Monday, August 31, 2015

Dessert or Diet? Battling your sweet tooth and staying fit by Maria K. Alexander

Please join The Roses in welcoming our guest, Maria K. Alexander.

I grew up in an Italian household where food was the center of every family gathering. Everyone brought a covered dish and/or dessert, even for a regular Sunday afternoon dinner. While this part of my childhood was memorable, it doesn’t bode well for the waistline. I’ve been diligent over the years and have worked hard to keep fit and learn the meaning of portion size and control. And if that means I have to say “no” to Aunt Carmella’s cheesecake, so be it!

Usually, that is.

I sit all day for both my day job and as a writer. So it’s important to schedule time to take care of my physical and mental health to keep the writing muse in tip-top shape. It’s not easy. When push comes to shove and I’m pressed with a deadline, fitness is the first thing to go by the wayside. Here are a few tips I work hard to maintain:
1.      Ten in ten – do ten sets of ten sit-ups. I vary the type, alternating between my upper, lower, and side abs. I try and do this first thing in the morning while my laptop is booting up and the coffee is perking. If you’re pressed for time, do five sets in the morning and another while you’re drying your hair (I love standing abs!).
2.      Exercise for at least 30-60 minutes three times per week. I’m a member of Jazzercise® and enjoy how I can dance my way fit.
3.      Join a fitness challenge. I was part of one for my day job with ten other women. We committed to working out three times a week. While I maintained my weight, I pushed myself to find more creative ways to exercise even when I couldn’t get to my class. I’ve even seen Facebook fitness challenges that can help motivate you while being social at the same time.
4.      Put down the [fill in the blank]. For me it’s chips and ice cream. The two are my worst enemy, especially when I have two growing kids and a husband who doesn’t have to worry about his waistline (and frustratingly, doesn’t crave sweets the way I do). If you have them in the house, put them way back in the pantry or freezer and put healthier foods in front. Out of sight out of mind…at least that’s the hope.
5.      Portion size. For me, trying to avoid eating something I know I shouldn’t only makes me want it more. I’ve learned to allow myself to eat smaller portions if I find I must have something. It helps satisfy my craving and prevents me from gorging on it. I also take small bites and chew slowly to savor each morsel.

Now that I’ve filled your head with tips for healthier eating and staying fit, I’m going to tempt you by telling you about my current Contemporary Romance. Forever in My Heart is a sexy contemporary romance set in the backdrop of Philadelphia. The story has a sprinkle of comedy, a dash of suspense, drool-worthy alpha males, Italian traditions, and enough decadent desserts to tempt you to head to the nearest bakery!

Vicky DiFrancesco owns the hot new café in town, and she’s up early each day to bake decadent desserts that will remind you of your grandmother’s kitchen. They’ve been known to bring even the strongest men—and women—to their knees. Jamie DiSilva is home after retiring from the army and finds himself in the middle of a mystery involving one of his late brothers. A mystery that puts the girl he left behind in danger. Now he must redeem himself to the girl he never stopped loving and protect her from danger—even if she doesn’t want his help.

Vicky may bake all day but she can kick some ass when pressed, especially when faced with a trio of goons on the trail for something they think is hidden in her café. Here’s a scene where she puts her self-defense moves to good use.

Excerpt from Forever in My Heart

No doubt her nerves were shot. She should have waited for Jamie, or at least Tristan and Lucy. Patience had never been her virtue, a trait she shared with her sister. Sometimes that caused Vicky to act before she thought about possible repercussions. She swiped at the sweat that had formed on her forehead. Hand deep in dirt, it was too late to stop now. She needed to focus and finish what she started.
By the time the area around the statue was complete, she was sweating, despite her tank top and ponytail. She stood and prepared to fill the pots she’d bought to flank each side of the bench. She heard a sound behind her and figured Father Dave must of have returned.
“I’m fine, Father. You don’t need to be…”
Her words trailed off when she came face to face with Jimmy and Snake.
Shit. Not Father Dave.
She was so screwed, she thought, and reached for the trowel.
“You think that little shovel is going to protect you, prissy girl?” Jimmy said and took a step closer to her.
“Get out of here. Father Dave is coming back to help me, and if he sees you two clowns here, he’ll call the police.”
“Oh, I’m really scared, princess. Maybe your cop brother will come here to protect you,” Jimmy taunted.
“Or maybe your boyfriend?” Snake asked.
She flicked a glance over at the taller guy. The same skinniness as Jimmy only his arms had bulk and were covered in tattoos. In combination with the bald head and pierced lip, it made Michael Riggio—aka Snake—one freaky-looking guy.
“Where’s DiSilva?” Jimmy asked.
“He’s meeting me here. Give me a break, guys. I’m planting flowers for Father Dave. I’m not bothering anyone.”
She reached in her pocket for her cell phone, frowning when she realized she’d left it in the car. Freaking great. She was on her own, unless her lie was correct and Father Dave decided to return by some miracle. Since the chance of that happening was as likely as the earth opening and sucking Jimmy and Snake into the fires of hell, Vicky was going to have to defend herself against these assholes on her own. She glanced down and found the spade she’d used earlier. Only marginally better than the trowel, she grabbed it regardless.
“You and DiSilva have been causing us a lot of problems,” Jimmy said.
“Back off. I’m not defenseless like I was the night you broke into my place, Jimmy. Only instead of Italian cream cake you’re going to get an Italian knuckle sandwich.” She hoped she sounded surer than she felt. Her fingers trembled, and she gripped the spade tighter.
Snake lunged first. She swung the spade and cracked him in the shoulder. Rather than stopping him, all it accomplished was breaking the cheap gardening tool in two.
He came at her again. Tossing aside the useless sticks, she reached out for his forearm and using all of her one hundred and twenty pounds, flipped. He landed with a thud and a cry.
The hours spent at those self-defense classes Nick had forced on her after the Sal incident all seemed worth it, now. Thank you, overprotective brother.
Grabbing the sticks again, she turned to Jimmy. “You next?”
“I’d watch my back if I were you, bitch,” Jimmy sneered.
“No, I’d watch yours.” Jamie stepped out from the shadows and wrapped Jimmy in a choke hold. “Get your scrawny ass out of here and leave my girl alone. Fuck with her and you fuck with me. Got it?” he growled before shoving him to the ground.
Vicky had never seen Jamie quite so angry. She wasn’t sure if it scared or aroused her.
Jimmy and Snake both scrambled to their feet and took off. With Sal’s goons gone, Jamie fixed his gaze on her. Based on the fierce expression on his face, Vicky had more to worry about facing him than the two pathetic creatures who just crawled away.

You can buy Forever in My Heart at:
Google Play:
The Wild Rose Press:

About the Author

Maria K. Alexander is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. When not writing, Maria loves to read, bake, downhill ski, visit the beach, and watch romantic comedies. Maria lives in New Jersey with her husband and children, and writes in her “spare” time between juggling a full-time job and her kids’ busy schedules. You can keep in touch with Maria and read about her other works at

Sunday, August 30, 2015

End of Summer by Diane Burton

The end of August reminds me that summer is ending. Kids will go back (or start) school in another week. Here in Michigan, it’s the law—I’m not kidding—that schools cannot start until after Labor Day. Tourism might suffer. My granddaughter is anxiously looking forward to starting third grade, while my grandson is just anxious. After five years of daycare and preschool, he starts kindergarten. My daughter is singing “Halleluia” that both kids are now in the same school.

I remember when my life revolved around the school year. First as a student, then as a teacher, and finally as a parent. What a relief when both kids were on their own so Hubs and I could take vacations whenever we wanted. I love traveling in the fall. The colors are phenomenal and well worth trips Up North.

When we moved to our new house almost two years ago, it was to be close to our grandkids. This summer, we've seen more of them than ever. Daylong visits and overnights, together and sometimes separately. Hubs let grandson help build an HO model train car. Bo-ring, according to g'son. This from the kid who assembled a Lego Death Star that had a 92-page instruction manual. Building a birdhouse to take home was more fun. I'm teaching g'daughter to sew clothes for her American Girl doll. At least it isn't a Barbie. I don't know how my mom had the patience to sew Barbie clothes for my sister. 

Besides all the visits from the kiddies (planned and impromptu), it's been a busy summer. Busy but enjoyable. I’m glad August is almost over. We started the month preparing for a visit from the Arizona contingency (son, his wife, & their precious new daughter). My daughter and I (mostly her) made sure they had everything they needed for an infant but didn’t have to bring on an airplane. Their visit was great. First time all the grandkids were together. I loved it! 

After a week, we all decided the visit was too short. Too bad they needed to get back to their jobs.

On the writing front, I had two week-long blog tours set up by Novel Book Tours for The Protector and The Case of the Bygone Brother. I learned the hard way never to do back-to-back tours. Especially when trying to get another book ready for my editor. As soon as it goes off (supposed to have it to her tomorrow), I have to work on my short story for this year’s Roses of Prose Holiday Stories. This will be my third year. I’ve really enjoyed writing short, which is difficult for someone whose books normally run over 100k words. Challenging but fun.

I think I need a break. LOL A trip to Traverse City sounds great.

How about you? Has your summer been laid back or crazy busy?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Non-Writing Weekend Bracketed by Two Aletas

by Betsy Ashton

Duane, Aleta, me and Terry
Aleta is a fairly rare name. To have two Aletas in the same family is rarer yet. And both were named after Princess Aleta in the old Prince Valiant comic strip.

The first Aleta in our long weekend away is my cousin who lives in Burlington, VT with her significant other, Duane. Her mother, who was like my second mother and for whom I am named, loved the comic strip. Our selfie is the fearless foursome at the Saratoga Race Track, a place we like to meet once a year if possible. Aleta and Duane are both in health care, she a psychologist, he a psych nurse.

We don't get together more than twice a year, but each time it's like we just ended one sentence and started another, with months in between. 

Our road trip took us from Southwest Virginia through Maryland, Pennsylvania and finally into New York. We ended in Albany where we spent three nights. Aleta and Duane drove from Burlington to Albany. Their drive was a wee bit shorter, about three hours to our twelve. We backtracked a few miles to Saratoga for two days of racing. None of us did very well, but we didn't care. We had wonderful conversations about mental health, politics, the color of grass, writing, and playing the bagpipes. Duane is in a pipe band up in Burlington. In fact, they left after dinner on Friday because Duane had Scottish games on Saturday.

The other Aleta is my husband's daughter. He too loved Prince Valiant. Who could have guessed I'd find a man with a daughter named Aleta?

Aleta and her husband live in a small town in Orange County, New York, about an hour and a half south and west of Albany, where she is an event planner and her husband puts bad people in jail. Seeing them is terrific, but seeing our only grandsons may be even better. Howie is four with an adult-sized vocabulary, especially about trucks, planes and trains. He loves his PopPop and dominates his time. John Callan is two and is into grandfathers rather than grandmothers. Just the right age for male bonding. I don't mind. I get plenty of time, including bedtime, where I read stories to Howie to calm him down enough to sleep. PopPop/Terry ended up with bathtime. 'nuff said.
Cal, Aleta and Howie

Much as we hated to leave on Monday, we did have to get back to work. I left my novel at home, because I was stuck on how to make the last movement work smoothly. Hours of listening to two suspense novels and plenty of windshield time unlocked the ending. I've always known how it ends but I didn't know how much of the draft had to be rewritten and trimmed. I have my shears out for trimming and the delete key at the ready. 

 That was my summer vacation, lovely weekend with the two Aletas. Can't wait for December when we all get together again for the "Tween the Holidays" party.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I've taken this year off from publishing, but not from writing. I wrote 2 books earlier this year, and I'm deep into writing another one and will finish it soon.

When I quit focusing on publishing and focused on writing, I re-discovered how much I enjoyed writing again. The book I'm working is one I may or may not ever submit to a publisher, but it's made me realize how much I enjoy writing.

I always enjoyed writing my published books, but there's a certain freedom in writing a book that may not ever go beyond your keyboard. The gratification is in the writing, not the eventual 'product'.

I'll start looking for a publisher for my mystery series later this fall, but for now, I'm just enjoying the break. After all, isn't that what summer is for -- a nice vacation from 'normal'?


Monday, August 24, 2015

The Joy and The Pain by Brenda Whiteside

The last two weeks have been a flurry of activity that's left me exhausted with my back in pain. I've had back probs all my life, but have been able to keep it in check with proper exercise. So I blew it. Not taking the time to exercise and the stress of juggling too many things hit me hard. I've got multiple writing projects going, and farmer Lance has been off the farm, which means I fill in as best I can. The orchard surprised me this week. We actually have some fruit this year. All but one of the apple trees has fruit...some only a couple but that's something. The pear tree is producing. And the big story is the plum tree with ONE
plum. LOL But it's a pretty thing.

Garlic before cleaning
We've also started the process of trimming, cleaning and boxing the garlic for market. Right now we have two wholesalers looking at our offerings. Hopefully, in about ten days we will be 2,000 pounds lighter of garlic.
Cleaned and boxed

This morning, my husband and I are off to Tucson to stay in a resort for two days, compliments of my son and DIL as a birthday gift. I'm hoping this forced relaxation will be what my back needs and I can avoid the doctor!

Brenda spends most of her time writing stories of discovery and love entangled with suspense. The rest of her time is spent tending vegetables on the small family farm she shares with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Together, they’ve embraced an age-old lifestyle that has been mostly lost in the United States - multiple generations living under one roof, who share the workload, follow their individual dreams and reap the benefits of combined talents.

Weeding the zucchini