Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Friday, March 30, 2012

Free for Two Days: The Vital Principle

To celebrate the release of my latest Regency romantic mystery featuring the irrepressible Archer family, Escaping Notice, my book The Vital Principle is free for two days on I hope you'll pass the word and check it out! The Vital Principle has been a great flagship novel for me and continues to sell well.

Here's a brief blurb about The Vital Principle, along with a small excerpt.

A Second Sons Inquiry Agency Mystery
On sale for FREE from March 30-31, 2011

Back Cover Blurb
In 1815, an inquiry agent, Mr. Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. The séance ends abruptly, however, and during the turmoil, someone poisons Lord Crowley's brandy. Appalled that murder has been committed under his very nose, Gaunt is left to investigate not only fraud, but murder. Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard, but as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers more deadly secrets. Inevitably, long-time friends turn against one another as the tension mounts and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction.


In this scene, inquiry agent Knight Gaunt is questioning Miss Prudence Barnard, a spiritualist he was hired to expose as a fraud. While he doesn’t quite believe she murdered their host, he’s not entirely sure she didn’t, either, and she’s not making it easy for him.

“May came from the right, however. Past the dowager and Lord Crowley.”

“Question her, then.”

“Rest assured, I will. And the others came around the table from that direction, as well.” He glanced at her again, remembering the details. “You assisted the dowager, didn’t you?”

“I don’t remember precisely, but I supposed I might have.”

“She was standing a yard or so away from the table. And you stood in front of her with your back to the table?”

Her expression tightened. “Then you do remember. Although I'm sure you believe I was close enough to Lord Crowley to pour a few drops of Prussic acid into his brandy. That is what you’re insinuating, isn't it?”

While her accusation was true, he couldn't actually picture her doing that. He had closely observed her the previous evening, waiting for her to try some trick. If she had approached Crowley’s snifter that closely, he ought to remember it.

“If you wish to admit—”

“I do not.”

He nodded. It would have been extremely difficult for her to carry around a bottle of Prussic acid without either pockets or a reticule.

Of course, he intended to verify the lack of pockets or reticule with Miss Barnard’s maid and the other lady guests. One of them may have noticed.

“If you’d just ask the dowager—” She stopped and then added hastily, “But don’t bother her now. She’s not well. It’s been very difficult with first her husband dying and now her son….” She ended awkwardly and glanced away, turning to focus on the sewing basket and magazine. Then her gaze flashed to his. He could see a sudden memory leap into her mind as her expression changed.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I was wrong.” Her dark brows scrunched briefly. “I—”


She shook her head.

“What did you remember? There’s no point in holding back. Ultimately, I’ll discover the truth.”

This earned a small, tight smile. “You’re frightfully conceited.”

“Yes.” A smile twisted his mouth. “Now what did you remember?”

“I—it’s probably nothing.”

“Will you stop equivocating? If it’s something odd, I can assure you there were enough people in the room to help confirm it. There’s no point in being coy.”

“Is that what I’m being? Coy? How unusual.” She certainly had a talent for sweetly stated sarcasm.

“I’ll hold whatever you tell me in confidence. I’m reputed to be a reasonably fair man.”

“As long as women aren’t involved. And it conforms to your idea of the truth.”

“Undoubtedly.” He held her gaze.

She flushed and pushed at the magazine on the table with her fingertips. “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. You do rather have a reputation, however, for distrusting women. Although I’m sure you must have an excellent reason.”

“I assure you, I don’t dislike women.”

“As long as they stay comfortably in their place? And aren’t charlatans? We mustn’t forget how important absolute honesty is.”

“As long as you answer my questions truthfully, I’m completely impartial.”

A Brief Bio
Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry.  She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.
Amy’s books include the two Regency romances, SMUGGLED ROSE, and LOVE, THE CRITIC; three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; and her first paranormal, VAMPIRE PROTECTOR.

Join her and discover that every good mystery has a touch of romance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Escaping Notice has been Released!

Escaping Notice is out!

Escaping Notice, a Regency romantic mystery in the Archer family series is now available.

First we had The Necklace, where Oriana Archer found the Peckham necklace, a family heirloom with something a little extra, a curse. Anyone who wears the necklace is doomed. And for a while, it seems that may be true as Oriana is almost hung for murder after she discovers the necklace.

Then came I Bid One American where Oriana’s brother, Nathaniel, becomes the Duke of Peckham and the curse seems to continue when he’s accused of murder after the body of a debutante is found in his carriage.

The Bricklayer’s Helper was the third story, featuring Sarah “Sam” Sanderson, another irrepressible member of the Archer clan, who was in hiding after the death of her family until the killer realized she was alive.

Now, in Escaping Notice, Helen, Oriana’s younger sister, has lost the cursed Peckham necklace again and goes in search of it in the company of Hugh Castle, the Earl of Monnow.

Escaping Notice Blurb

A frog in a teapot, a lost necklace, and a sabotaged boat: incongruencies that lead an unlikely hero to investigate a chilling murder in Regency England.

Discarded by his betrothed with a parting sally that “being an earl does not excuse being a bore,” Hugh Castle, the Earl of Monnow, joins his brother on a short cruise, hoping to forget. But a storm capsizes their boat, and despite Hugh’s desperate efforts, he can’t save his brother’s life. Then he finds evidence amongst the wreckage of sabotage and realizes he was never meant to return to dock. Someone intending to murder the earl killed his younger brother, instead. Angered beyond reason, Hugh travels to London to enlist the aid of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency in finding his brother’s murderer.

Helen Archer attended the Earl of Monnow’s ball in expectation of celebrating his betrothal, but the event seems destined for disaster. She arrives late, the earl makes no announcement, and Helen manages to lose the fabled Peckham necklace her sister reluctantly loaned to her. Unwilling to admit her carelessness to her sister, Helen rashly decides to return to the earl’s estate and retrieve it in secret.

When his aunt threatens to send him to his cruel uncle, the Earl of Monnow, Edward Leigh-Brown decides he’s had enough. He’s going to join the navy and follow in Lord Nelson’s footsteps to become a military hero. But finding his way to London is a lot harder for a young boy than it seems, and he’s soon lost. When he bumps into Miss Helen Archer at an inn, he’s more than happy to accept a ride in her carriage, even if she seems determined to escort him to an inquiry agency to help locate the family he doesn’t want located.
When the three meet in London at Second Sons, Helen impulsively decides to accompany Hugh to the earl’s home, disguised as servants to pursue their secret goals. Hugh hopes to uncover a killer, Helen hopes to find her necklace, and Edward just hopes he can find the opportunity to escape again.

But an adventure none of them anticipated awaits them, and Hugh must hurry to identify who wants him dead before their deception ends in the death of another innocent.

I hope you will join the Archer family adventure as it swoops through Regency England with a chuckle and a toast to love eternal!
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For those who enjoyed the blog on The New Death and Others, the fantasy noir by James Hutchings, you might be interested to know that it is FREE right now! So if you're curious and want a copy, be sure to check it out.
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Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An interview with K.J. Dahlen, author of Bones

By K.J. Dahlen
Why did you decide to write?
I love to read and one day I noticed all the books I was reading ended the same way. I wanted something different and  I thought I could do it, so I picked up a pen and began to write my own stories.

What is the best thing (or worst) that has happened to you because of writing?
I love seeing my books on a shelf. My books are in five different libraries and when I take another book in I love it when the librarians tell me the readers are waiting for the next book!

How much research do you do?
I really don’t do a lot of research. After all, it’s called fiction for a reason. Most of my books are pure imagination. 

 What’s your favorite method for researching? Most of the little research I do I do on the internet. You can find anything there.

Do you have a favorite theme or message for your readers?
I like to keep my readers on the edge of their seats, waiting to turn the next page. If I can do that then I feel I’ve done my job as a writer

When do you write/what is your writing day like?
I turn my computer on as soon as my husband leaves for work. I have found my best writing time is early morning when my mind is fresh and I have nothing else to do.

What is the best advice someone has given you about writing? The worst advice?
When I first thought about being a writer my husband told me to go for it. He encouraged me to try. That’s the best thing anyone could say.. At least try it

How do you approach a new book? Outlines? Just an idea?
I usually outline my ideas  but the book may not stay in the outline. My characters sometimes take the story off in their own direction.

How do you develop your characters?
I make them as real as I can. I give them characteristics that everyday people would have. My characters have to be as real as I can make them. I give them faults as well as values that we all have

Who are your favorite authors? Have any authors inspired you or influenced your work?
I enjoy so many authors it’s hard to pick just a few. Some of the authors I enjoy reading are friends of mine that are just now getting noticed as authors. McKensie S Hart is one, Bruce Sarte is another. Sandra K is another.  I enjoy John Grisham, James Pattern, Janet Dailey, plus a whole lot more.

What makes a great book in your opinion?
A book that takes me along with the story. If I can imagine myself in the place of one of the characters in the book that’s what makes a good story to me.

If a reader took away one thing from your book(s), what would you like that to be?
I want my readers to become part of my stories. I want them to feel the same tensions as my characters feel and at the end feel the same satisfaction.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Never give up on your dreams to become a writer. It may take a while to get to where you want to be but hang in there. I think a writer just has to find the right place for their works.

Where do you see yourself as an author in five years?
Hopefully making money from my writing. I’d like to be the next J.K. Rowlings J Wishful thinking I know but it’s a dream

Where do you see the publishing industry going in the next few years and where do you see yourself within this industry?
I think everything will eventually go digital, which in my opinion will be a shame. I feel there is nothing better than holding an actual book in your hand but now days most people want convenience.

Brief Bio
 Kim lives in a small town (population 495) in Wisconsin. From her deck she can see the Mississippi River on one side and the bluffs, where eagles live and nest on the other side. She lives with her husband Dave and dog Sammy. Her two children are grown and two grandchildren and for that fact she feels blessed. She loves to watch people and that has helped her with her writing. She loves to create characters and put them in a troubling situation and just sit back and let them do all the work. They surprise even her at times. They take on a life of their own and the twists and turns become a story. She found she liked mystery/thrillers the best. She likes to keep her readers guessing until the very end of the book.

Her next book coming out is in March 2012, titled Fall from Grace

BLURB :When a threat against America comes to the surface, retired  Homeland Security agent Lincoln Hawks is brought back to help put down the threat. He finds the group he's after is  the same group that murdered his wife and daughter five  years ago. Can Lincoln stop The Ghost Crew before they  destroy America?

This book is being published by Bucks County Publishing. She is also published by Rogue Phoeniz Press, Solstice,  and Avalon.
Web site:
I am on facebook and twitter as kjdahlen

Bones Blurb
When human bones are discovered in a cave just outside of town, it’s up to Sheriff Max Reardon to find out who the bones belonged to. But someone in town doesn’t want the bones identified and they go to great lengths to try and stop Max’s investigation.

They break into Max’s house and try and destroy the evidence and when that doesn’t work they frame Max for murder. Can Max clear his name and bring the murderer or murderers to justice?

Excerpt from Bones
Max squatted near the opening in the rocky outcrop and took off his sunglasses. He was hot and tired and had just about given up finding this place. He wasn’t eager to go inside since the inside of the opening was dark and uninviting. But Max knew he had to go in there. The small hole in the side of the cliff was barely big enough for a child to scramble into let alone a full size man, but he knew he didn’t have a choice. God, I hate small places, he thought as he crawled inside. The hole was small and cramped and Max had to bend over to get through. I really hate small places, he emphasized as he struggled to get through the cramped opening. The hole in the cliff had been harder to find than he expected. The directions given to him by two young boys hadn’t been all that clear.

The boys said the opening was straight up from the dam below and a little left of the big oak tree. What they failed to tell him was which big oak tree. The whole hill was littered with oak trees right up to the base of the cliff.

It had taken him the better part of an hour to find the opening. There had been a lot of hillside to search. The boys had told him they left an old t-shirt to mark the opening, but Max hadn’t found the t-shirt. Some small animal or the wind must have carried it away. He hoped he had the right entrance this time.

He’d found a couple of other openings in the rock face that had led him nowhere. This opening appeared to be the one the boys had described. According to the boys, this small cave led to a cavern with the treasure. Max hoped it led somewhere.

His hands and face were scratched up from pushing brambles and brush out of his way. The thought had also occurred to him that the seldom visited, rocky part of the side of a cliff just a little ways north of the town Max was sheriff of, might be just the spot to run into a snoozing wolf or worse yet a rattlesnake. He heard something scramble out of his way a couple of times, but he hadn’t heard the symbolic rattle of the snake so whatever remained hidden from his sight wasn’t a snake. He’d tried to make enough noise to ward off unexpected company and hoped he hadn’t sounded like a complete idiot in the process. If anyone had spotted him, they would have thought he was drunk in the middle of the morning and that would never do for a sheriff.

The flashlight he held in his hand did little to penetrate the utter darkness that surrounded him. The cave walls and floor were slimy with what Max didn’t even want to hazard a guess and it smelled even worse. It smelled like something crawled in this narrow opening and died. The boys who found the cave might think this little venture was "neat", but Max didn’t. He’d lost his sense of adventure for little games like this a long time ago. He couldn’t believe he was here now.

The boys had been in this cave a couple of days before and had found what they thought was an Indian burial place. They had been reluctant at first to tell anyone of their find but eventually told their dads. As a result, Richard Crabtree had brought his son, Timmy, to see him. Max could tell that Timmy hadn’t wanted to tell anyone about his secret place and Max hadn’t been all that interested in the boy’s tale. Most of it was just the imagination of a ten year old. It wasn’t until Timmy mentioned the skeletons that Max became interested.

Max knew enough about the local tribes in Wisconsin to know they didn’t bury their dead above ground in forgotten caves. The boys told him that they hadn’t seen or found any other Indian artifacts and Timmy was positive someone else had robbed the cave of all its treasure. As sheriff, Max felt bound to check out their story. If there were skeletons in there, he had to find out why.
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Kim will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate, plus a chance to work with her on developing an idea for a new book, if you leave a comment. So be sure to follow the tour and leave comments. You can find dates for all of her tour stops at:


P.S. I have to say that I really love the cover for Kim's book, Bones.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Philip Dolly Affair

College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
By Jann M. Contento & Jeffrey Ross (Rogue Phoenix Press, 2011)

An interview with the authors, Jann Contento and Jeffrey Ross

What made you want to write about college life? 
Jeff:  We have always been intrigued by community college work life and the Campus Novel genre. We were aware very little community college fiction exists. We have written several academic articles about certain “challenging” community college issues. At some point, we decided that fiction, comic fiction, might be a better way to articulate our “contrarian” views about the community college experience.

How much research do you do?  
Jeff:  Jann did an extensive amount of research on the middle section—which deals with Argentine political intrigue of the 1960’s. He really wanted to get our novel’s “shadow world” done correctly—and it shows in the finished product.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered when you were doing your research? Jann:  The mid-20th century academic, political, and Cold War ideologies dramatically reinforced the obvious intellectual contrast observed in current American community college culture. Research efforts also exposed a variety of themes which conveniently added conversational dynamics to our characters.   

What’s your favorite method for researching? 
Jann:  I enjoy history, especially exploring primary source documents and biographies. My research methods include both traditional (library visitation, archival source analysis) as well as accessing digital internet source documents. However, I experience great satisfaction paging through aged paper copy, where dusty fragrances of reborn images offer timeless words with fresh interpretations. 

When do you write/what is your writing day like? 
Jeff:   I need to write in the middle of distractions—when I have other things to do—during a busy day. I am heavily influenced by process pedagogies—I believe in numerous drafts over numerous days. I don’t like white noise, music, TV, or human discussions in the background when I am writing—day or night.   
Jann: I prefer writing in a relative state of peace and quiet, usually in the morning. Often, ideas, themes or qualitative descriptors bounce around in my head throughout the later part of day and evening. Daily image chaos seems to work out best in a restful state.

What is the best advice someone has given you about writing?
Jeff:  Probably the best advice I received (indirectly from my Virginia Woolf Seminar professor, Dr.  E. H., years ago] was to view writing [fiction writing and poetry] as art—not craft. I am not interested in writing in clearly formulaic modes (mysteries—romance— vampires—wizards--- science fiction—westerns, for example). So much of that has been done—and done well—that I cannot meaningfully contribute to the corpus.  But “experimental” campus novels? Well, I am quite comfortable in this style.  And I believe fervently that satire is an art form.

Jann: I have to agree with Jeff in viewing fiction writing as art rather than craft. I have received plenty of advice from good intended sources, however misguided. My American Literature professor often reminded her students of the glorious inequality of talent and the necessity of intellectual exercise—best demonstrated through writing. I readily revisit her holy guidance.

How do you develop your characters
Jeff:   I rely on stereotyped notions used purposefully. You, gentle reader, may assign negative connotations to the use of stereotypes—I don’t. You have all had teachers, professors, and bosses that fit certain “types.” I work heavily at providing detail-rich descriptions of such entities—and I think you will clearly recognize people you “know” in the Phil Dolly Affair.

 Jann:  I attempt to create recognizable, yet illusive character types whose purpose is often disguised by ambition. Sketches are developed in aggregate initially; then, as situational events arise, characters are further dissected to substantiate their appearance.

Who are your favorite authors? Have any authors inspired you or influenced your work?  
Jeff: My favorite authors fit into certain groups, I suppose. I am quite fond of 19th century American Transcendentalists [and Poe], of late 19th- early 20th century writers such as Hugo, Frank Norris, Hardy, Proust, Woolf, and Joyce, of 19th century British Romantics, and quite a few 20th century American writers such as Zane Gray, Edward Abbey, Thomas Pynchon, Louis L’Amour, William Faulkner, and especially writers of the Southern Gothic like Flannery O’Connor.

 My list of favorite poets is legion—in no particular order—Wallace Stevens, Shelley, Wordsworth, Donne [latter day Donne], Roethke, AR Ammons—just not the masses of MFA project-generated poems of the last 20 years!

What makes a great book in your opinion?
Jeff: One that contributes, one that helps make the Universal Puzzle more clear, one that almost always requires a hermeneutic circle for meaningful analysis. I’m not really interested in books just for entertainment—even the great western writer Zane Grey was working on constructs of social democracy, primitivism, and the Power of the West in healing civilization’s corruptive effects. 

Jann:   Lasting message. A great book offers and narratively presents worthwhile questions by artistically presenting images and positioning reader reactions and participation beyond intention.  

If a reader took away one thing from your book(s), what would you like that to be? 
Jeff: That even the typical daily community college experience can be elevated into “art.” 

Jann:  Hopefully a gregarious laugh and a lasting lesson beyond the staged community college stetting.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?  
Jeff: Thomas Hardy wanted to be a poet first—and a novelist second. I suppose that is my dream, too. And I might recommend that aspiring authors should try to work out their ideas in poetry, first.
Jann:  One should consider a conscious disciplined approach, foster courage, and regularly express respectful skepticism. 

Where do you see yourself as an author in five years? 
Jeff: I suppose I would hope my fiction writing helps me become a better poet. I would like to be able to smoothly articulate my ideas through poetry within the next five years. Jann: I hope I am provided an opportunity to critically examine social/behavioral events through fiction. I would also like to improve personal habits which assist progress in poetic writing.

Where do you see the publishing industry going in the next few years and where do you see yourself within this industry? 
Jeff: Hard to say. Technology has empowered the masses to produce text [which is probably a good thing]. I’m afraid I may get lost in the shuffle. Or ignored. Remember when Jack Nicholas was shouting “You can’t handle the truth!”? [I think it was in A Few Good Men.] I’m afraid we may be offering a kind of truth in PDA the happy masses won’t acknowledge.

Jann: I hope young readers will more fully embrace literature and help progress diverse offerings within the rapidly changing publishing industry.

Brief Bio
Jann M. Contento has a broad range of experiences in higher education including student affairs administration, athletics, and institutional research. He is currently working in a community college setting and has co-authored several articles on leadership and college culture.

Jeffrey Ross is an Op Ed writer, rockabilly musician, and former full-time community college teacher. He has had four "Views" pieces published on since 2007, has authored and co-authored several op-ed articles on community college identity, purpose, and culture, and has recently had several pieces published on the Cronk News higher education satire website.

Online Presence and Social Media Links
 Face book Info Page
Getting to Know Phil Dolly Blog

Twitter Account @SalinasChick
Jeffrey Ross Creative Efforts  Home Page on Web Eden (Music and More)
Jeffrey Ross Open Salon Blog—other poetry and essays

The Philip Dolly Affair
While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many whispered truths, those simmering but unspoken workplace behaviors, issues, and machinations every worker (Everyman!) will recognize. A humorous and biting read with a clever mix of satire, political intrigue, failed romances, and tragic-comedy, this novel will open your eyes to the truth about community colleges …

 An Excerpt-

Emmie Seemy, EdD, Chair, Communications

Dr. Emmie Seemy seemed likeable enough. At 64, she could have retired several years ago. But the job, Reading Professor AND Chair of Communications, gave her substance and meaning. Her days at CCC were pleasant--her faculty seniority afforded her a bit of eccentricity that was accepted by both her younger colleagues and senior administrators.

Dr. Seemy’s signature motto at the bottom of her emails read

Never Quit! Never Yield! Never Give Up!

She didn’t really trust anyone, though, and kept an eye on all correspondence, meeting minutes, and the activities and behaviors of everyone around her.

Dr. Seemy was quite a character, that’s for sure. She wore [very large] black framed glasses with sequin designs embedded throughout the thick frame and ear pieces. She dyed her hair jet black and kept it in a 60’s era beehive. Dr. Seemy typically wore old-fashioned rhinestone cocktail dresses [even short ones that showed her age-knobby knees].

Her clothes always smelled like smoke and perfume-- that hot, rich, blanketing Las Vegas smoke and Shanelle Number 5 perfume odor permeating gambling houses and strip hotels in the 70’s…..

She drives a Lincoln--an old 83 Lincoln still in terrific shape [except for dog hairs on the back seat].

Dr. Seemy used to have two great big dogs, large, spit-drooling Dobermans she would bring to school with her. They would lounge in her office and were quite the topics of discussion around campus--the dogs were loved and hated, admired and feared. Students generally liked the great beasts, but then, Castor, one of the pooches, bit a student named Gerald Ladmo. The college settled for an undisclosed amount out of court. She had to board the dogs after that, instead of bringing them to CCC.

Dr. Seemy had smoked for decades--and quit only after it came down from the hill that smoking was no longer legal. She had smoked Virginia Slims through a long, black sequined cigarette holder--when grasping the cigarette holder, and leaning forward in her chair, she had the aura of a 30’s or 40’s Hollywood actress--poised, debonair, and strangely distant.

The authors will be giving away a novel-companion e-form [PDF] “chapbook” of poetry “voiced” by one of the novel’s characters, panish Professor Jack Frost, to one randomly drawn commenter. Follow the tour and leave your comments; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning! The tour dates can be found here:

Be sure to follow the tour and leave a comment to win!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Exercise, when is enough, enough?

A recent "good health" issue of a magazine made me write this blog, so blame them. They had readers submit their exercise and other "good health" related questions so "experts" could provide answers. And one letter in particular caught my attention because it was one I could have written myself. Unfortunately, the answer was frankly irresponsible.

So I decided maybe it was time to provide a responsible response even if I'm the only person who sees it. At least it will make me feel better.

The letter was from a reader who had a question about exercise. She had an exercise routine, but it was exhausting her, and she wondered if she would gain weight if she cut it down to something that didn't leave her so exhausted. The magazine answered that not only should she not cut down, but she should step it up.

Step it up? What? Are you crazy? Can you spell "lawsuit?"

Are you trying to kill her or those around her?

At a minimum, I expected the response to be that the woman should see her doctor. I literally could not believe how callous, flippant and irresponsible the reply was.

I've been in the letter-writer's shoes. Let me tell you my story, right after I point out some obvious fallacies with the whole exercise myth.

While it's true that everyone needs to be active, it's also true that if you're hoping "exercise" will stave off death, well, you're wrong. You will die. Everyone dies and if you don't die from a heart attack or stroke, it's likely that cancer or one of any number of diseases will get you. Get over it. 

The next myth is that with enough exercise, you can eat whatever you want. Why yes, it will, for a little while. Then you're going to get caught in a loop. If you wish to continue eating the same quantity as you age, you're going to have to step up your exercise routine, just like the magazine said. You can start with 20 min. but that soon becomes one hour. Then two hours. Then three hours. Then...well, at what point do you realize that you're exercising 24 hours a day and have to cut back because you actually need a real job? Or life? Or at least one hour of sleep? 

It's ridiculous. In fact, I would argue that "exercise," as opposed to leading an active life, is ridiculous. You can't keep "stepping it up". At some point, you have to realize a couple of things: you're going to gain weight as you get older or you're going to have to eat less over time (reducing your supper/dinner/last meal of the day is a really good way) if you want to stay thin. Although, frankly, I prefer pleasingly plump to starving thin. But that's just me.

Anyway, I'd now like to talk about my story as a case study showing why that magazine's response was so irresponsible. 

Twenty years ago, I decided to lose at least 10 lbs. I started an exercise routine.

It was exhausting, but I figured it would get easier as time went on. I lost the 10 lbs and then some, but I was also eating virtually no dinner. An average dinner consisted of a single cob of corn or a small "appetizer-sized" salad.

I recently looked at a picture from those days and I looked like a stressed-out prisoner on low-rations, but whatever. I was thinner than I'd ever been since middle school. I felt awful, but according to society, I was doing all the right things.

My days were spent in an exhausted daze. I had to stand during business meetings because if I sat down, I fell asleep. I couldn't watch TV at all or go to the movies because I fell asleep. I couldn't hold a conversation with anyone unless I was standing. I didn't have more energy as exercise enthusiasts claim, I had less. Each day was a struggle. My life was a complete misery. Everything was an effort because I didn't have an ounce of energy for even the simplest thing. I just gritted my teeth and told myself that life was meant to be hard and you just had to deal with it.

Most days, when I finished exercising, I collapsed, red-faced and sweating on the floor. After a few minutes, I'd stumble into the bathroom and collapse again in a trembling heap. Some days it was so bad, I'd literally vomit. Then I'd drag myself into the shower and struggle to get to work on time. I drank coffee to try to stay awake. I could not sit because if I did, I fell asleep. I'd stand up every five minutes at my desk just to keep going. 

However, since I took a train to work, at least that was okay because if I fell asleep, I didn't endanger anyone.

Five years into it, I was preparing to get married and as I went in for my gown fittings, I noticed I was slowly gaining weight, mostly because I was actually eating a dinner occasionally that wasn't just a few pieces of lettuce. The seamstress assured me I'd lose weight due to stress, but in fact I didn't. Mostly because I didn't feel that much stress (I'd made a decision, it was--and still is--the right decision, and I didn't see what there was to stress over). Anyway, I slightly increased my exercise routine, although it ultimately didn't do any good. 

The shit hit the fan after I married and moved to the country. I had to drive to work. I struggled to stay awake behind the wheel each day, but I had several accidents due to almost falling asleep. The final one ended up with me driving into a canal. I survived and realized one thing: my life was more important than a few pounds--which the exercise wasn't keeping off, anyway. And what about the lives of others? What if I had run into a car with children inside? The thought made me sick with horror.

So I stopped.

Yes, I gained a few pounds. But I thought back to another time in college when I was thin, healthy, and had energy and realized the difference: that when I was at University in Scotland I didn't exercise. But I did walk everywhere.


Now, I walk the dogs several miles a day. I mow the lawn using a walk-behind mower (not riding, even though we have 3 acres of grass and 15 of woods). I park as far away from the store as possible.

In short, I LIVE. I don't exercise, I live and do normal, physical activities as part of my life. I'm awake, alert, and alive.

Sure, I put on a few pounds. But I was also gaining weight when I was exercising after I went back to eating a normal dinner. For me now, the answer is what it always was: stop eating seconds at supper and take another walk with the dogs.

Will I ever go back to exercising?

No. I want to be awake and alert when the next hummingbird comes to the feeder. I want to have energy and joy in my life instead of constant, draining misery. I want to be able to go to the movies with my husband and actually see the ending.

What should that magazine have told that lady?
1) Get an appointment with your doctor to make sure you don't have a serious medical condition.
2) Stop exercising and starting living.

That's it. Just live, be active, and be happy.