Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Writing Ergonomically: Treadmill, Sitting, and Standing Desks

Those of you who sit at your job all day know that being sedentary in one position for hours can lead to problems. I've dealt with high hamstring tightness, piriformis syndrome, back pain and the like for years. At first, I'd put my laptop on the floor and write on my stomach. Most of Isabeau was written in this position. But after awhile, that took its toll on my shoulders and simply wasn't comfortable after more than an hour or so.

Since my husband is an engineer, he put his practical brain on and decided to create some more ergonomic writing arrangements for me.


The first thing he did was make a treadmill desk (above). I got the idea from a KBoards.com thread. Here are some specifics for it:

1) It cost nothing, since he made it out of scrap lumber and we had extra polyurethane to finish it.
2) The 'desk' rests on the handrails and is kept in place by wood fixtures (blocks) on the underside. It is easy to put on and lift off of the handrails.
2) There is a 1/2" lip at the bottom of the desk surface that keeps the laptop and mouse in place.
3) Speed will vary by personal preference. I started off writing at less than 1.5 mph and worked my way up to 2.0 mph. I find that any faster than that and my typing accuracy suffers, although a lot of people do just fine at faster speeds. I do tend to write more slowly on the treadmill, so I most often use it when editing or when I can't stand to sit still any longer.


The second change was to alter my posture while at the desk. Sitting for long periods made my hamstrings tight, and crouching forward to reach the keyboard rounded my back and shoulders, causing low back pain and shoulder pain on one side. (I'd lean my left elbow on the desk for support and hold my right arm back to work the mouse.) Here are the changes we made to my sitting desk:

1) Putting a footstool under my desk allowed me to stretch out my legs, decreasing hamstring tightness and the PIA of piriformis syndrome.
2) Memory foam pillow under my bum. I also put a small pillow behind my lower back for lumbar support when needed.
3) Moved the keyboard to a portable keyboard/laptop tray on my lap. No more reaching forward.
4) Mouse placed on stool to my right. No more twisting sideways.
5) Comfy chair with arms. Keeps me more upright and even, left to right.


The standing desk was our final project. The important thing here was getting the placement of the keyboard right. I write the most words per hour sitting. Second would be standing. Slowest output for me is on the treadmill. For some writers that works in reverse, though. So when hamstring or gluteal pain makes me not want to sit and a flare-up of plantar fasciitis (one of the drawbacks of being a runner) keeps me off the treadmill, I stand. Here's what we did for a standing desk:

1) Added a shelf above the desk for a second monitor. At first I considered just moving the all-in-one computer up when I needed to stand, but that sucker is heavy. I didn't want to drop it. Monitors these days are affordable. There's some doo-hickey that connects the two monitors. All I have to do is turn on the top monitor, slide the file to the right, and it pops up above.
2) Added the second monitor and hardware to connect them.
3) Added a sliding keyboard tray beneath the shelf. The height of the shelf was determined by the height of the original monitor below and the space needed for the keyboard tray.
4) Use the footstool in the horizontal position to stand on, since the shelf is up a bit high. And no, I haven't fallen off. Yet.

The stool I use is a KidKraft Nursing Stool. It can be purchased in several finishes, from Espresso, to Honey Oak, to Natural.

The bamboo desk is by Legare. They have several finishes and configurations. I have the smaller wheat finish desk in the secluded writing area and a larger espresso finish corner desk and extensions in the business office. You can order it via their web site or from Amazon. I was able to put all of their furniture together myself. No tools required!

I'm much more comfortable these days, since I have options. Feel free to share your ergonomic writing tips in the comments!

Until later,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sins of the Past - A Five Novel Boxed Set for 99 cents!

Recently, I was invited by Steel Magnolia Press to include The Crown in the Heather as part of a 5 novel boxed set, along with four other hugely talented authors. You can now buy Sins of the Past for only 99 cents here:

Barnes and Noble

Take a sweeping journey through history and across the world with this limited-edition collection of 5 full-length historical fiction novels.

For lovers of mystery, war and adventure! 150 5-star individual reviews.

1100s - SEASON OF THE RAVEN (A Servant of the Crown Mystery) - Denise Domning

Sir Faucon de Ramis, the shire's first Crowner, must make an official declaration of the cause of a miller's death. But first he must thread the tangled relationships between the sheriff, the village of Priors Holston and the priory that once ruled it. As a simple task takes a turn to the political, what seems obvious isn't and what appears safe turns out to be more dangerous than he could imagine.

1300s - THE CROWN IN THE HEATHER (The Bruce Trilogy) - N. Gemini Sasson

Robert the Bruce faces love, betrayal and unlikely alliances in his rebellious bid for the empty throne of Scotland. But freedom, throne and wife together are not so easily won. Keeping his crown against Edward Longshanks' son and new King of England -- even with the aid of the brilliant James Douglas -- may mean giving up what Robert loves most: his beloved Elizabeth de Burgh.

1800s - A STORM HITS VALPARAISO - David Gaughran

The Spanish Empire holds South America firmly in its grasp. Only a ragtag force of adventurers, mercenaries and prostitutes would be fool enough to make a bid for freedom: two brothers torn apart by love; a slave running for his life; a disgraced British sailor seeking redemption; and José de San Martín, an Argentine general who deserts the Spanish Army to lead a bloody revolt against his former masters.

1920s - SANDS OF TIME (Out of Time Series) - Monique Martin

High-spirited Elizabeth Cross and her brilliant Professor of the Occult husband, Simon, are in 1920 Cairo on a special assignment for the Council for Temporal Studies: Find a missing pocket watch and bring it back to the present. But a shadowy foe is also on the hunt ... and after far more than a watch. The price for success this time just might be their lives.

1940s - WOLF HOOK - Michael Wallace

Sometimes in war, a good man can be on the wrong side. Jim Heydrich, the nephew of a Gestapo kingpin -- yet uncertain where his loyalties lie -- finds himself a suspect of both the Nazis and the Resistance. His harrowing experience sets the stage for this immersive mystery that follows Jim across occupied Holland and Italy ... right under the nose of the SS itself.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Want to win a signed copy of Say No More?

Just click on over to Goodreads to enter to win a signed copy of the paperback of Say No More! Giveaway ends March 28th.

Or, if you'd like to purchase your own copy of the paperback, it's now available on Amazon.com (U.S.), Amazon.co.uk (UK), Amazon.ca (Canada), and Barnes and Noble.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Say No More by N. Gemini Sasson

Say No More

by N. Gemini Sasson

Giveaway ends March 28, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Signing - Springfield Writes Author Fair - April 26th

Hey All! I'll be at the Springfield Writes Author Fair, with signed paperbacks of all my books available. 

Hope to meet some of you there!

Date/time: Saturday, April 26th, 2014 / 1:00-4:00 PM

Location: Clark County Public Library—201 South Fountain Avenue, Springfield, Ohio

Until later,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Say No More is available on Kindle!

It's here! It's here! It's here!!!

Say No More, my 8th book and my first dog story, is now available on Kindle worldwide.  Halo is a compilation of the many wonderful dogs I've been privileged to know over the years. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can even borrow it for free.

Ever heard of a place called the Rainbow Bridge? Ever lost a loved one, but sensed that they were still there beside you?

Don't expect any history in this novel (unless you consider Bernadette's retelling of the founding of the Faderville Library to be of historical significance). What you can expect are some poignant moments between an Australian Shepherd named Halo and her people, a surprising amount of action as Halo perseveres to find her way home despite a scheming villain who has other plans for her, and a message about the power of love and the extent of a dog's loyalty.

The paperback will be available in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, here are some of the Amazon links:

Amazon.com (U.S.)
Amazon.uk (UK)
Amazon.ca (Canada)
Amazon.de (Germany)
Amazon.au (Australia)

Here's the Prologue:



A thousand scents surround me: honeysuckle and hyacinth, grubs burrowing through damp earth, stagnant water mingling with black muck at pond’s edge … and bacon frying. I lick my lips and swallow. It’s all I can do to not put my nose to the air and explore until I discover their source.
But I have to stay here. It’s almost time.
I have something very important to do. I’m waiting. For him. And I’ll be here when he comes. The first one he’ll see.
It seems like it’s been forever, yet I can remember every detail about him, as if I left him only minutes ago.
Tender shoots of spring grass tickle my feet. I lower my head until my chin rests on the ground and nibble at them while I wait. After all, I don’t know how long it will be.
To my right, a beetle scampers down a blade of grass before disappearing into the dense carpet of green. My ears perk. I swear I hear its tiny feet rustling. Or maybe that’s the sound of its jaws sawing away on moist stems?
The barest of breezes tugs at my hair. There is a fluttering inside my nostrils. I lift my head, inhale. It’ll rain soon. I know it before I hear the low rumble in the sky or see the clouds darkening on the horizon. I’m not scared of the thunder here. I became that way when I was old. In The Time Before This. But now I’m young again. Here, there is excitement in everything, wonder in the familiar.
Rising, I look toward the top of the hill where the great oak stands. Its boughs are twice as thick around as my middle. Its crown spreads far, every branch densely cloaked in leaves of green. In sunlight, it shields me from the heat. In rain, it keeps me dry. When the wind kicks up and the air cools, there is a little pocket in the earth between the sprawling roots where I have dug a hole and can curl up. Here, no one cares if I dig. It is expected.
The walk is long and steep, but my bones do not weary. I am young again. And I would climb a hill ten times as high, ten times over, ten days straight, just to see him one more time. My heart leaps at the thought.
He’ll come. I know he will.
As I reach the top, a squirrel darts forth and stares me straight in the eye. My heart quickens. Her gray tail stiffens above her back like a bottle brush, then flicks to the side. Whiskers twitch nervously. I crouch in the tall grass, watching, patient. Boldly, she races forward and plucks an acorn from the ground. She clutches it to her chest, as if to say, “Mine, mine, mine.”
Stupid beady-eyed creature. I don’t want the acorn. I can think of tastier things. Squirrel, for one.
I lift a foot, creep forward, pause, step again. Her tail quivers. My head low, I move through the grass. So close now I can smell the wood scent on her fur and —
“Halo! Haaaloooooo!”
In a blur, the squirrel whips around and scrabbles up the furrowed bark of the oak, the knobby acorn stuffed in her tiny mouth. She stops above the first bough, gazes down at me, and huffs her cheeks in triumph. Then with another arrogant flick of her tail, she ascends in a spiral, and I lose her form in the tangle of branches and scattering of leaves. Far above, baby squirrels chatter in greeting.
“Halo?” the Old Man calls. “What’re you doing up there, girl?”
At the base of the hill, the Old Man stands, gripping a shepherd’s crook. It’s merely for show. I suppose it makes him feel important, like he’s in charge of things, but I don’t really need him to tell me what to do. At least not as much as he thinks.
He walks partway up, tapping the bottom of the crook along the ground as he goes. Here, he doesn’t need it to lean on. His steps are slow but sure. His spine, once bent, is now straight and strong. He reaches the top of the hill, his breath barely audible, but a sheen of sweat glistens above his brow.
My belly low, I slink to him, then sit and wait obediently. Gone from his face is the mapwork of blue veins beneath papery skin, although there are still creases around his eyes from squinting into the sun for so many years. He reaches his hand out, lets it hover above my head. I sniff his fingers. They’re still spotted with age, but they’re no longer gnarled. He scratches gently behind my ears.
I lean against his knee as his fingernails tickle my neck and then my back.
“Come on, Halo. We have to move the sheep before the storm blows in.”
Silly man. There are no coyotes here. They have their own heaven, separate from ours.
He steps away and pats his leg, but I don’t move. Doesn’t he understand? I’m waiting for someone. What if he finally shows up and I’m not here? I can’t leave my post. This is my job, my responsibility, my duty. Mine alone. My honor depends on it.
The Old Man frowns sympathetically at me. His shoulders lift in a shrug, emphasizing the wrinkles in that same old tatty shirt he always wears. I’ve always loved the smell of it and hated whenever he washed it. I hate the smell of soap. And shampoo. Things should smell as they’re meant to, not like almonds or coconut milk or baby powder.
“We were quite a team, weren’t we, girl?” His mouth curves into a grin. Crinkles form at the corners of his eyes.
“All the ribbons, the belt buckles . . .” His voice softens as he reminisces. “All those titles . . . But they don’t really mean a thing, do they?”
No, they don’t. They’re only things: colored scraps of cloth, metal discs, letters on a piece of paper. What matters were the many hours we spent in the field gathering the sheep, the cold mornings when we tiptoed into the barn to check on the new lambs, the times he let me ride in the cab of the pick-up next to him. I worked hard then, but I was happy. So was he. There was pride in a good day’s work.
“You were always there when I needed you, Halo. Always. That’s what matters.”
“It is,” I say. “And you were there for me.”
Nodding, he turns to go, the wooden staff trailing behind him. The grass ripples in a rising wind and the bleating of sheep carries across the valley. Do the simple creatures ever tire of being afraid?
I gaze across the river, over the arc of many colors that is the bridge to here: the Other Side. There’s no one there. Yet. If I hurry, I can help the Old Man and be back before the boy comes.
And he will. Because I’m waiting. Like any good dog would.


Remember to leave a review once you've read Say No More. Reviews help other readers decide if this book may be right for them.  And if you like it, don't forget to tell your friends via Facebook or Twitter! Word of mouth is the most powerful tool available to indie authors and readers are the ones who spread the word. Thanks for all your support!

Happy reading,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cover Reveal for Say No More

Here it is! The cover for my upcoming novel, Say No More, done by the mega talented Jason Gurley.  You may have seen some of his covers already on indie bestsellers like Hugh Howey's Sand Omnibus and A.G. Riddle's The Atlantis Plague. Both books are knock-your-socks-off awesome, inside and out. (BTW, Jason is also a gifted writer himself.)

For Say No More's cover, Jason did a fabulous job of capturing the loyalty of a dog and the underlying mystical elements in the story.

This book is something I've had brewing for a looooong time and I'm super excited about its release. It stems from my decades of owning, training, and breeding Australian Shepherds. I've been tremendously privileged to have so many great dogs as part of my life, from childhood to the present, and each has held a special place in my heart. I've felt so connected to some of them that when it was their time to go, their absence left me to grieve deeply. That connection can be so strong that I feel like it's never truly severed. And I'd like to believe that we see our loved ones again - be they human, canine, feline, equine or anything else.

Say No More should be available on Kindle and in paperback in the coming week, but for now, here's the description:


A dog’s love is forever.

After five-year old Hunter McHugh witnesses the farming accident that takes the life of his father, Cam, he stops talking — to everyone except his dog, Halo. When Hunter runs away and gets lost in the Kentucky wilderness, it’s up to Halo to find him. Just as she’s about to give up, Halo gets help from an unlikely source: Cam’s ghost.
Halo is no ordinary dog. Not only does she see ghosts, but she can talk to them, too. If only she could tell Hunter that death doesn’t mean an end to being around the ones we love, maybe she could help him find his voice again. Unfortunately, she may never have the chance.
Parted from the only family she has ever known, Halo must find her way home. The problem is she doesn’t know where home is anymore.
Say No More is a heartfelt story of loss, hope, and the enduring bond between a boy afraid to speak and a dog that can’t.


I'll post here on my blog, on Facebook and my web site when it's available. So stay tuned!

Oh, and all the beta readers tell me they got weepy at the end, so keep the tissues nearby. One of them even described it as a cross between Black Beauty (the canine version) and The Incredible Journey/Homeward Bound.

Until later,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What to Read Next - February, 2014

Where do I start? One huge advantage of the fierce winter weather that has restricted my running to the treadmill is that I'm getting a LOT of reading done this winter while I crank out the miles.  So here are my favorites of all the books I've read in the last few months. Check them out and if you discover a book you enjoy, share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

The Atlantis Gene, by A.G. Riddle

"70,000 years ago, the human race almost went extinct.
We survived, but no one knows how.
Until now.
The countdown to the next stage of human evolution is about to begin, and humanity might not survive this time."

What I love most about reading on my Kindle is trying new genres and finding new authors. A.G. Riddle is tremendously talented. The Atlantis Gene will take you on a thrilling, action-packed ride steeped in evolutionary science and history. Riddle has obviously put a great amount of thought and research into this story.

The Atlantis Plague, by A.G. Riddle

"In Marbella, Spain, Dr. Kate Warner awakens to a horrifying reality: the human race stands on the brink of extinction. A pandemic unlike any before it has swept the globe. Nearly a billion people are dead--and those the Atlantis Plague doesn't kill, it transforms at the genetic level. A few rapidly evolve. The remainder devolve."

The sequel to The Atlantis Gene is even better, if that's possible. It pretty much knocked my socks off.  All the threads begin to come together as you read along and Kate and David's relationship deepens. Action, suspense and mystery with a healthy dose of science and history.

Finding Emma, by Steena Holmes

"A mother’s near-obsessive devotion to her missing daughter threatens to destroy more than one family.

Megan is the harried but happy stay-at-home mother of three little girls living in a small town. Her life implodes when her youngest daughter, Emma, disappears on her third birthday."

An element of mystery surrounds this touching story of an abducted child and the bond that develops with her abductors, and her mother's quest to find her. This had me tearing up at the end.

Emma's Secret, by Steena Holmes

A continuation of Finding Emma. I'll skip the description so there aren't any spoilers, but this is a worthy follow-up to its prequel.

Happy reading!