Friday, March 11, 2011

The Wide, Wide World

It’s my pleasure to have debut author, Liz Michalski, visiting with us Over Coffee. According to Liz, in her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and over sized show dogs. These days she chases after small children and a medium-sized mutt.

Anyone who has wrangled “oversized” show dogs, even a medium sized mutt, is okay with me. I wonder how she does with Great Danes? Oh, wait, she’s wrangled horses too, so she’s already been trained. I plan on calling her the next time I have to give a bath to my pack, lol!

 Liz is a wife, mom, critter owner, and freelance writer and has written hundreds of articles. If that's not enough to make your head spin she has now embarked on a career as an author. Her book is set in rural Connecticut with dogs and cats, a bit of heartbreak, love, and a ghost.

Liz is very familiar with sitting in front of a computer screen for hours. She shares how she balances the butt in the chair times with things that recharge and refresh her for yet more work.

Most days I worship at the altar of the electronic god. I sit, glued to my laptop, waiting for the next e-mail to come in, typing out a few pages of my manuscript, surfing the internet to see what my fellow writers are doing. I bathe in the glow of the screen from early morning until late at night. Of course, I do other things: I make breakfast, do housework, read, feed the dog, volunteer, visit with family and friends. But because I'm a writer who works at home, the computer has somehow taken on a central importance. It has become my boss, my colleague, my electronic water cooler all in one.

I live in New England, and it's been a long, cold winter this year. In some places, the snow drifts in my neighborhood are well over my head. (Granted, I'm only 5'2, but still.) The computer has served as a particular life line this year, my portal to the outside world when the view outside my window is unyielding white.

But still.

Too much time in front of the screen makes me feel vaguely claustrophobic, as if this World Wide Web is actually shrinking my domain. I know others feel the same -- I've read about resolutions to cut down on screen time this year, to use software to lock out the internet so real work can get done, to banish the computer to another room for a time out.

For me, these strategies aren't enough. To counteract the computer's spell, I need time outside, in the real world. So at least twice a week I bundle up and head for a hiking trail. I take the dog and sometimes a friend and tromp through the snow, which oftentimes has come up over my knees. (I keep meaning to invest in snowshoes....) Because my chances to do this are limited, I go no matter what the weather. In snowstorms, it's often so quiet I can hear the hiss of the snow as it falls against my jacket. Last week, it was freezing rain, and I debated staying home, but the dog looked so woe-begotten I pulled up my hood and we set off. Deep on the trail, the rain fell more softly, blocked by the trees. It was both a peaceful and a strenuous walk and when I'd finished I was glad I'd gone.

I've seen deer on these hikes, rabbits, even an owl, perched at the top of the tree like a lump of wood. He turned his head a few times, blinked sleepily, then closed his eyes against the racket we were making. I've seen the dog bounding in snow so deep it looked as if he were swimming. I've had thoughtful conversations with friends about the lives we live now and the lives we once imagined, about our families and our dreams and goals, conversations that would be impossible in e-mails or IMs. Mostly, though, I've listened to the silence and appreciated the view around me. On my favorite walk, there's a bend where the pine trees tower overhead like the ceiling on a cathedral. The path turns sharply, so you can't see what's ahead or much of what's behind. There's only this space, so small but yet so immense at the same time, and each time I come across it I stand still for a moment and try to impress it upon my memory so that when I'm back in front of the computer I can recall it and remind myself that the world really is wider than my 15-inch monitor.

  • How do you recharge after spending time in front of the computer?  

Buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books.a.MillionBorders, Indiebound 
That's what they say in Hartman, Connecticut, where the Murphy women are known for their beauty, willfulness, and disastrous luck with men. No one knows the truth of this saying better than Frank Wildermuth. Fifty years ago, he fell in love with Gert Murphy, but through fate and bad timing wound up married to her sister. He spent the rest of his life quietly regretting his mistake. Now Frank's dead -- but not quite gone—and it's time to do some haunting of his own.

All Andie Murphy ever wanted was to get out of town. But she’s back to settle Evenfall, her Uncle Frank’s estate, where some things never change -- and some things have changed a lot. Aunt Gert, for example, still drives her crazy. On the other hand, Cort, the wide-eyed farmboy she used to babysit, is all grown up -- with a whole new definition for the word sleepover.

But if you're a Murphy woman, love never goes smoothly. As Andie struggles with her feelings, Frank sees a chance for redemption -- one that could cost his niece dearly. They'll both need to decide --

Is true love really everlasting? Is home just an address, or a place you carry in your heart? And if you truly regret your mistakes, can the long-buried dreams of your youth come alive again? Excerpt 

She's been a reporter, an editor, a freelance writer, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and private corporations.

In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and over sized show dogs. These days she chases after small children and a medium-sized mutt.

She likes dark chocolate caramels, champagne, and licorice tea (preferably not all served at once). In summer you'll find her visiting farmers' markets and trying to talk her family out of making her swim at the Connecticut shore.

The rest of the year she's home in Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and son, hard at work on her next novel.

You can find Liz: WebsiteFacebook, and Goodreads

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to Keep Fit without Leaving the Flat

My guest is romance author, Talli Roland. She hails from London, UK. She can be a bit of a cheeky monkey—I got to say I love that about her!

Talli is also one of my favorite blogging buddies. As I've gotten to know her, it's easy to see this English beauty is as lovely inside as she is on the outside. I do love to see what she’s up to and her take on normal every day things. Talli has a way of making me laugh and those are special people for me. Her sense of humor is fun and bit tongue in cheek, as you’ll see with her article below.


As a full-time writer, I’m lucky that I don’t need to go out to work – or brush my hair, get dressed, and endure getting up close and personal with someone’s armpit on the Tube. No, I can roll right out of bed, throw on my fluffy slippers and robe, and head straight to my desk for another day within the heady proximity of the fridge. The only downside to this Nirvana? The threat of an ever-expanding butt.

To combat this, I’ve developed a handy set of exercises for writers. No need to embrace the great outdoors – or even get off your chair! Now, you too can have the svelte frame of a commuter, without the commute! Are you ready? Here we go!

The five-fingered salute. Every so often, lift your fingers from the keyboard and make a fist. Open and close your digits several times in quick succession. This is even better when performed near a window in proximity of passers-by to encourage social interaction.

March like you mean it. The ideal exercise to release any frustration when your characters just don’t behave. Sitting on a chair, lift one knee in the air and bring your foot down firmly on the ground, then do the same with your other knee. Repeat for five minutes – or as long as your downstairs neighbours will allow. When you’re finished, you won’t care anymore about your characters’ misdemeanors. You’ll only care about impending repairs needed to the floorboards.

The burning butt-clench. Designed to encourage circulation after long periods of sitting, this exercise has the added benefit of making anyone around you question your need for the loo. Sitting comfortably, lift one buttock off the chair, and clench the cheek that’s touching the surface. Hold for twenty seconds, then repeat with the other butt cheek. You should feel a burning desire never to do this exercise again.

The navel gaze. Tilt your head slowly downwards until your chin touches your chest. Hold for thirty minutes – or until you drift off. This position allows observers to believe you’re engaged in deep thought, while elongating your neck muscles. Repeat until observers get bored and depart.

So there you have it! My tried and true methods to maintaining your shape while keeping your manuscript moving ahead!

The Hating Game

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy.

After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes.
Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end.

Who will win The Hating Game? Excerpt

Talli lives in London, UK, where she savours the great cultural life (shopping and cupcakes).

When not hunched over the keyboard or staring out the window, she drinks coffee.

Talli Roland’s debut novel The Hating Game is available in paperback today (it's selling fast), and is also available as an e-book. The Hating Game is her first novel.
You can find Talli at her blog, and follow her on Twitter. She can also be found Facebook and Goodreads.