Working Out My Non-Writing Muscles

Here is what I hoped I looked like during my first ever meeting with a personal trainer:

This was probably closer to the reality:

Yeah, so…I’ve reached that age where I need to start making an effort to maintain my fitness. In my twenties, I was blessed in that I didn’t have to pay attention to what I ate and how active I was. As an undergraduate and then a graduate student at the University of Washington, I walked or biked to school every day and speed-walked across campus to make my classes, often hauling a bag loaded with books and a laptop. Wasn’t hard to stay fit.

In my early thirties, I had kids. I paid absolutely no attention to my own fitness, but thanks to breastfeeding, I didn’t put on too much unwanted weight. Now I’m in my late thirties. I’m done breastfeeding. I sit in the car 2+ hours a day to get my kids to school and run errands and then I sit at the computer to write or blog or play Candy Crush when my brain is too fried to do anything productive.

Being active these days includes walking up and down the stairs to do laundry, helping my 5 year-old ride her bike, weilding a hammer to build cabinets for my upcoming kitchen remodel, and doing crunches on the living room floor.

I wish it were enough. It’s not.

I’m not unhappy with my physique, and if that were the only factor, I probably wouldn’t change anything at this point. But weight/appearance isn’t the nly factor. My bloodpressure is too high, and I’m tired pretty much all the time. My body is sending me signals that I need to DO something to improve my health.

So…I joined a gym.

I despise cardio, but I like putting on muscle. The ergonomic machines at the gym are totally adjustable to my 5’1″ height, and I can choose the amount of weight I want to work with. I can target my big muscle groups and challenge myself however I see fit.

In the past, I’ve had good luck putting on muscle to battle the bulge. I’m hoping my metabolism remebers that and behaves for me.

So why am I posting about my journey to better fitness here, on my writing blog?

Because when I’m fatigued and not feeling good, I can’t focus enough to write. I’ve been disappointed with my writing output this year. Something needs to change. By getting into better shape, I hope I will feel better and see an improvement in my concentration and creativity.

I’ll let you know how it goes! Wish me luck!

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Review: Eclipse Lake by Mae Clair

Mae Clair_Eclipse LakeSlowly blooming romance meets Murder She Wrote

I love Mae Clair for the generous, kind person she is and for her wonderful ability to tell a story. She also blogs about fascinating topics like cryptozoology and hauntings. If you don’t follow her, you should. Her posts always brighten my day.

This week was a challenging one for me. Between a mysterious illness whose only symptom is making me feel constantly tired, first week of school for my kindergartener, pitching in to take care of a sick friend, and building cabinets for the kitchen remodel we have coming up, its been a hectic season. Every night, before going to bed, I retreated to a small town named Onyx and into the lives of some charming and captivating characters. The respite revived me every single time. Not every author can do that. So thank you, Mae, for creating such a lovely world I could retreat into.

Mae drew me in with a single dad of a teenager, a jetsetting photographer, a sheriff with a grudge, and a park ranger with a German shepherd. Even the teenager, who plays a role in the story, fascinated me with his nose for mischief and his sweetness.

My review in a nutshell: Eclipse Lake is beautiful and sweet and You Gotta Read it.

Here’s the longer version.

A grisly discovery of a skeleton throws small-town Onyx into a frenzy of gossip. The romantic hero of this book is the primary suspect. He has been living on the opposite coast of the country for fifteen years. In that time, he has reformed his bad-boy ways. Now he has returned to Onyx to renew a relationship with his estranged brother. But an old mystery is renewed instead.

The primary theme in this book is the idea that a bad reputation lives forever in a small town. Poor Dane is a different man than when he left his home town fifteen years ago, but Onyx natives can’t see past his juvenile detention reputation. The resident who has the hardest time acknowledging the changed man he has become is his brother Jonah, whom Dane hopes to reconcile with.

Amidst family drama and a murder investigation, Dane falls for a magazine photographer who wishes for more than constant jetsetting to photogenic locations. Ellie can’t envision leaving her career to settle down in a traditional relationship, but meeting Dane makes her realize just how empty her life is.

These two start to let love slip through their fingers, but new twists in the old mystery put them in danger and make them realize how much they’re willing to sacrifice for each other.

This was a sweet, emotional, and beautifully written page turner. Mae Clair has a knack for putting me in a scene with her characters. Her lush descriptions fill my senses. Her slowly blooming romance made me mentally swoon.

I highly recommend Eclipse Lake for all readers. Whether you love mystery or romance, there’s plenty of both in this book. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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A Virgin Walks into a Strip Club…

Jade’s Spirit is here!

JessiGage_JadesSpirit_1400pxHow many virginal heroes are we up to now?

Let’s see. There’s Darcy from Highland Wishes #1 WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER, Riggs from book 2, THE WOLF AND THE HIGHLANDER, and now Emmett from Blue Collar Boyfriends #2 JADE’S SPIRIT.

I might have a thing for virginal men. Is there a support group for that?

So who is Emmett and why do you want to read about him and his sexy new girlfriend, Jade? Well, Emmett is a small-town, hard-working guy with a lawncare business. He’s your typical blue-collar hottie. Except for one thing. He’s a twenty-seven-year old virgin determined to “wait for marriage.”

But Emmett has a little problem. Ever since his parents’ divorce, he has been skittish about saying “I do.” How does a guy who takes his vows seriously vow to love one woman forever? No one can know the future.

Something is going to have to give. Either Emmett will blow a decade of “waiting for marriage” or he will have to come to terms with his fear of matrimony and find a girl to commit to forever.

When he meets Jade, a stripper from Boston, he knows she is the one. The question is whether she is the one with whom he will break his decade-long virginity vow or the one he will commit to forever.

So that’s Emmett. Jade has her own issues, including being on the run from an abusive ex and getting possessed by a dead witch turned demon minion.

If that sounds interesting, check out the blurb and buy links below. Don’t forget to share!

Jade’s Spirit

When exotic dancer Jade seeks refuge from an abusive boyfriend in her grandmother’s aging Victorian home, she finds she’s not the only houseguest. A dream-invading incubus has taken up residence, and it wants Jade’s soul. Fortunately, a flirtatious lawn-care provider has a trick or two up his sleeve for dealing with hauntings. And he has definite rebound-guy potential—if only he would stop inviting her to church.

The virginity vow Emmett “the lawn guy” Herald took when he was seventeen has become legendary in Dover, Vermont. Ten years later, everyone is waiting to see if he’ll blow a decade of “waiting for marriage” now that he’s dating the new girl from the big city. Even Emmett thinks he has met his match in the vivacious Boston beauty. In fact, he’s starting to think virginity may be overrated.

A spark of attraction ignites between Jade and Emmett, and quickly grows into a roaring inferno. But with a demon fanning the flames, attraction has never been so perilous.

Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Google Play | All Romance | Goodreads


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Spy’s Honor Takes Home a Prism Award

Fantasy Romance Author Amy Raby Wins a Prism Award!

Prism Winner BadgeFantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers is a chapter of RWA dedicated to romance that takes readers beyond the normal, beyond the expected. Every year, they hold The Prism Contest for Published Authors.

This year, Prism winners were announced in San Antonio at RWA Nationals, and I am thrilled to share that my friend and critique partner Amy Raby took home the Prism Award for Fantasy Romance with the second book in her Hearts and Thrones series, Spy’s Honor!

16072981Not only is Amy a wonderful person, but she is a marvelous writer. Some of my favorite aspects of her writing include the way she can build worlds with just a few, well-chosen words, and the way her characters balance a historic-fantasy feel while dealing with issues that feel current and relevant to women today.

If you haven’t read anything by Amy Raby yet and you love romance with action, swift pacing, unique worlds, and captivating characters, check her out!

Click the book image to buy Spy’s Honor in Kindle format at Amazon. It’s also available in print and ebook everywhere.

Amy also has an audio book out in her Hearts and Thrones series: Archer’s Sin.

Find Amy at any of these social media links and congratulate her on this well-deserved achievement!

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thanks for reading!

***If you like this post, share it using the buttons below. I hear these buttons bring good luck, so click away!***


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The $20 5-gallon-bucket Air Conditioner Saga, PART 3

air conditioner

The AC-in-a-bucket saga has come to a close.

To see why and whether the results are joyous or tragic, click over to The Romance Troupe, where I post my final AC-in-a-bucket update.

To read Part I and Part II of the AC-in-a-bucket saga, click the links. Warning: frustration-driven humor and some mild cursing.

To view a quick update that is nothing but cuteness, click here.

Thanks for reading!






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The $20 5-gallon-bucket Air Conditioner Saga, Update

Here’s the latest status of my AC-in-a-bucket project. At least it’s keeping someone cool :)


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The $20 5-gallon-bucket Air Conditioner Saga, PART 2

air conditionerMy dear friend, critique partner, and sports romance author extraordinaire, Julie Brannagh told me about this $20 air conditioner Youtube sensation because she knows how much I loathe being hot. Click HERE or on the image to see the video for yourself.

Yesterday, I blogged about my adventures at Lowes and how easily I blew my $20 project budget (PART 1). I ended the post with two materials missing from my inventory: The bucket liner and the fan.

Minus those two items, I was at $40 already, including:bucket1

-A 5-gallon bucket & lid from Lowes
-3 pieces of 1.5″ PVC piping
-2 hole saws (2 1/8″ & 2 1/4″)
-2 gal water for freezing
-A utility knife

bucket2With my 3yo son, I leave Lowes disappointed I didn’t get everything on my materials list but determined to gather up the stragglers on Amazon. Because just about everything you could possibly want is available on Amazon. I’m a Seattlite AND an Amazon Prime member. This means I can often get items delivered for free or the next business day. It’s pretty sweet.

Imagine my surprise when I log onto Amazon and find they do not carry the bucket liners shown in the video. WHAT?! How can Amazon not carry something as simple as a foam bucket liner? Especially when I KNOW other people have been looking for them because the item list that came up when I searched for “5 gallon bucket liner” included 5 gallon buckets, 6″ fans, and PVC pipe sections: the exact materials used in this DIY project.

Amazon is usually so good at reading their customers and catering to their needs. I think Amazon knows what people need before they know it themselves. Amazon is like the perfect British butler in that way.

But my digital-shopping butler let me down. No, Amazon, NOOOOOOOO!!!!! You’re missing a great opportunity here! Do you KNOW how many people are trying to build this DIY AC-in-a-bucket? Probably thousands! You could be cleaning up on bucket liners!

Okay. Enough scolding my butler. He’s usually very efficient and discrete with my secrets, and nobody’s perfect. At least I have the entire internet at my disposal.

So I do a broader search for 5 gallon bucket liners. The only place I can find them: Home Depot. (That might have been nice to know in the video…”Oh, by the way, intrepid DIY viewer, don’t attempt to find a bucket and liner anywhere but at Home Depot. They’re the only ones that make the liner you’re seeing here.” Would that have been so hard?) Furthermore, they only come in packs of 3 if bought online. For $17.91. Plus $11.50 shipping & handling.

Untitled picture


Seriously? That’s almost $30 for three bucket liners! I only need one, and I can get a foam cooler in the shape of a rectangle at my grocery store for $3.

I realize that if I want to make this project exactly as it appears in the video, I am either going to have to make the dreaded drive to Home Depot (see PART 1 for why I do NOT like driving to Home Depot) OR I will have to vastly increase the budget for this project. It was supposed to be a $20 project, but I’m already at twice that. I refuse to make it a $50 project (and that’s not even including the fan!), so I bite the bullet and drive to Home Depot.

I only need to check my iPhone once for directions as I meander the unfamiliar streets of Seattle’s SODO district: think industrial and somewhat seedy but also artsy. Fortunately, I got to stop for a looooong train, so I had plenty of time to look at my Google Map and figure out where I was going.

Once the train passed, I find Home Depot relatively easily. No wrong turns, no ending up going the wrong way on a busy down-town street. I’m wiping my brow by this point and nearly sagging with relief that I’m about to purchase a single bucket liner for a reasonable price at the only store in all creation that apparently sells them.

My mom is with me. She graciously agrees to wait in the car with the kids so this quick errand doesn’t turn into a fiasco. (Anyone with kids knows there’s no such thing as a quick stop at the store).

There’s a host at the front when I enter the store. He’s wearing glasses and a tie and looks very helpful. I ask him where the bucket liners are. I even spot a display of 5 gallon buckets and PVC pipes, and I think to myself, Yup, they’re getting a lot of DIY AC-in-a-bucket folks in here. I bet the bucket liners are right over there.

The helpful employee in a tie has NEVER HEARD OF BUCKET LINERS! He has to look up the item on his phone to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.

Another employee comes over. This one is in a smock and looks like he might know the inventory a little better than Poindexter. I ask him for the bucket liners.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that video,” he says. “We don’t carry those,” he says.

What do you mean, you don’t CARRY those?! You’re Home Depot! You’re the ONLY place that carries those, and I NEED THOSE! I HAVE KIDS IN THE CAR! I’M OVER BUDGET ON MY PROJECT! GIVE ME AN EFFING BUCKET LINER!

I don’t say any of this, though, because I’m a very sweet, rational person once the filter kicks in. What I say is, “Do you know where I can find a liner for a 5 gallon bucket?” My soul for a liner for a 5 gallon bucket!

“Nope, sorry. Good luck.”

Woodenly, I get in the car and tell my mom about the exchange with the Home Depot employees. I mean, seriously, why would they have an entire end display devoted to this AC-in-a-bucket project AND NOT HAVE THE NECESSARY BUCKET LINERS THAT ONLY THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE?!

Mom is livid on my behalf. She knows how much I didn’t want to drive to Home Depot. She knows how much I loathe being hot and how much I want to build this goshdarnmothereffing AC in a bucket.

I appreciate her support, but this doesn’t stop me from crying a little as I drive home, because not only have I wasted an hour of all our lives, but I get lost driving out of SODO and end up in Renton (don’t ask). I no longer feel like going grocery shopping, like I had planned. Instead, I cart everyone home, go online, and pay an arm and a leg for three bucket liners. I figure, I can use the additional two liners to make ACs-in-a-bucket for some friends who hate the heat as much as I do. Some people knit for their friends. I build odd DIY projects for them.

I get around the shipping cost by adding enough items to my cart to get free shipping. That’s the good news. The bad news is, I’ve already ordered a 6″ fan from Amazon. The fan is the last item I needed to complete my project. I could have used the fan to bring me up to the free shipping ceiling, but it was too late. So I buy $30 worth of storage stuff I won’t need until my kitchen remodel, which is several months away.

I have now spent $105 on my $20 AC-in-a-bucket, and I still have no AC-in-a-bucket. Why?

Because the bucket liners won’t arrive for two weeks. TWO WEEKS! I learn this after I make my purchase. Thanks, Home Depot.

“But never fear,” Home Depot tells me, “the rest of the items in your order will arrive in 4 business days.”

Awesome. I get the stuff I don’t really need and just bought to get free shipping (am I the only one that does this) lickety-split, but I have to WAIT 14 HOT, SWEATY DAYS for my bucket liners.

bucket3Thus ends part two of my saga. I am currently $85 over budget and two weeks from a completed AC-in-a-bucket.

I am filled with rage. I am apparently not a very good DIY person. Yet I refuse to give up. I will build this project, and it will be awesome.

It might be a while, but I’ll be back with more AC-in-a-bucket Saga. In two weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy these images of the little bit of progress I’ve made on what I can do without the liner:

bucket4To the left: Cut-out for fan, which I completed with the nifty new utility knife I bought.

(Home Depot, take note. I ordered this fan from Amazon on Saturday evening. It arrived Tuesday morning. That’s 3 days, 1.5, if you count only business days. Just sayin’.)

Perfect fit!

bucket5To the right: Frozen water.

So glad I’ll have these enormous jugs in my freezer for two weeks while I wait for the bucket liners to come.

Note to any spouses glimpsing the words “enormous jugs” over the shoulder of the person reading this post: I’m talking about water. Just water.

So the saga continues. I may attempt to make something work with one of those $3 coolers I mentioned I could get from the grocery store.

Thanks for reading! Do share DIY projects you’ve attempted that have not gone quite as expected.






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