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Author of the young-adult thriller Shock Point, as well as five other mysteries and thrillers.
Statistics for So many books, so little time
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 38
Me, a year ago (left) and me now (right)
A year ago, a reader at an event asked to take a picture with me and posted it on Facebook. When I saw it, I didn’t look at our happy faces. I focused on the roll of fat around my waist.
I hadn’t been happy with my weight for a long time, but that really struck home.
Things I had tried to lose weight
- Weight Watchers. This actually mostly worked, but I was always hungry and I got tired of constantly counting points. Due to some quirks of the time period I attended, I cooked atrocious things like Black Bean Brownies (just because they are the same color doesn’t mean they taste like brownies - but WW used to give you lots of credit for fiber). Once at a family reunion we all got food poisoning and took turns hurrying to the bathroom. But the next day I had my lowest weigh-in ever at WW, so food poisoning FTW!
- Being mindful of every bite, taste, sensation. I actually think this is a good thing, but I usually read when I eat, so my concentration is fragmented.
- Eating 35 grams of carbs a day, two days a week. I remember sitting with my friend Amy every Thursday for 17 weeks when she did her chemo treatment and glumly regarding my turkey breast and hard boiled eggs. It turns out all kinds of high protein or high fat things have some carbs in them - and they add up fast.
- Living on 600 calories two days a week. A friend did this and lost eight pounds. I would pour over the menus and wonder how I could possibly do it since I am so active.
And that’s the thing. Even though writing is a sedentary occupation, I have always been otherwise active. I was fit AND fat, or mostly fit and fat. Last fall I had had to switch to walking instead of running, after having been diagnosed with moderate to severe arthritis in both knees. I asked my doctor if I could run again if I lost 20 pounds. You could practically see the thought bubble over his head: Like that will ever happen
. Despite my knees, I was still active: walking, jiujitsu, kung fu, and weight lifting. However, study after study
will tell you that you can’t lose weight through exercise.
I had heard of friends of friends who lost a lot of weight once they started using a treadmill desk. And last fall I unexpectedly got some German money for Shock Point
, which nearly ten years later still sells well over there.
So I bought a LIfeSpan treadmill desk
, found an old computer (from 2008, but still runs what I need) and started using it when I wrote (and sometimes when I watched Netflix). I wear a Fitbit and went from putting in 12K steps a day to 25—30K. In the first eleven weeks, I lost eight pounds.
The pace has slowed now, but I’m still losing a pound every couple of weeks. Not that much different from Weight Watchers, but I am eating whatever I want! (Caveat: I mostly eat healthy.) I’m running again, and my knees feel fine. Every pound less is 3-4 pounds less on the knees.
And this morning I was down 22 pounds!How to replicate this yourself
- Get a Lifespan desk
- Or try making one yourself (google DIY Treadmill Desk)
- Or try housewalking.
When I first left my day job and was scrambling a bit for money, I taught an 8-week mystery-writing class at my local bookstore, Annie Blooms Books. I've also taught one-off classes here and there for a long time, more as a way to give back than to make money.
Sometimes i don't even make any money. For example, on July 18th I'm teaching a class on plotting as a fundraiser for Write Around Portland. It costs $35 and all the money goes to the organization.
This year, I've also taught that class for Left Coast Crime and for Oregon Literary Arts. A few years ago, I taught a class on how to start a series.
Well, one of the guys who was in that class, Curtis C. Chen, came up to me after my signing at Powells, and told me he had just made a two-book deal and had been going over the old notes from my series class to help him approach his series.
And then today, I saw that another one of my old students, Lisa Alber, had also made a deal:
And last year, Cindy Brown, a woman from one of my original classes who went on to be my friend, made a three-book deal. The first book, MacDeath, is laugh-out-loud funny (a rare thing) and I'm in the middle of reading an advance copy of her second, The Sound of Murder, which is even funnier.
Today is the book birthday for Blood Will Tell, the second in my Point Last Seen series inspired by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Searcn and Rescue team. Nine months ago, over 100 people signed up for the lastest round of clases. They underwent hundreds of training, and during that time the unit provided over 30,000 hours of volunteer work. It’s a tough course - just 53 finished and 33 completed all 87 requirements for graduation.
Two things make MSCOSAR different. One is the group is teen led and made up primarily of teens. The second is that about 30 percent of what the group does is search for crime scene evidence.
This book features the same three friend as were in Blood Will Tell. Alexis, whose mother is mentally ill. Ruby, who understand things far more than she understand people. And Nick, who desperately wants to prove that he is as strong and brave as he longs to be.
Blood Will Tell was inspired by two true stories. Back in 1987 in Colorado, a bicyclist checked out what he thought was a mannequin in a field and discovered it was really the body of 37-year-old woman. She had been stabbed in the back and died from blood loss.
But before the bicyclist realized it was really a body, a 15-year-old saw also saw it while walking to school. Thinking it was a mannequin left as a prank, he did not report it to the police. After his father told police that his son usually walked through that lot, the police pulled the teen, whose nickname was ”Toothpick,” out of class.
He was questioned for hous alone, but always said he was innocent. Still, they zeroed in on him because he had never reported the body to the police. There was no physical evidence. They did find hundreds of violent drawings, a couple of knives, and a newspaper clipping about the murder.
Eventually, he was tried for the murder and convicted. It was covered on a lot of “real-life” TV shows, with titles like Drawn to Murder and Murder Illustrated. In the end, DNA evidence proved his evidence and he won millions from the state of Colorado.
Can DNA lie?
The other case was in San Fransisco. A millionaire was tied up and robbed. He ended up suffocating on the packing tape used to keep him from crying out. A forensics team found DNA on his fingernails that belonged to an unknown person. The sample was put into a DNA database and turned up a “hit” — a local man with a long criminal record.
Arrested and charged with murder, that men spent more than five months in jail with a possible death sentence hanging over his head.
Then his defense realized he had been hospitalized the night of the murder. But how did an innocent man’s DNA end up on a murder victim?
I won't give away the answer, but I will say that for 15 years, German police searched for a serial killer they called the “Phantom of Heilbronn” — an unknown female linked by traces of DNA to six murders across Germany and Austria. Police had found her DNA on items ranging from a cookie to a heroin syringe to a stolen car. She had been involved in over 40 crimes, rangning from murder to a car-dealership robbery and a school break-in,
In 2009, the police found their “suspect”: a worker at a factory that produced the cotton swabs police used in their investigations. She had been accidentally contaminating them with her own DNA.
Those two cases really make me wonder about our reliance on the infallibility of DNA evidence. After all DNA can’t tell your when it’s been left or under what circumstances. It may not lie, but it may not tell the whole truth either.
I am the wrong sex (F) and age (56) for Brazilian Jiujitsu, but I still freaking love it! I'm getting to train a bit extra for a month at Alive MMA (normal school is Westside Academy of Kung Fu) and today I got a stripe on my belt.
Me! A stripe!
When I was a kid, I used to walk home from school reading a book (with brief interruptions when I ran into things). The only reason my high school GPA was less than 4.0 was because of Cs in PE. In my senior year, we played round-robin tennis and I was beaten by EVERYONE, including the mainstreamed developmentally delayed girl and the girl with juvenile arthritis so bad she couldn't even use one hand.
You have no idea how proud I am of this stripe!
(Photos of everything but stripe courtesy Rich Kolbell.)
This is about as clsoe as you can come. Oddly, since the shoes are so different I wonder if they are different stock photos.
I was on ebay tonight - I buy almost all my clothes there - and out of curiosity typed my name in the search box. Lots of books and audio tapes and a few ARCs (kind of makes me wince, but whatever). And then this:
Why? Who would want a photo of me with my first book? Why can't I still look that young? What happened to that shirt? I loved that shirt. And it's being sold by Historic Images. Does 2000 really count as history?
A year ago, I created a newsletter email list.
And never did anything with it.
Now I'm back in the game, but my email list is so old it has cobwebs.
Can you help me get a more up-to-date email list? I don't plan on being all spammy with it, and I'd never share it.
If you click on this recent example of my newsletter, there's a button on the upper left hand corner that says "Subscribe." All it means is that's I'll send you fun news and occasionally some exclusive content.
This is by a young Portland author:
And this is a new book about choosing to be single:
I’ve been up for the Oregon Book Award three times. The first was in 2004, for an adult novel called Learning to Fly. I didn’t win, but I was sitting next to Heather Frederick, who won the Leslie Bradshaw Young Adult award for the The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, and I got to hear the little gasp you make when you win.
In 2011, Girl, Stolen was up for the Leslie Bradshaw, but I had a lot more on my mind that night. I had been asked to speak about another finalist for the same award: my friend Lisa Wolfson, who had written a wonderful book called Flash Burnout under the pseudonym L.K. Madigan. Six weeks earlier, she had died after a brutal and short fight with pancreatic cancer. I sat in the green room and hoped I could do Lisa justice. I spoke about her, and then took my place in the audience. In one pocket, I had an acceptance speech for me, and in other one for her, because her husband had asked that I accept the award on her behalf if she won.
They announce the winners by reading the first paragraph of the winning book. I was so wrought up that when they started reading the first paragraph of Emily Whitman’s Wildwing, I actually thought for a few seconds that it could be either my or Lisa’s book.
This year, the Body in the Woods made the sort list. When I thought about the four finalists for the award, I was sure that any of them had a better chance than I did. My book seemed too commercial. An hour before we left, I typed up a few words, printed them out and taped them on a 3X5 card. To be honest, I worried far more about the dress I was wearing. It had been designed by a friend on a fit model that took me a pair of Spanx and a pair of Spanx pantyhose to approximate. The days where I wear makeup, Spanx, and heels are very few.
We sat in the audience next to a dapper older man. I asked him what he was there for and he said, “I’m getting the lifetime achievement award. In other words, I’m old.” I told him it was better than getting an in memoriam award. I asked his name, and realized I was sitting next to the legendary writer and writing coach Tom Spanbauer, who has fostered so many other writers through his critique group and workshops.
The Leslie Bradshaw Award was one of the first announced. And when I heard the word “Alexis” – my main character – I jumped to my feet right away, instead of waiting decorously for the passage to be read to the end. Afterward, I was offered champagne in the green room and congratulated in whispers next to a sign warning that voices carried.
It was a magical night, made even more so when Tom, from the stage, asked his partner to marry him.
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I recently had school visits in Central Oregon. Two memorable things about that visit: the librarian got deathly sick the morning of the visit, and despite our best efforts, I picked up what she had and took it with me to Wisconsin a few days later.
But the second, much better thing, was that while I was there I met up again with old 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Perkins. I loved him as a teacher, and meeting him again, some 40+ years later, I remembered why. He still asks thoughtful, intereting questions and he listens attentively to your answers. It was nice to hang out with someone who was more my parents' peer. Fewer and fewer of my friends have living parents.
I got home, hoped I had escaped getting sick, and then the day before I flew to Wisconsin, I started coughing. I remembered the librarian doing the same thing, but hoped it was allergies.
After taking three flights to Appleton, Wisconsin - and for the longest flight, my seatmate was 6 foot 3, which meant he physically did not fit in the seat - I landed and quickly realized I was in trouble.
I ended up walking to a nearby Target and getting every OTC cold remedy known to man. The next day, my ride bought me chicken soup By that time, I was trying to refrain from even making small talk, because my voice was going. In between speaking engagements - 9 school visits and/or writing worshops and one book festival visit - I did everything I could to keep myself going. Lozenges, throat spray, Throat Coat tea, honey and water, sitting by the hot tub at the hotel, using saline nasal rinse, and drinking at least one bottle of water an hour (Appleton has sweet tasting water, so it mostly came from the tap).
The Throat Coat tea helped the most, but it was no match for how bad I was feeling. By my second to the last visit, I started thinking I might pass out. For my last talk, the kind librarian sent kids on a scavenger hunt to see if any teachers used stools with backs. They came back with two. Somehow I made it. I just didn't want to disappoint the kids.
I actually think I did a pretty good job.