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.

When Your Teenage Son Reads Your Novel… and Critiques!

I have a fourteen year old son. He normally does not read fiction, and prefers non-fiction history books, or anything he sees on the internet, versus picking up a book. Fantasy and supernatural are not topics he likes, because “they are not real life.”

Book # 1 in the series

Book # 1 in the series

So, when he said he wanted to read Book #1 in my Kelsey Porter series, well, I was concerned. First, it’s a bit of a sexy theme and there’s violence. My son really despises “the sexuality of America.” The Kardashians and Miley Cyrus’s of the world confuse him. So I wasn’t sure how he’d like this novel. But, he said that he’d like to “see what it is that I’ve been doing all this time and was interested in the historical Buddhist aspects of these thrillers.”

So, I agreed to let him read it, as long as we discuss it chapter by chapter. So, that’s what we’ve been doing and it’s so nerve-racking I can’t tell you. He goes to his room, reads a chapter and then comes in and says “Ok, I’m ready to give you my synopsis of what happened in that chapter and then my critique.” Oh, did I mention he gives my book an overall rating at the end of this discussion, using the 5.0 scale and that I fluctuate on this scale based on how he felt about the chapter? Yes, that’s what I mean about nerve-racking.

To give a little background, these books are about Kelsey Porter, a young, beautiful woman who is on the hunt for her parents’ killers, who were murdered on their quest to find the mystical land of Xanadu. The series is steeped in Buddhist spiritual mysteries, all based on real lore, but I do twist the facts at times for my book’s needs.

This is my view of Kelsey Porter. My son is on the fence about this.

This is my view of Kelsey Porter. My son is on the fence about this.

I would say that he’s understood 90% of what he’s read, so I will correct or explain some things that were confusing. I have been ordered not to explain too much, lest I give away spoilers. So far he has said “it’s very well written and some of the chapters are really interesting.” When that happens, my rating is usually at a 4.5, or some moments the coveted 5.0. Of course, there have been moments that I’ve been demoted to a 4.0 for “excessive use of flashbacks, expositional prose (I didn’t even know what that meant at the time) and making my boy characters too cliché.” I, of course, ask for explanation.

You see, Kelsey is a very sexual being, without being loose, but because of who she is, there’s this undercurrent where people are drawn to her. Yes, I make her beautiful with large bosoms, and my son was not impressed with that entire concept, though he’s giving me the benefit of the doubt as I’ve explained it’s a very true point to the plot.

He’s about 60% through and is digging the amount of research I’ve put into this. He says “it shows” and that as a result the book is now sitting at a 4.5 though “Mom, you can’t be upset if you drop points of course.”

Well, of course not. (shhhh… that’s just what I say!).

UH OH: He just came in and told me he didn’t like a chapter for the first time. He said, “the content was fine but it was too generic and scripted.” I had to ask what he meant. He said “it felt like you made the villain too stereotypical and were throwing around difficult concepts like astral projection too casually.” (wow, I actually thought this was a great, pivotal chapter in the book) My ranking strangely did not drop, though he had to think about it for some time to come to that decision.

Fingers crossed for the rest of the book as the threads are all starting to come together and he’s going to be delving into territory that is not a normal read for him. By the way, did I mention he found a spelling error? I spelled locales, “locals,” and I capitalized something that shouldn’t have been. Sigh… thankfully my rating did not drop because of that, either.

Want to read along with him? Here’s the link to all three books in the series! Enjoy!

Book #1 THE HUNT FOR XANADU
AMAZON: http://amzn.to/1CEvEab
UK Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Cp2awz

Book #2 THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB
US AMAZON: http://amzn.to/1EvXExO
UK AMAZON: http://amzn.to/1JSRNqT

Book #3 THE CALL OF MOUNT SUMERU
US AMAZON: http://amzn.to/1SUskAv
UK AMAZON: http://amzn.to/1nPF6TO

Kelsey Porter thriller series

Kelsey Porter thriller series

Preparing for my May 4th Library Talk

Shelter Rock's Flyer for me

Shelter Rock’s Flyer for me

At 7:00 pm on May 4th I’m going to be doing an author chat at Shelter Rock Library. This will be the third time I’ve been invited back to speak there. One of the reasons is that they have a special writing group with teens and adults interested in publishing and when I speak, I give them a very honest assessment about my journey from being with a small publishing house, to once having a pretty big time agent, to self publishing.

They’ve given me a bunch of questions to discuss, such as:

What inspires you to write?
When did you first start writing?
What advice you would give to young writers?
How you market yourself as a writer?
Trends in writing such as Fan Fiction, e-books etc. Have they helped you as a writer?
Who are your favorite authors?
Your novels seem to be moving into darker territory- do you see yourself writing in a particular genre in the future or mixing genres? What is the theme of Brothers Karov?
Why do you think series are so popular with teens and adults?

I’ve put out an events notice on FB, promoted it on a lot of local FB groups (which I’ll do again just a day or two before), but I never quite know how many people will show up. My first one there had seventeen people, the second one just three teens. When I only had three people, I had them all come to the front of the room and we simply sat near each other on chairs and had a real heart to heart.

If you live in the area and would like to attend, the address is:

Shelter Rock Library
165 Searingtown Road
Albertson, NY
516-248-7363

The back of the bookmark has Douglas Preston's review!

The back of the bookmark has Douglas Preston’s review!

I made some really cool little bookmarks to give away this time and I’ll have all three books in my newest series, along with a bunch of others. I don’t usually sell a lot of books at these events, as it’s more for the experience. But, while I’ll have everything I want to discuss, it’s really going to depend on attendance and the age group of who attends. I love getting asked questions, so hopefully people will come with some (that I can actually answer! LOL!)

Fingers crossed and I’ll post pictures. Now, to figure out what to wear!

The Surprising Thing People Like on my Pinterest Boards

This is just a sort of funny post this week about what I think is interesting and what others actually think is interesting. I love Pinterest and have 38 different boards. It’s a great place for me to put all my writing efforts, boards for my books and then the multitude of other things that interest me greatly – most of which have to do with food, inspiration, holiday inspired food, clothes, food for my favorite book characters, magical and haunted places, and more food (see a pattern here?)

Ham & Dill Pickle Appetizer Bites

Ham & Dill Pickle Appetizer Bites

But what has been the single number one pin that has been getting a lot of repins and likes recently? This one appetizer I pinned once. And yes, it has to do with food and no, I haven’t made it yet, but plan to! Easy Ham and Dill Pickle Appetizer Bites. To be honest, at first I wasn’t so sure it would be good. I mean, it’s just ham, cream cheese and a dill pickle. It seemed “too easy” but I’ve read the reviews about it and people seem to love it. What do you think? Would you make it? Here is a link to the pin, which will link you to the recipe if you’d like to try it! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/76139049921284996/

If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, please come here and check out my boards. https://www.pinterest.com/elysesalpeter/

Do you use Pinterest? And, if so, what do you use it for? I’d love to hear how it works for you.

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

The Quickest Amazon Giveaway on the Planet….

giveawaySo, Book #3 in the Kelsey Porter series launched. Right before this I decided to try out the new Amazon giveaway for Book #2. I’ll be honest, most times trying to get people to enter giveaways is so hard, that I wonder if it’s even worth it to do them.

I’ve done Goodreads giveaways and gotten possibly 600 people to enter. I’ve done FB, instagram and twitter giveaways and maybe 20 come in. This give-away you can pick how you want it to run. I gave away five books with a one in ten chance. I thought it would take all day for this to go. I put it out on twitter, Facebook, google+ and by the time it hit my newsletter folks, the giveaway was already over!

Yes, over. And here’s what’s weird. Four of the people that won were “A” names, the last name I couldn’t even pronounce, and I knew none of them. You’d think if I were first promoting to my own people, I’d know at least one of the winners, but I didn’t.

Next time I do this I’ll do a 1 in 100 chance to win. (or 1 in 300) As of now, I basically only engaged 50 people in this. Not efficient at all, and I had to pay for five ebooks, full price. (yes, I’ll get the royalties, and yes, it helped in my rankings for a spell, but it was roughly $20 for what seemed like a five minute giveaway and not even one review from it.)

I just thought I’d share my experience. Definitely something I’d do again, but I’d up the amount of people that need to enter to win the books, and play around with how many books to give away. I think the sweet spot is at least 500 entrants. Worst thing that happens is people don’t enter and you have a few books leftover you simply can gift to other people. They’re ebooks, so it’s not like the outlay is that huge.

Have you done one to great success? Love to hear.

Poetry efforts so far…

For the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to learn poetry. My editor thought it would be a good homework assignment for me, to teach me “how to get emotion in a single line,” and branch out a little more. That’s fine. I’m geeky, I like assignments.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been struggling with this. Not with writing the poem. That comes pretty quickly. I look at the photo prompt on Peanut Butter and Poetry Jam (the Facebook site I’ve been asked to look at on Saturdays where they put up a new picture prompt to give you some ideas for the week), and then think about it and write whatever comes to mind. I spend a little bit of time on it, but not more than ten minutes. You see, I don’t quite know what makes up a poem. There are so many kinds. Haikus, ones that rhyme, those with rhythm and cadence, some that, to me, make no sense at all, yet are still considered poems.

This is a really cute site because they are so supportive – they just want to spread the love of poetry, so I’ll continue the exercise each week, but at some point I’d like to actually understand what I’m doing.

This week’s photo prompt had a gothic looking woman standing on a ceremonial platform with fire, symbols and all these mystical things around her. Go to the site here and you’ll see it…

So, this is what I came up with:

I dance around the firelight,
And move along the wind.

I’ve heard the names, the uttered cries,
But none can see within.

Sybil, enchantress, witch and shrew
Are names spit out with hate.
Their fear so deep, it stalls their hearts
Against nature’s untainted plate.

But I am of the earthly realm
Mother’s lifeblood seeps through my veins
Her beauty calls and takes me home
And Wicca is my name.

Is this a poem? Is it written correctly? I have no idea. I’m a fiction writer, so to me, I just write a story around the prompt. At some point I’d love some technical advice about the above. If any of you would like to chime in, by all means!

And come over to the site here: https://www.facebook.com/pbandpoetryjam/?fref=ts and like the page. There’s quite a few of us that leave poems each week. On Saturdays they post the prompt, people post their poetry all week, then the admins choose one on Thursdays and Friday discuss it. It’s not a popularity contest, or a win/lose scenario and you can comment on all of them.

I will say, I am seeing the connection with emotion. Some have given me chills, so I know that’s the feeling I need to impart with each poem. A way to create an emotional response.

Do you like poetry? Do you write it? Come on over!