Archives

My Journey to Writing a Thriller Series

The Kelsey Porter Series

Ten years ago I set out on a journey to swallow my fears and publish my novels. After launching my quirky YA and fantasy books to some modest success, I decided I wanted to push myself and develop a new adult thriller series. But, I used my favorite authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, as my bar. Why? Because their books move me in ways other novels don’t. It takes a great writer to make me obsess about a character, and this series puts me squarely in the camp of my obsession with Aloysius Pendergast. Now, these authors also write novels on their own, but together, their Pendergast series is simply amazing. The novels are smart, savvy, with well-developed characters you want to love… and despise. I’m intrigued that they purposely add complicated words so that people will have to look up their meaning. I asked Douglas about this at a signing I went to of his and he said that it’s a conscious decision. They want readers to learn as they read their books and you can tell that everything they do, and every plot line, is researched meticulously.

Well, I wanted to develop a series like that, and one I thought they personally might enjoy. My goal was to hit on something different from what was in the field. Something spiritual, smart, singularly unique, and something that required a ton of research. While I’m no Preston/Child, I’m proud of myself. Four books into this series and I’m excited to say these authors DID like it. Douglas Preston actually read and reviewed Book #1 and it’s a great review you can read in “editorial reviews” for The Hunt For Xanadu on Amazon. Here it is here:

The Hunt for Xanadu by Elyse Salpeter is a remarkable novel, a fascinating and fantastical journey in time and space, and one of the most gripping novels I’ve read in a long time. It flies along at the pace of a thriller, with plenty of murder and mayhem along the way. But behind the thrill-ride is a spiritual story, an archetypal tale of mystery and darkness,riddled with fascinating and esoteric concepts in Tibetan Buddhism. Vivid characters, a truly appealing protagonist, unexpected twists, and crisp writing complete this unforgettable book. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

–Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author and co-creator, with Lincoln Child, of the Pendergast series

So now there are four books in the series, they all have a Buddhist thriller flare, and they take you across the globe, from New York City and Colombia, to Alaska, Egypt and the monasteries of Tibet.

If you’d like to check them out, please click here to my author page on Amazon!

Today is my Birthday. Embracing myself, and my Curls.

Embracing my Curls

Embracing my Curls

Today I turned 49.

I have a hard time saying that without wanting to throw up a little in my mouth. 49. That means I’ll be 50 next year. When I was younger, I considered that old. But I don’t feel old. I feel like I’m 30. Not younger, because I’ve had kids, I’ve had jobs, I’ve lost people I loved. Life has afforded me the luxury to feel like I’m 30, but my body sometimes tells another story.

Those daily aches and pains getting up in the morning. (when did I start groaning when I got out of bed?) How I need to watch my sugar, watch my artificial sweetener intake, moisturize my skin, make sure I exercise and do everything I can so I “don’t get old.” I don’t want to become that person that just sits in a chair all day and watches the world go by. I don’t want to be that person that says, “I want to live my life the way I want to live and if that means eating jelly donuts when I have diabetes, that’s quality of life!” No it isn’t. That’s denial and I don’t want to live sickly and then die early because I chose to continually make choices that hurt me.

When I get to 50, I want to be fit. I want to be healthy. I want to do a photo shoot for everyone IN A BIKINI saying “This is 50!” (not that I ever really wore a bikini, nor probably should at that age, but I’d like to try). And I’d like to learn to embrace my curls instead of flat-ironing them all the time. I live in New York and straight hair is golden here. Heck, there are Dry Bars all over where you can go in and get a blow-out. But, it’s time to be me every now and then. For my birthday I just went out and bought all these Deva products for curly hair. Spent a small fortune, but NY humidity in summer is nothing to joke about, folks.

Boot Camp RopeI made a bunch of goals for myself when I turned 40. I was going to start publishing my books. (I did, and now have 9 out!), I wanted a famous author to read one of my books AND LIKE IT! (Douglas Preston gave me a review for THE HUNT FOR XANADU!), I was going to start Tae Kwon Do. (I did and 5 years later got my black belt!). I took a serious boot camp class for five months and wanted to be able to climb up the rope to the ceiling (did it!) And I wanted to travel someplace crazy with my family. (we went on an Alaskan cruise!)

But now I want to conquer a whole new group of goals. Some will take a few years, but some I want to do before my next birthday. So here they are:

I want to run a 1/2 marathon. I want to lose 15 lbs and get in good enough shape to do that bikini shot for my next birthday. I want to go to Italy and other places around the world I’ve never been. I want to visit my mom more. I want to take my daughter on a vacation somewhere, just the two of us. I want to be a raging success at my new job, and I want to publish the next book in my Kelsey Porter Series. I’d also LOVE to take singing lessons. I want to go to Karaoke one day and surprisingly be able to belt out a song by Celine Dion or Kelly Clarkson and shock the people around me who never thought I could sing. I think that would be a hoot.

So, remember… bikini shot at 50 next year. Put it out to the universe, do the work and just maybe it will happen. And what do you think of the curls? They work? I think they may be a keeper!

Getting Off Artificial Sweeteners… Without Ruining my Coffee!

coffee1So, recently I posted on Facebook how I “was totally ruining my perfectly good cup of coffee by forgoing any artificial sweeteners.” You see, the day before I was telling my co-worker about my “4 Splenda a day” habit. (which I thought was perfectly acceptable) She suffers from ulcerative colitis and was horrified I’d put two Splenda in my morning coffee, and then another two at about 3:00 pm. She literally begged me to get off artificial sweeteners. That “you’ll hate your coffee for a few days, but I promise you that you’ll get used to it.”

Sigh… I didn’t want to “get used” to any unsweetened coffee. I LIKED my morning cup just fine! But that said, I tend to get bloating, I tend to have joint pain and I tend to get high and low crashes during the day. Apparently all caused by artificial sweeteners.

I was told to just use regular sugar (turbinado, agave, etc), but I’ve been advised to cut my sugar as much as I can because a) it’s causing me to gain weight around my middle and b) my extended family is diabetic and I’m trying to be cognizant of adding sugar to anything.

So, I posted this on FB and “WOW” the conversations that followed! Apparently this is a very heated topic. But people were great and gave me a ton of suggestions on what to use instead of sweeteners and I’ll give you my feedback on what I tried this week.

Drink: Coffee (usually Starbucks made at home or a Keurig-like coffee in the office)… I use a generous serving of milk, creamer or almond milk.

Now, what I’ve added:

1) Cinnamon: I put a few generous shakes in and stir and stir and stir. Cinnamon is supposedly a natural sweetener and an anti-inflammatory. This is a fine addition.

2) Organic Butter: This is just okay. I used a pat of butter, though Kerrygold was suggested. I just didn’t have that brand handy. It seems fine, a bit fatty and not extremely tasty or sweet enough for me to add this regularly.

3) Coconut Oil: The flavor is good, but I find that it leaves a thick film of paste on my lips and I really don’t like that at all. Reminiscent of dousing my lips with vaseline. It was suggested to use a blender for this addition, but it’s way too much trouble and too loud at 5:30 am.

4) Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice: This is strangely good. My office has a squeezer and fresh oranges available. So, for my afternoon cup, I squeeze in fresh orange juice (sometimes a half, sometimes a whole). It is not bad at all and I may bring in cinnamon to add to this. One note, I find I now do not finish my afternoon cup, either. Now, it sort of sits on my desk and I do a few sips until I finish about half. Interesting.

5) Honey: This is also fine, but gives me a bit of a tea aftertaste. I don’t love it as much.

6) Cayenne Pepper: I added that this morning with my cinnamon. I love spicy food but I don’t quite like it with my coffee. I’m looking for sweet and this gives the exact opposite effect.

So, how has the full week been without sweeteners? Well, I still don’t LOVE and crave my coffee as much as I did, but now I don’t dislike it either. I like cinnamon as my additive of choice.

But, have I noticed anything with my health? Actually… YES!

The Crash: I don’t crash during the day any longer. Usually I’m dying for that 5:30 am cup and the 3:00 pm cup and desperately wanting this weird “rush” each cup gives me. I swear the sweeteners are playing some weird havoc with my body. Now I’m enjoying the coffee, but not getting that odd, hyper feeling each time I drink it.

Joint Pain: 50% of my joint pain has vanished. I was having pain in my hips, knees, sometimes wrists. That is pretty much gone. Oh, I still have aches and pains, but they are seriously cut in half. I was having an Aleve a few times a week. Maybe I took it once this week.

Bloating: It’s lessened. I still have to lose weight, but I got back into a pair of jeans that weren’t fitting me.

Queasiness: Nearly every night at around 10:00 pm I was getting rather queasy and “off.” I attributed it to the long day. The fact is, my stomach would be hurting a bit, my upper stomach would be a bit bloated and I just seemed “off.” That is nearly gone as well. Not completely, but definitely less.

So, my skeptical brain wants to say this is all coincidence, but I don’t think it is. I’m going to keep doing this because if it helps all of these conditions, why wouldn’t I do what’s better for my body, right?

As for my coffee enjoyment, I still have a ways to go, but it’s getting better. I still find I miss that sweet, yummy taste and that rush, but I can handle this just fine.

I’d love to hear other things I should put in to try! Please let me know what YOU use as an alternative to sweeteners. I’d love to hear.

The Pitfalls of Writing Cross Genre

THE WORLD OF KAROV - New Adult Dark Fantasy series

THE WORLD OF KAROV – New Adult Dark Fantasy series

Someone once told me that I “published wrong.” The first book I ever published was a young adult tale called FLYING TO THE LIGHT about a deaf boy who knows about the afterlife and now people are after him. The second book I published was a fantasy novel, more New Adult in target, the third was the sequel to FLYING TO THE LIGHT, called FLYING TO THE FIRE and the 4th was the sequel to the dark fantasy book.

So, what does that mean? I’m a YA novelist, right? Well, no. I actually define myself as an adult thriller/horror writer, if asked. Those YA books I had mostly written years ago and had the opportunity to publish them first. Since then, the books that I’ve put out are all adult thrillers or horror.

There’s the Kelsey Porter series which are sexy buddhist thrillers, and two horror novels. The pitfalls of writing cross genre is that some of my YA fans have picked up the thrillers and been… well… surprised. The YA books were very clean… albeit a bit violent as I tend to write that way, but they weren’t adult books. As a result, I’ve had to caveat to a lot of people whether or not their children can read any of my other books. Usually I tell them “no.” Not that it’s erotica – it’s not at all, and not that they’re dirty, they’re not, but they have adult themes and are just not what I’d picture a kid could read.

That said, my daughter read my horror novels just fine at the age of thirteen and my fourteen year old son wishes to read THE HUNT FOR XANADU. I think he’s two years too young, but he’s adamant so we discuss it chapter by chapter. Books #2 and #3 in the series are “more tame” to be honest. But there’s a reason I set up Book #1 the way I did. You’d have to read it to find out or it would be a huge spoiler.

FLYING - Young Adult Series

FLYING – Young Adult Series

I find I’m getting mostly fans now with my adult books, but then these same people will go back to read my YA books and I wonder if they get confused or upset? They are all so different and you wonder if the pitfalls of writing cross genre means you confuse your readers if they wish to read other works by you, thinking they’ll be similar. That said, I would just advise authors to make sure you’re very clear in the book blurbs what the books are about and what genre it is so there are no surprises.

On my webpage at www.elysesalpeter.com I have headers for all the genres, and hope that makes it more clear for people.

Kelsey Porter thriller series

Kelsey Porter thriller series

As to the “publishing wrong” comments? Well, not much I can do about that. I write what I write, when I write it. It’s how my brain works. But I don’t think the cross genre is a bad thing. I actually write in one genre, but across different age groups. All my books have a fantastical element to them. In the FLYING SERIES it was the young boy who knew about the afterlife, in the NA WORLD OF KAROV Dark Fantasy Series, it was an evil spreading across the universe, in the KELSEY PORTER series, they’re adult Buddhist Spiritual Mysteries. I was just lucky enough that a publishing house picked one of them up and it just morphed from there. When you have an arsenal of books in your library waiting to get out to the world, do you just let them sit there because you want to be a specialist in one genre or the other, or do you let them be free? I decided to publish them all and let the chips fall as they may.

Horror Novel - "I beg of you... stay away..."

Horror Novel – “I beg of you… stay away…”

A collection of creepy horror tales...

A collection of creepy horror tales…

Anyone else write cross genre? Do you as a reader find it confusing when an author mixes things up in this fashion or do you like it? Love to hear.

If you’d like to check out all the novels, here’s my amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1NiXfjT

Why Fiction Writers Should Write Poetry

I’m going to start by saying that I don’t really consider myself a poet. I’ve never quite understood it, I never caught on to the rhyming and cadence. I just didn’t get it. I thought you were either a good fiction writer or poet, much like people say you’re either a good baker or cook. I’m learning that neither are mutually exclusive.

About two weeks ago, my editor suggested I start writing poetry. Now, you need to understand “her suggestions” are never just light suggestions. They mean something… and it usually means work on my end. She’s not your typical editor. She’s also a teacher and when she sees something in your writing she thinks you could use to improve yourself to become a better writer, well, she tells you. (if you’re interested in this type of editor who teaches as well as edits, check Denise Vitola out here) Anyway, she suggested I go to this new Facebook page called Peanut Butter & Poetry Jam and look at the image prompt they put up on Saturdays. The concept is you write a poem in the comments and then on Thursdays they pick a poem to discuss on Fridays. She said this would be a good exercise for me and “it was suggested” I do this each Saturday. (hmm…suggested, ordered, take your pick).

Created by Beth Ann Ryden

Created by Beth Ann Ryden

But I did. Strangely, my poem got chosen the first week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time on it. Nor my entry for the second week. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. Normally I agonize over work that goes public, but I have no real idea of what I’m doing, nor any idea of what I should even agonize about. But, while I’m self-conscious and it feels like my entries are lame, I’m trying. And apparently, they seem to be passable and getting some nice feedback. Come on over and like the page and put in a poem. No cost, no competition, just feedback. Please don’t be fearful. I’ve talked to people who want to do it, but get scared they will be judged. I promise you, this isn’t that kind of place. If I can do it, by all means you can. Here was my entry last week with the gorgeous photo prompt created by Beth Ann Ryden.

My Entry:

“How often does the sea meet the sky, papa?”
“As often as the sun rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes, and the tides flows in and out. As often as the dolphin breaks the surface to breathe, the fish swim in schools and the earth spins. The sea meets the sky from the moment you wake, to the moment you sleep. Rise up, dear daughter and meet the sky, for wonders will be met and joy will be felt when your face touches the sun.”

So I started thinking… am I a poet? Have I ever been? I was in the attic last night and I actually found this poem I wrote when I was about twelve. I remember thinking back then I still had no idea what I was doing, but you can see the joy in it. The way I circled the “dots above my “i’s,” the little doodle drawings on the margins like kids do.

One of my earlier efforts - might have been 12 yrs old?

One of my earlier efforts – might have been 12 yrs old?

Do you write poetry? How do you feel about it? Love to hear!

A Healthy Halloween

Come on, even kids will eat this spooky snack!

Come on, even kids will eat this spooky snack!

Just the title of my blog post “A Healthy Halloween” sort of sounds sad, doesn’t it? I can hear people whining already,”What do you mean a healthy Halloween? No chocolate? No gummies? No high fructose corn syrup? What the heck are you doing to me, lady?” Work with me here. I’ve got some ideas for a Halloween Party where your guests will love the food and won’t be leaving with a stomach laden with artificial flavors and fifty ingredient fillers that they can’t even pronounce.
How fun is this?

How fun is this?

So, I started thinking… if I WERE to throw a healthy Halloween Party, or serve my kids fun spooky food, what would I serve? Here were some photos of super cool things I found on Pinterest that I think would be a hit for all age groups. While buckets of chocolates are cool, there are ways to integrate healthier food alternatives. Your guests won’t have any idea you just made a healthier choice for them. They’ll just think the food is “super spooky cool.”

Spaghetti as brains!

Spaghetti as brains!

Guacamole Brains via Cauliflower bowl

Guacamole Brains via Cauliflower bowl

I was also looking at a site called nuts.com and they have a host of foods as alternatives for the run-of-the-mill candy selection that Halloween is known for. Check out their site for some cool organic candies… I didn’t even know Gummy Bears could be organic! They also have gluten free, too!

A scary take on chocolate covered strawberries

A scary take on chocolate covered strawberries

I have so many ideas of foods I want to make. I’d make them for my kids but they’re suddenly “too cool” for this any longer. I swear, in 20 years they’ll look back and wish they’d let me do these things.
A new take on Deviled Eggs!

A new take on Deviled Eggs!

And for those of you who want to throw a Halloween Party with other cool ideas – here’s the entire pinterest page for you too look at. Seriously, I’ve been itching to throw one. I mean, we know how much I like horror books! Sigh, one day… https://www.pinterest.com/elysesalpeter/halloween-themed-food-ideas/

Make one Tiny Change for Big Results…

changeChange is hard for most people. We get stuck in our ways and prefer to be comfortable. It’s easier to sit on a couch and eat chips than it is to take a jog outside and grab an apple instead. It’s hard to change a career later in life for fear of failure. It’s hard to talk to someone about how you really feel, just letting everything sit in your gut instead, so you don’t have to deal with confrontation. It’s hard to reach out to ask someone for their help, for fear of rejection.

But if we don’t change certain things in our lives, then our bad habits, or simply habits, will control us and bring us down.

Food: I realize I’m addicted to sugar. Just love it. On my yogurt, in my cereal, candy bars, and when I drink coffee, three heaping tablespoons is my preferred amount of sugar inducing coma. Well, my family is riddled with diabetes. I realize I am also not feeling so great these days and while a blood test said I’m totally fine, I think I need to get this addiction under control. I switched to artificial sweetener in my coffee, but honestly, that’s worse for me than sugar. It’s like putting cardboard or poison or plastic into my system on a daily basis and guess what? I still don’t feel well. So, I made a tiny change just a few days ago. Did you know that cinnamon is a sweetener at its core? I am a coffee snob and at first refused to try it, but then realized I love Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Soy Lattes and the Cinnamon Dolce isn’t bad (NOTE: they are FULL OF SUGAR so of course I love them). But, now every morning in my coffee I use just one teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle Cinnamon into it and while it is not nearly as sweet as I normally crave, it’s completely acceptable. (I wonder if a Cinnamon stick would be good, too? Hmmm) Not to mention Cinnamon is used to help treat muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold, loss of appetite, and may lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes UK.

Jobs: I changed my job six weeks ago. I am learning things that I never learned before, lingo that I’ve never heard, getting eye rolls from people younger than me when I ask a question that seems like a no brainer. Sigh… luckily I catch on quick and most times you only have to tell me the answer once! But the fact is, I had to change what I was previously doing in order to learn something new in my field. I had to make this change to continue to be relevant in my industry. (I’m in publishing advertising sales by the way) It was scary. It IS scary. I want to know everything right now. I want to be successful right now. But the last thing I want to do in this life is say I didn’t try.

Promotions: We all know I write. I have been building my “critical mass” (fancy shmancy word for social media fan base) and have done all the necessary things. But something I need to do is get blurbs for my book cover The Hunt for Xanadu. I just got up the guts to ask a very well-known author for a blurb. There is a very good chance he will ignore me or say no. He writes in my genre and we “casually” know each other, meaning I’ve met him multiple times and he’s responded to my emails. In fact, he has the book. I mailed it to him two years ago because we’d met and I was supposed to also send him something else, so I put my book in here. But I never got the guts to ask him if he would do a blurb. I guess I’m afraid he’ll reject me, read the novel and dislike it, or just not talk to me any more out of embarrassment. It could be any number of things. The fact is, if I don’t ask, I’ll never give myself the luxury of ever hearing a “yes.” P.S. I asked him three days ago – haven’t heard a peep yet.

So, making tiny changes. I know it’s not New Year’s and it’s September, but there’s no better time than the present to make a change for the better. Think of one thing you can do that is outside your norm and try it. One thing to change your life in just a teeny way. Love to hear what you come up with.