign into my account. Only it would never let me do it. I ended up going in circles, getting nowhere.

Now what? I looked at my kindle account on my home computer and it showed no phone device connected to it. I considered calling someone at kindle, but I wasn’t even sure what to say. It seems like it has more to do with my phone than kindle and the last time I tried calling somebody about my kindle, I got some a very unpleasant and unhelpful woman in India who was impatient and kept yelling at me. Is that supposed to be customer service?

Who is responsible for the apps on my phone? By now I’d figured there was some defect in it. I considered uninstalling it and trying again, but there was no uninstall button on the downloaded app. At times like that it just seems to much easier just to open a paper book. No battery to die or app to not work.

What I’d like to know is how all these impatient kids who are supposed to be so tied to their electronics deal with the frustration when their devices and apps don’t work right.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nonstop Spaniels

I have a new book out as of yesterday.  Actually, it’s a novella.  And it’s the first of my mysteries to be e-published! 

It’s called Nonstop Spaniels, and its theme is NKLA--No Kill Los Angeles, which is an initiative of Best Friends Animal Society.  The idea behind NKLA is to get all shelters, even public ones, to stop killing healthy pets.  I enjoyed the research a lot, especially when I learned the amount of success they’ve achieved already--although they still have a long way to go.

The idea behind Nonstop Spaniels is that my protagonist Lauren Vancouver has to figure out why a veterinarian who also owns a pet shelter won’t join NKLA--and to prove that her good friend Dr. Carly Stellan isn’t the one who ultimately murders that vet. 

I sometimes wonder what my own dogs Lexie and Mystie would think if they understood the kinds of things I write about.  Pet rescue?  What’s that, mom?  I got both of my Cavaliers from reputable breeders.  That was before I started researching, and volunteering in, pet rescue.  My pups are also fur-kids of empty nesters, so they don’t even know what it’s like to have human children taking priority in our household.  I’m just as glad they don’t know.  I’d rather just spoil them and never have them know how hard it is for some other pets to find loving homes. 

I was delighted that two different people mentioned the release of Nonstop Spaniels on Facebook.  One of them also mentioned that my next full-length Pet Rescue Mystery Teacup Turbulence is now up on Amazon and will be a January 2014 release.  I wasn’t aware that Amazon had a page for it already, so I learned something fun!

I did, by the way, have a couple of novellas published in e-format by Harlequin as Nocturne Bites, part of my Alpha Force miniseries about a covert military force of shapeshifters.  One of them was subsequently included in a print anthology called Awakening the Beast.  These shifters weren’t canine, unlike most of my Alpha Force stories. 

Oh, and I received a complaint from a fan who only likes to read print books.  She was concerned she would miss something important in the series by not reading Nonstop Spaniels.  I assured her that each of my stories is a stand-alone and that anything a new reader needs to know is in whatever book in the series he or she starts with.
And that includes e-novellas. 

How about you--do you like to read novellas in a series?  Do you prefer print or e-format, or both?  And what’s your opinion of no-kill pet shelters?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Crazy, Awful, Funny, Really Good Day

Riddle: You have before you a stick about a foot long.  You are asked to make the stick shorter, but you are not allowed to cut it, bite it, break it, or even touch it.  How do you succeed?

Ever have a day so full of varied events it feels like several days?  I had one of those Thursday, May 30.

I woke in a bad mood and was not entirely sure why.  Some clues:  I had finished my novel and sent if off – a few weeks late, and thousands of words short.  I had mislaid my driver’s license and had called the last place I remembered taking it out to show and they didn’t have it.  I had been through all my pockets and every purse I own looking for it, with no luck.  So I was going to have to make that time-consuming trek to the auto licensing bureau for a duplicate.  I was in a mood to bite anyone who came near me.  Then a good friend asked how I was doing (via email) and I vented.  That made me feel better – and a silly suggestion tossed out, that watching Bill Cosby’s hilarious routing about going to the dentist might cheer me up, a little.  So after sending the email, I watched it, and it did cheer me up.

Later in the morning I went over to replace my driver’s license.  I forgot to bring something to read, but when I pulled my number in line off the little computer system, it was 228 – and they were just calling 225, so I thought it wouldn’t be long.  I filled out the form and took my seat.  Then I realized they issued different number series for different services: driver’s license, license plate tabs, and two other things I couldn’t identify.  So the wait was quite a bit longer than I thought it would be.  But the woman behind the counter was cheerful and helpful.  She suggested that since I would have to get a new license for my birthday in October, I could go ahead and do that now.  So I did.  Cost me twenty-three dollars and change, and they don’t take Visa.  Fortunately, I had enough cash with me.

Did a little writing in the afternoon, then left for Brookview Golf Course around 3:40 to practice putting until my Putters League nine-hole, par three game began at 4:16 (I know, odd time – and we’re first up at the tee).  Andrea couldn’t come so it was just Sandy and me.  The sky was overcast and a little threatening, but no rain fell during our game.  I played about as usual, had a couple of nice drives and a couple of good putts, but not a single par.  As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot on my way home, it began to sprinkle and by the time I got home it was pouring.  Since it wasn't a thunderstorm, the rest of the league had to play in the rain, which is amusing only in retrospect.

I had expected to find on arrival that the carpet cleaners we had hired had been and gone – but they hadn’t come yet.  They were supposed to arrive between three and five, but phoned and said they were running late.  Ellen went down to the front door of our complex to let them in.  It was almost seven before they phoned again and said they were here in a green van, could I come out on the balcony so they could see where our apartment was?  I did, but couldn’t see them.  Aquilla Commons is U-shaped and we’re on the outside edge of the U; I concluded they were in the parking lot which is in the center.  I ran down the stairs (we’re on the third floor) and out the side entrance and saw the van – but no one was in it.  I asked Mr. Sisterman, just coming out, if he’d keep the door open for me (I’d left my keys upstairs), and ran around the building to see if they were coming up the sidewalk, but they weren’t.  I imagined them trying to call again, asking where I was, so I ran back up the stairs.  They weren’t calling; they’d come in the main entrance, where Ellen met them and brought them upstairs on the elevator.

They drove their van out of the parking lot and parked it on the street under our apartment and somehow got their hoses up onto our balcony.  One of them (there were two) began squirting a purple solution on the kitty-urp stains while the other started the steam vacuum.  The squirter explained they were late because this was their ninth job of the day – and they were supposed to do only five a day.  The phone rang and I answered it to find the boss of the company on the line, calling from Tennessee.  He apologized and said it would not be possible to shampoo our rugs because the equipment couldn’t reach as high as the third floor.  When I protested that, in fact, they were shampooing our living room carpet as we spoke, he became annoyed and asked to speak to one of the men and they actually got into a surreal argument about whether or not they were going to shampoo our carpet.  They finally convinced him they could – and did.  They did an excellent job and for only twenty-five dollars a room.

Because we had stacked furniture from our living-dining room in the kitchen, we could not fix dinner.  It was eight o’clock before they finished, and we were very hungry.  We decided to eat at Wok in the Park, an Asian restaurant very near our place.  The food there is always good, but that evening it was spectacular.  I had a stir fry with pea pods, onions, bok choy, pineapple and peanuts in a zippy five-spice sauce.  I thought maybe it was because I was so hungry that it tasted so good, but I brought enough home for lunch the next day and it was delicious all over again.

So what started out as a crummy, cranky day turned out pretty good.  And there seem to be the germs of several stories in all those adventures.

Answer:  Get another stick about fourteen inches long and put it beside the first stick, which is now the shorter one.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ease Painful Joints with this Natural Remedy

It's raining today on the East End of Long Island where I live. This type of weather can really aggravate chronic pain conditions. My dachshund Holmes, who has four calcified discs in his back takes dog pain medicine everyday but on a day like today he may need it earlier than usual.  Ever since I was injured in a grocery store 3 years ago, and sustained damage to the second trigeminal nerve in my face, I have chronic pain and this weather doesn't help. 

People who have osteoarthritis can also suffer under wet and rainy conditions. OA is the most common form of arthritis and manifests when the cartilage that cushions your joints degenerates over time. But you don’t have to be old to get it. Knee OA is a common ailment for thirty- and forty-year-olds. One of the first symptoms is stiffness in the morning, usually in the hips and knees, but you can feel OA almost anywhere. 

Here’s a topical pain relief blend that you can try if you have chronic pain. It's from my friend, Jade Schutes, director of education at the East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies and is featured in my new book SCENT to KILL: A Natural Remedies Mystery:

1 oz vegetable oil (apricot kernel or sunflower)
7 drops of black-pepper essential oil
4 drops lemongrass essential oil
4 drops helichrysum (everlasting) essential oil

Massage on painful joints as needed. Feel better! :D

Here’s the scoop on Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery

“A well-crafted mystery…Devotees of natural medicine and aromatherapy will enjoy the tips that appear at the beginning of each chapter and scattered throughout the text.” Publisher’s Weekly   

Willow McQuade, naturopathic doctor, along with her hunky ex-cop boyfriend Jackson Spade, attend a party for a psychic TV show that is filming on Long Island’s idyllic East End. However, Willow is much more interested in visiting the estate’s lavender farm, seeking inspiration for the new aromatherapy workshops she'll be holding at her store, Nature’s Way Market & Café.   

Before the party is over, Roger Bixby one of the producers is dead and the police suspect murder. Roger was working on the show, MJ’s Mind, with Carly Bixby, his ex-wife and the new girlfriend of Willow's ex from L.A., TV writer/producer Simon Lewis.   

After Willow leaves the party, she gets a frantic text from Simon asking for her help. Since Simon had a fight with Roger earlier in the evening, and because of his death is now the primary shareholder in Galaxy films, Willow's ex becomes the prime suspect. Simon begs her to crack the case and clear him of the murder. MJ McClellan, the psychic and star of the show also asks Willow for help. She hires Willow to provide natural remedies, including aromatherapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga to soothe the agitated crew of her show. 

To find the killer, Willow has to deal with ghosts in a haunted mansion, a truly dysfunctional family, death threats and “accidents,” while trying to untangle a homicide identical to one committed during prohibition. Thankfully, Jackson has been hired to provide security and is there to watch her back and help Willow solve this spooky mystery. For more info please visit: