B.R.A.G. Medallion for “Bluff”

Bluff with BRAG stickerI’m super pleased to announce that the detective novel Bluff, which features your truly, was recently awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion!

The B.R.A.G. Medallion website is operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a private organization consisting of a large group of readers located throughout the United States and in ten other countries. B.R.A.G. stands for Book Readers Appreciation Group, and “indie” refers to self- or independently-published. IndieBRAG’s mission is to “discover new and talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves.”

According to their website, all ebooks brought to the attention of indieBRAG, LLC are subjected to a rigorous selection process. There is an initial screening to ensure that the work meets certain minimum standards of quality and content. If it passes this preliminary assessment, it is then read by members drawn from their global reader group. They judge the book on a comprehensive list of criteria, including

-writing style
-copy editing
-cover and interior layout.

One final factor is whether or not they would recommend it to their best friend.

On average, only 10% of the books they consider are awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion and  presented on their website. So if you want to support independently published authors and be assured of getting a quality publication, check out the BRAG site for your next read.

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Out with the Bad in the New Year

I found the perfect activity to prepare for the new year – purging my kitchen of unhealthy food.

Sugar Dish

Sugar Dish (Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass)

I accidentally stumbled upon this the other day when I was getting some herbal tea from the cupboard. There, in the back of the same shelf, sat an old jar of Nestea ice tea mix (the powdered kind), proudly proclaiming “with NutraSweet” on the front label. Ugh! NutraSweet. 😛 I gave up artificial sweeteners many years ago, so I could only imagine how long that thing had been around.

Now, I’m not one to waste, so my first thought was to bring it in to work, since I know there are others who do not adhere to my rigid dietary standards. But then I told myself no one should be using artificial sweeteners (stevia is a great no-cal, natural alternative), so I dumped out the contents and rinsed and recycled the jar. There. Now there was more room for real tea.

Later that day I reached for something in my fridge and noticed an unfamiliar bottle in the door, behind some other things. I pulled it out and found a very weird product that I must have thought sounded like a good idea at one point in my life. In fact, it’s so weird I don’t even know what to call it, other than “flavoring.” You’re supposed to add it to a glass of milk (hot or cold) to create a coffee shop beverage. Why not just make a pot or cup of coffee? This odd product didn’t have a single natural ingredient in it, so out it went, down the drain.

That felt so good that I opened the refrigerator again to see what else I could find. I had just been planning how I would clean up my diet in January, after months of holiday overeating. This was a great start.

Aha! There, behind the extra virgin olive oil, sat a bottle of spicy brown mustard. Now, mustard is fine, but this bottle expired back in 2006. And the scary part was, it looked and smelled perfectly fine. I can only imagine how many preservatives were in that thing.

Out it went, too. This process continued and spread to other areas of my house: the medicine cabinet, my closet, my spice cabinet. The great part is, you don’t have to set aside a large amount of time to do it. While you’re waiting for a friend to arrive or water to boil, you can open a random cupboard and see what old, moldy items might be lurking there. Then toss them while you’re feeling strong, and you won’t be tempted  to use them sometime when you just need a little mustard on your sandwich.

Out with the old and in with the new! A happy, healthy new year to one and all.

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Holiday Furlough Poem

When the federal government shut down on October 1, I blogged about it. Now I’d like to share a holiday poem with you, recalling those furlough days. It was written by Susan (this website’s creator) for a Christmas party she attended this weekend on Capitol Hill. The party had a furlough theme, and the guests were asked to create a furlough song or holiday poem to share at the party.

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Twas the night before shutdown and all through the House

Not a staffer was happy – and man, did they grouse!
The House pushed the Senate as far as they’d dare
In hopes of abolishing Obamacare.
Republicans, with all the words they could muster,
Had just settled in for a long filibuster
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Security ran to see what was the matter.
And what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a big honkin’ sleigh and eight hairy reindeer
With a little old driver so chubby and cute
That several folks there were reminded of Newt.
He pushed past the guards and went in the front door;
He strode to their chambers and then took the floor.
“You’ll all ruin Christmas…and Hanukah, too
“If you don’t pass a budget before this night is through.
“Thousands the federal government employs
“Won’t have any money to buy their kids toys.
“So stop all your fighting or this I will vow:
“Each one of your names will come off my list NOW!”
With panic and fear on each congressman’s face
Back to the drawing board they did race.
The level of teamwork was never so high;
The budget they drafted passed on the first try.
When Congress is naughty, just take my advice
And call Santa Claus to get them to play nice.
I tell you this story so all will now know
How we could have avoided a shutdown furlough.
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Try a News Fast

A great way to reduce unnecessary stress in your life is to go on a news fast. I learned this tip years ago from Dr. Andrew Weil. A news fast is when you avoid watching or reading the news for a few days or longer. I started with a week and eventually gave it up completely!


News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve probably noticed how negative the news is. Other than the birth of the royal baby, can you remember a big, positive news story in the last 6 months? TV news shows and newspapers bring negativity from all around the world and dump it in your lap. Who needs extra sadness and fear in their lives?

Afraid of missing something? Someone will let you know if something huge is happening that you need to know about. Even when something I don’t need to know about is going on, I can’t seem to stop people from telling me all the sordid details.

Here are some factoids from Dr. Weil’s website:

  • Local and national network news have increased their emphasis on crime, even as U.S. crime rates continue to decline. This is particularly true of local news.
  • Studies show that violence, death and other negative images can provoke changes in mood and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression.
  • Feelings of depression and sadness can lead to a negative view of your own life. Perceiving the world as violent, unsafe and hostile can have negative effects on your body, as well.

I think it would be great if someone would publish an all-positive-news newspaper. How uplifting that would be!

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Coping with the Furlough

Yesterday was the start of a new fiscal year, and as I’m sure you know, the U.S. government shut down for lack of an approved budget. I live in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and many of my friends and clients are now “furloughed.” This means they cannot report to work and they don’t get paid. No one knows how long this situation will last.

I have seen two opposite reactions to the news: a lot of people are very distressed, angry at Congress, and fearful of how they will pay their bills; while some are happy–or rather, excited. Thrilled, even. To them it’s like having a snow day, when school is cancelled and you get to stay home, watch cartoons, and go sledding.

Which type are you?

If you are one of those furloughed, which reaction did you have? Each attitude has its consequences.

The fearful may tighten their belts, cut out unnecessary spending, and perhaps look for a part-time job. But they will also worry, and stress compromises the immune system, making them more vulnerable during the upcoming cold and flu season.

The second group will enjoy their unexpected time off, probably indulging in play and/or completing tasks previously put off for lack of time. However, if the shutdown lasts for weeks or even months, they could find themselves unprepared and in a pinch.

What to do?

I believe the best approach combines both reactions, to a certain extent.

  • Enjoy the new-found time. It’s a gorgeous time of year in the DC area to take a day trip into the countryside. Pack a picnic, bring your camera, and discover a new place.
  • Pamper yourself with cheap thrills. Swap massages or manicures with a friend or partner. Visit your local library and check out the latest bestseller you’ve been meaning to read, but couldn’t find the time. Attend a free concert or visit a local museum (just not any of the Smithsonian museums).

    Student Zentangles®

    Student Zentangles® (Photo credit: DreamScribe)

  • Start a hobby. Check out Zentangle, an intricate form of doodling, for example.
  • Socialize. Visit an old friend. Take your dog on a long walk through the park. Invite the neighbors over to watch a movie on TV. Keep in touch with work friends through social media or in person. Otherwise you may experience withdrawal symptoms from a lack of human contact, especially if you live alone.

What Not To Do

Now’s not the time to make a big purchase you haven’t already budgeted for, or to console yourself by eating out every night. I would also avoid spending your days at the mall, unless you can avoid the impulse to shop. You can still indulge in fun activities without spending money.

Whatever you do, hold positive thoughts and don’t let the situation bring your spirits down. Remember the Serenity Prayer:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is one of those things you can’t change, so it’s just a waste of time and energy to worry about it.

How are YOU coping with the government shutdown? Leave a comment below.

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Espirational – a 10 Minute Vacation for the Soul

Join Susan and me today over at Espirational, Bob and Rogene Robbins’ blog. It’s a lovely spiritual pick-up to start (or end) your day on a positive note!

Susan is their featured Follower of the Month. Hear what she has to say about being a beacon and stay to check out some of their other thought-provoking posts and beautiful photos.

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Susan Interviewed on Mysteristas Blog

Check out the Mysteristas, a bunch of mystery-loving, mystery-writing women who interviewed my creator, Susan Yanguas, this week.

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