Thursday, January 9, 2014

Find a Beauty Routine that Works for You

Recently, Martha Stewart shared her beauty routine with the New York Times. And I have to admit that at 72 years old she is still looking pretty put together.  And some might say it is easy for her because she has all the money in the world to spend on lotions and potions.  Not many of us have
hundreds of dollars to spend on cosmetics and spa services. Right?
With Groupon (my personal secret) professional facial can is now within reach of many women. I've fount their deals to a great way to find facials and other personal care treats. I can't to treat myself often but Groupon has made the occasional splurge possible.
But I was rather surprised as I started to look at the products Martha mentioned that most of them were not super expensive. Oh, there was the odd hundred dollar an ounce facial mask or lotion but many of them were moderately priced. The Mario Badescu line was priced between $8 and $35 dollars. Even that maybe too pricey for some and personally I am not beyond shopping the dollar store or discount store. T.J.Max and Marshalls are another my secrets for finding luxury products at great price.
Even if our beauty product shopping is limited to aisles of Walmart, Target and the grocery store there are still are things we can take away from the article on Martha’s beauty routine.
·       Its okay to mix and match products. Not everything has to be from the same line. If you like a moisturizer from one manufacturer and cleanser from another use them.

·       Avoid sun exposure, wear sunscreen and a hat.  The sun will age you quickly and increase your risk of skin cancer

·       Don’t go to bed with your make up on. Martha uses baby oil to remove her make up but many of those contain mineral. I prefer using coconut oil or olive oil both found in the grocery store. I also like CeraVe and Cetephil  a big bottle is only about $16.  Cleanse your skin before bed to help avoid clogged pores.

·       Don’t go out with putting something on your face. Just a little moisturizer, lip gloss and mascara and it won’t matter who you see or who sees you.
Most importantly Martha teaches us to have a routine that works for us and to follow it. Whether you are spending hundreds on high end products, shopping at the drug store or the dollar store find products that work for you and use them regularly. No product works unless you actually use it. 

signature-MarieEffective and reasonably priced

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Author Interview: Sarah Woodbury

One of my favorite independent authors is Sarah Woodbury. Sarah has written 16 books.  Her After Cilmeri series focuses on a family of time travelers who are transported to medieval Wales. The Fallen Princess, the fifth book in her Gwen and Gareth Medieval Mysteries Series is available for pre-order and scheduled for release in just a few days. 
Sarah graciously agreed to an interview her.
Sarah, I am always interested in the writing process of authors and you’re one of my favorite independent authors.  You are, also, one of the most prolific writers I have come across. You’ve published 13 novels and two novellas, and keep a very active blog. Where do you get your ideas and how do you keep track of them?
Hi Marie!  It’s great to talk to you!

<a href=""><img border="0" src="" ></a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />Those are two very different questions, actually. I have no shortage of ideas. In fact, my trouble is not having time to create novels out of all my ideas. I have dozens of stories, from 8 pages to 80, on my laptop. Some stories didn’t pan out once I started writing them. Some I just haven’t finished because other projects are more pressing. As to the story ideas for series I am currently working on, often the seed of it comes to me in a flash, after which I scribble ideas madly into a notebook until I have a basic outline. Often, I’ll work through some basic plot points with my husband or son (both very logical thinkers) before I start writing.

The aforementioned notebook is where I keep track of my ideas and the plots for my novels. It’s somewhat odd, since I type everything else I do, but somehow notebooks work better, both for a work-in-progress, and for future ideas. It’s where I create lists of character names, birthdays, and important plot points that are hard to retain from one year to the next and from one novel to the next. 

 Some writers consider themselves organic writers, “pantsters,” if you will. Other writers create a detailed outline.  Once you have your idea for a novel or story, how do you develop idea?

 I started out as a ‘pantster’ and thought that those magic moments of discovery would disappear if I outlined. What I found as I wrote more and more books, however, is that the magic still happens, just in a narrower field. I have a general outline, usually about four pages of notes. At the same time, I feel as if a detailed outline, like I might do for a non-fiction work, would sap the creativity and fun out of writing for me.

What are your writing habits?

I write every day, and by that I mean 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with time off only for holidays that I can’t get out of. I write on vacation because writing is what I do for fun! It does require discipline, but the habit of writing 1000 words a day is something I value for myself. I am not always adding new words. During the editing process, I focus on getting through chapters instead of producing more words. Either way, it’s something I do every day. Keep in mind, however, that being an independent writer includes far more than just writing. Marketing, networking, formatting, beta-reading fellow writer’s books, and keeping up with social media are part of the job too.

Have you ever experienced a time when you felt like your writing was stalled? If so, what did you do to get past that “block?” If not, to what to you attribute your steady flow of creativity.

Until I was in my thirties, I routinely would say that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. And I meant it. This attitude, I think, came about in large part because I’d spent my entire life in school and had done very well at conforming to the school agenda. Creativity, however, isn’t about conforming, or following procedure or a step-by-step system. It’s about running a bit wild inside your head and taking risks, and it took until I was in my middle thirties before I’d sloughed off my years of schooling enough to do that.

I think it’s also important to point out that while the creative juices need to be flowing, writing really continues to be the best job in the world and I know it. What could be better than to be paid to sit around and make stuff up? It’s a job, but it’s one I have actively chosen. 

That’s not to say that I’ve never had a bit of writer’s block. After I wrote my second book, Footsteps in Time, I spent a year submitting it to agents while revising it at the same time. It took exactly a year for my first agent to take me on, and it was like I was freed, finally, to write again. Having experienced that once, I feel like I am able to recognize those moments when whatever I’m writing isn’t ‘working’. If that happens, I try to find people to brainstorm ideas with in order to get me unstuck, or if that doesn’t work, I put that work aside and move on to something else. My readers will notice that I haven’t written the sequel to either Cold My Heart or The Pendragon’s Quest. I am ‘stuck’ with both series and thus have not gone back to them. In this, I’m not referring to those days when I sit down to write and find that producing 1000 words is like pulling teeth. Those days happen to every writer, and to get through them, I do just have to stay in the chair until I get unstuck. I do hope to write those books someday, but I can’t force it if it isn’t coming.

 Who has had the most influence you as a writer?

 My dad and my husband. My dad taught me to write and always loved to read what I had written. Once I started writing fiction, he was at first afraid to read it in case he didn’t like it, but once he did read it, he became my most ardent supporter and fan. Sadly, he died two years ago, just at the time my books really started selling. I would have loved to be able to share my success with him now.

My husband encouraged me in my writing from the start. After I’d written my first few books but was lamenting my inability to find a publisher, he would shrug off my concerns and say, “give it five years and then see.” I interpreted that to mean, “give it five years and see if you still haven’t sold anything,” but he meant “and see if you still love it.” I did, and do!

 The Fallen Princess, your fifth Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mystery is now available for pre-order.  So what’s your next project?

I started writing the next book in the After Cilmeri series the day after I sent off The Fallen Princess to my first beta reader. At the moment, I am working on both books simultaneously, and plan to continue to do so until The Fallen Princess releases on January 21, 2014. 

More about Sarah Woodbury:

With two historian parents, Sarah couldn't help but develop an interest in the past. She went on to get more than enough education herself (in anthropology) and began writing fiction when the stories in her head overflowed and demanded she let them out.  While her ancestry is Welsh, she only visited Wales for the first time while in college.  She has been in love with the country, language, and people ever since. She even convinced her husband to give all four of their children Welsh names.  She makes her home in Oregon.

Visit Sarah  for more about her books and medieval Wales at
I hope you'll give her books a try and find her stories as delightful as I do.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Little Flash Fiction.

I've tried my hand a few times at flash fiction. As an exercise it keeps you concise and your writing tight. This is a piece I wrote a while back. Gives us yet another reason to not eat fast food.

Irrational Fear

I’ve heard stories about people who’d been dropped on their head, but the only person I’ve ever known who it happened to was my brother, Daniel. We were in Mickey D’s with our parents. Dad
picked up three year old Danny from one of their high chairs and dropped him – right on his head. Danny was never the same          

The very sight of a red container of French Fries set him off into a screaming fit. By the time he was ten, we had to cover his head every time we drove past the golden arches. At sixteen, his therapist decided the best treatment would be for him to confront his irrational fear.  Danny took an after school job as the griller at the local burger joint.  One day, the police came and arrested him. The therapy worked; the doctor’s say he’s the sanest serial killer on death row.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Vacation Withdrawl

We spent a full week in our favorite vacation spot – Williamsburg, Va. If you haven’t been there Williamsburg does a pretty good job of recreating an 18th century town and life. It is pretty much the closest I expect get to time travel.  And best of all it is time travel with all the amenities of 21st

century life like plumbing, electricity and room service.

I’ve been suffering from a touch of “vacation lag”—that is kind of like jet lag only you don’t have to go as far.  All you have to do is to have few days off and too much fun. I am having a hard time getting back into the swing of things like writing regularly, eating healthy and doing laundry.
I recently read that it can take up to 288 days to develop a habit. A daunting idea. But Mary Popova concludes that “habit, like genius, is merely a matter of doggedness and “deliberate practice.
What a shame that good habits are so hard to build and so easily laid aside.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year; New Challenge

I’ve written a journal for years, so what could be so hard about having a blog? Nothing but an on-line journal. Right? Well not quite. Unlike a journal, a blog is written for others to read. That means the content has to be something other than just my inner musings but something that people will want to read.

I started this blog a few weeks ago and have now committed to the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Thirty-one of daily blog content beginning today, January 1, 2014.  A new challenge for a new year. My New Year’s Un-resolution.

Never being one for making resolutions, I’ve always felt the start of New Year is terrible time to start anything. Most “resolutions” fall by the way in a few weeks so how is a challenge different. It feels different to me in that I am using a small brush and making a small start. Thirty one days, after all, is not a year.

But a month is long enough to build a daily habit of having a time and a place to write.  And if writing a blog is not like writing a journal, it also not writing a novel. A blog is one page, a short missive and permission to stop and the end of that.

I start this New Year with new challenge – to write one page each day for 31 days and I expect you to hold me to it.

Wishing you a joyous New Year.

Images courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Writer's Gift Guide

With Christmas a week away I thought I would make a gift giving list for all the writers in your life.
.First on my list of great gifts for writer is an Oberon Designs journal cover.   Writers are notorious for  always having a note book on their person.  My Moleskine fits snugly in the cover and the leather has become softer with use. Oberon has wonderful things for non-writers, too. Hand tooled tablet, e-reader covers and leather accessories suitable for men and women are available in a variety of colors.
Consider giving your favorite writer a pair of fingerless gloves to keep the hands and wrist warm while leaving the fingers free to type.  Styles range from wooly Bob Cratchit's to lacey elegance. Fingerless gloves are also great for smart phone and tablet users.  These from Three Bird Nest split the difference with lace and warmth.

Most writers have shelves of grammar books and guides but Writer's Market is fresh every year. Pick up the writer on your list of the 2014 Writer's Market. Specialized guides are available for the poet, free lancer, children's writer or what ever kind of writer you have in your life.

The ultimate Writer's gadget on my list is the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. The Surface has one of the most comfortable keyboards I've ever used. I love the touch screen. Best of all it runs MS Word like a desktop.

Of course nothing goes together like writers and coffee (except maybe peanut butter and jelly) making a coffee shop gift card a perfect gift for a writer. One BIG name in coffee shops has gift cards readily available but I like to support small local businesses whenever I can. Of course, writers need something cool to carry their gift cards, and a pen. I recommend Robin Pedrero's artsy dollar pouches from her Etsy shop.. They are just small enough to stash in your tote bag.

Finally, in my opinion, every writer needs a talisman, some physical artifact that reminds them to keep writing. My personal favorite is this magnetic locket by Polarity. The locket comes with three interchangeable lid to suit your mood. My choice is the reminder to "write what interests you." Good advice. Inside is just enough space to tuck a few writing prompts if they get stuck.

That's my short list. Have a wonderful Holiday.  I'll be back after the big day. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Outside the Lines

I had lunch with a friend and her 6 year old daughter, Madeline, the other day. Her daughter was coloring while we chatted. After a few minutes she held out her work to show us and the realization came to me that Madeline had learned to color inside the lines.

Her early artistic endeavors were chaotic scrawls of color, lines and squiggles that ignored the boundaries of propriety. Seeing them had made me uncomfortable somehow as if the flowers, dragons and princess she sought to embellish were disrespected by an unruly mass of pigmented wax.

I gave Madeline the praise she deserved for taking an important step in the development of her hand and eye coordination. Yet, I was sad, too, because something had been important left behind.

There is an instant in each of our lives, a watershed flash, when we learn to color inside the lines. We learn to conform, to follow rules, to fit into a frame work that keep things comfortable and safe. But with that some shred of our true genius is scrubbed away. A vestige of brilliance is left in a heap at the roadside.  A wild chaos is brought to heel.

Most of our lives are spent learning to follow rules, be they etiquette, or grammar, or just trying to stay within the lines. As adult the most self-aware of us struggle to get that element of chaos back. We learn anew to break rules and let go of that queasiness that comes with wearing white after Labor Day or mixing our metaphors.

I’m not suggesting we go crazy and start driving the wrong way down one way streets. But a little non-conformity is good for the spirit. Rebelliousness takes a different form for everyone—for the writer in me, unconventionality means using an em dash instead of more lady like punctuation. The dash is a bold interruption our sequence of thought. Or maybe you’ll find me wearing a pink cloche on a winter’s day—no one wears hats anymore.

So go ahead and color outside the lines. You have my permission.