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


Unknown said...

Thanks for hosting me today. I'd love to hear your tips for staying fit.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Conscious exercise is a must for everyone and especially writers. We get so wrapped up in our task, hours can pass and we haven't moved. In addition to walking everyday, I have my phone alarm set to go off once in the morning and once in the afternoon. That's my cue to get up off my butt and do my squat routine or take a short walk. Great post, Maria. I enjoyed the excerpt too!

Jannine Gallant said...

Excellent advice! I hike in the woods with my dog every day to stay in...uh...some kind of shape. I've always been reasonably thin, but after I hit 50, I seem to have slowly gained 10+ pounds. None of my eating or exercise habits have changed, so I'm afraid it's a side affect of that certain mid-life event... Ugh. I need to work on portion control. Sigh. Best of luck with book sales!

Rolynn Anderson said...

The Roses welcome you, Marie. Thanks for the reminder about fitness...our brains work better when we're healthy, that's for sure. I agree with Jannine. What I used to do to keep my weight down doesn't work anymore. I'll have to step up the exercise in order to eat normally! My husband has it worse than I do...but we're both way to desk-bound and must change that. Congrats on your contemporary and happy sales to you!

Unknown said...

Look at you go with all your exercise and stay fit tips! I'm in the need of motivation, and this came at the perfect time. I try to avoid carbs as much as possible, because I have learned they are my downfall. Other than that, I'm always trying to carve out time for exercise, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside to writing time. Congratulations on Forever In MY Heart. I love Vicky and Jamie! :)

Nancy Herkness said...

That's all excellent advice. Now if I could just follow it...sigh. Seriously, I love Jazzercise too; it's both fun and a great way to keep fit.Great post, Maria!

Unknown said...

Thanks for all the comments. For me, exercise needs to be fun, which is why I love Jazzercise and HATE running. But I do enjoy walking. So I fill in with walking when it's nice out. I also have a collection of exercise DVDs and have been known to On Demand shows as well. And carbs are a terrible downfall of mine, too. But sadly, I dislike many vegetables and love way too many forms of pasta, pizza, and dessert. I love the suggestion of setting a timer. I'm going to try that. No matter how insignificant, just doing one small thing will help keep your muscles working and ease the tension of being hunched over a keyboard many hours a day.

Leah St. James said...

Sorry I'm late to the conversation, Maria! It is great advice. And your eating challenges sound just like mine, except that I was overweight most of my adult life until about 6 or 7 years ago when I got so disgusted with myself, I joined Weight Watchers. That did teach me portion control. (Now I think back to the huge portions I was feeding myself and cringe!) I also learned to stock my kitchen with plenty of healthy snacking foods--like grape tomatoes instead of a cookie. The sad part is that healthy foods, like fresh veggies, are so much more expensive than junk food. Exercise? I applaud your variety! I work at a "paycheck job" outside my home all day, so I do 30 minutes of a low impact DVD each morning. It varies the concentration area from day to day, so hopefully I'm getting a well-rounded routine.

Your story sounds fantastic. Best of luck with it!

Diane Burton said...

Thanks for your tips, Marie. I like the one about doing a set of exercises while waiting for the coffee to brew. Great multi-tasking. If I tried to blow-dry my hair and exercise, I'd probably fall over. :)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Another one late to arrive, sorry. Welcome, Maria, enjoyed your excerpt. Several years ago I took a self defense class and, amazingly, still retain much of what I learned. Thanks for the tips on weight and exercise. I'm like Brenda. I need to be reminded to get up and move. Good idea to multi-task exercise, not sure I'm coordinated enough for it though.

Unknown said...

Hi Leigh, I'm also a long-time "Lifetime" Weight Watchers member and have found their program my lifeline for staying on track.

Margo, self defense class sounds wonderful. It's on my list of things to do. I'm glad you like the excerpt. Thanks!