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Merry Un-Christmas

Christmas is once again a thing of the past (yay!) and it’s that time of the year when hoards of wannabe healthy people begin working on undoing the damage (and weight gain) of the holidays. I got a jump on it this year, mainly by fantasizing about being healthier and skinnier while basking in the afterglow of chocolate chip cookies and Starbucks peppermint mochas. (It’s always easy to have the best intentions when you’re buzzing from sugar, isn’t it? It’s much harder the next day when those vegetables don’t look nearly as enticing as that bar of chocolate.)

IMG_0392But this year, I’m serious. I have baby weight to lose (errr, and post-baby weight), and a health baseline to dramatically improve. For inspiration, I asked for a Nutri Ninja for Christmas, and to my sparkly-eyed surprise, Santa came through.

I’m on Day 2 of halfway decent, albeit slightly gritty, vegetable “juicing”. Yesterday, the vegetable concoction included spinach, arugula (not recommended), lemon, ginger, carrots, apple, ice, and water. It was so-so. Good enough to drink.

Today’s mix was spinach, celery, lemon, ginger, apple, and water. Much better than yesterday. Somewhat refreshing, even. Actually, it was quite refreshing. Unfortunately, I ruined the vegetable afterglow with a bar of dark chocolate. *sigh* Baby steps.

While drinking my nutrient-extracted, juice-ish sorta thing, I extracted the seeds from a couple of pomegranates. The process took nearly thirty minutes, but those little red fruity jewels of goodness are always worth it. (Num. Num.)

Pomegranate

Now I have a 16 ounce container of pomegranate seeds to snack on whenever the urge for Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate rears its grumpy little head. (If you have candy, chocolate, cake what-have-you in the house and you cannot stop thinking about it until you eat it, and you feel compelled to eat it even though you aren’t sure if you really want it, you *might* have a sugar problem.

*raising hand*

Guilty.)

Perhaps tomorrow I will throw pomegranate seeds into my Nutri Ninja.

You know what? I’m kind of looking forward to it.

Do you plan on ingesting something healthy tomorrow? If so, what is it? Let’s trade recipes.

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Kindled Hearts: Available NOW!

My Christmas novella, Kindled Hearts is available in ebook from Amazon.

This was my first foray into inspirational romance and I’m happy with the results. It’s a fun, quick read. I hope you’ll check it out!

Click on the cover below to order from Amazon.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on my future releases and writerly endeavors, click to join my mailing list.

Thanks for your readership!

Kindled Hearts by Jessica E. Thomas

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The Sideshow – Fall 2015 Issue (#5)

Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow Issue 5 Cover

The Fall 2015 issue of The Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow is out, folks. It took a minor miracle, and many weeks in, I wanted to ditch the whole idea of editing and publishing an ezine, but I’m glad I didn’t because I’m very proud of this issue.

I’m also quite a fan of the cover. (Thanks Odd Mr. T) Somewhere between hollering at the kids to stop running and pleading with them to be quiet, and from under a mound of bottles, burp rags, and diapers, my husband managed to do an oil painting. (See cover above.)

No children were accidentally painted in the process, although the house did smell of paint fumes a few times. Nobody call the U.N., I’m sure my children and their lungs are fine.

After editing five issues (with the help of Jill Domschot on Issue 4), I’m starting to see the potential of The Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow. I envision it one day becoming a paying venue, or at the very least spawning an anthology or two every so often.

If you’re interested in following our progress via mail, please sign up here to receive our periodic newsletter. We greatly appreciate your readership.

Please enjoy our latest issue, and give us your feedback—positive or negative—we love hearing from you!

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WANTED: The Christmas Spirit

ChristmasOrnamentThe Christmas Spirit is an elusive specter in the Thomas house. For me, at least.

My children possess it in copious amounts, or shall I say, it has possessed them and they are bubbling over with excitement as a result.

I remember those days: starting the Christmas countdown in August, spending quiet evenings staring wistfully at the lit Christmas tree, fantasizing about the gifts Santa Claus might bring.

Those days are over.

These days, my Christmas season is more about fretting over money, cleaning the house over and over to keep it clean for guests, and fantasizing about sunnier days and warmer temperatures to come.

I’d like to feel the magic of Christmas again, but with a roof to maintain, and three little mouths to feed, and all the responsibilities that go along with being an adult, I’m skeptical about the likelihood of its return.

I know, I know. We’re supposed to focus on the reason for the season: Jesus’ birth. But who has time? Come January, when life settles down, and the snow is (hopefully) falling, I’ll have more time to contemplate the awe inspiring mystery of the virgin birth. Jesus probably wasn’t born in December anyway.

I don’t want to seem too much of a downer. I happen to think that if my children enjoy the magic of the season thanks, in part, to my somewhat forced efforts, a victory will have been achieved. I’ve lived long enough to know that hindsight often comes with its own little sprinkle of magic. In twenty years (God willing) when I’m lounging on my hammock in Hawaii (one can dream), I will remember this Christmas with fondness, and dare I say, longing.

But, alas, I must live it before I can enjoy the memory. So here’s to another whirlwind Christmas season. If you spy the Christmas Spirit, load him up in the paddy wagon and send him my way. (Only after you’ve imbibed your fair share, of course.)

photo credit: Christmas tree decorations via photopin (license)

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‘Kindled Hearts’ Preview

christmasRomanceFor reasons probably related to temporary insanity, I wrote a Christmas-themed inspirational romance novella during NaNoWriMo.

For reasons definitely related to temporary insanity, I plan to release it SOON.

In the meantime, here is Chapter 1. I hope you enjoy!

Back Cover Blurb:

Claire Farmer’s life just went up in smoke. Literally.

According to the fire chief, her 80-year-old house went up like a pile of kindling, destroying all but a few of her precious belongings.

Newly divorced and homeless, she’s in no place to start a relationship. But when Mitchell Deitrich offers to help her get back on her feet, even she can’t ignore the sparks that fly.

Kindled Hearts

CHAPTER ONE

It was the first day of winter. Or so it seemed. Until now, Central Indiana had logged the mildest December on record, with daytime temperatures hovering in the mid-sixties; however, someone must have poked a sleeping Old Man Winter in the eye, because he was finally awake, and angry, it seemed.

Overnight, the temperature plunged below freezing, and with it came frozen spittle from the skies. That’s what Claire Farmer likened it too, anyway. Precipitation so fine it could almost pass as fog, until you stepped out of the car to untangle your preschooler from her medieval torture device, otherwise known as a 5 point harness. As Claire wrangled Sylvie from the seat, specks of ice pelted her cheeks with surprising velocity, and suddenly she remembered why she loathed winter.

“Mommy, are we gonna get cookies tonight? Mia said she gets cookies at church.” Sylvie’s blonde curls brushed her pink cheeks as she nodded.

“I don’t know, Sylvie. I doubt it.”

“Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite. I like peanut butter cookies, too. I’m hungry.”

“We ate before we came. I told you to finish your plate.”

“Peas are yucky.”

“But you didn’t even touch your grapes, and they’re your favorite.” Claire grabbed her daughter’s hand to help her from the car. “Be careful, it’s getting slick.”

Sylvie pushed Claire’s hand away, turned back into the car, and lowered herself to her knees. “Sylvie, what are you doing? It’s cold out here. My face is about to freeze off.”

“I’m looking for Woofus,” Sylvie said, referring to the stuffed dog her dad bought her after the fire.

“We left Woofus at home remember? He didn’t feel like coming. Now, get over here.” Claire leaned into the car and grabbed Sylvie at the waist. Despite her balance being slightly off-kilter, Claire reckoned she could tug her forty pound, endearing yet often exasperating child from the car, as she had many times prior. Except, all those other times, her feet were anchored on dry pavement, not millimeters of ice. This time as she pulled, her right heel slipped under the car, and she landed flat on her back with Sylvie sprawled on top of her–laughing of course.

“That was fun,” Sylvie said.

“Oof” was all Claire could manage.

“Need a hand?”

Claire directed her gaze toward the deep male voice. The man bent down to help her regain her footing, but not her pride. That was under the car somewhere, along with her feet. She smiled at the shadowed face gazing down at her, trying not to betray her humiliation.

“No, I’m alright,” she said. “Sylvie, get up. Get off of Mommy.”

The left corner of the man’s mouth turned up. “You don’t look alright.”

“Oh, I’m just doing yoga. It’s called the Corpse Pose. You should try it.”

Since Sylvie wasn’t budging of her own accord, Claire gave her a shove. The four year old popped up on both feet and did a little spin on the slick pavement.

“Yoga in the middle of a dark parking lot, in December, while it’s sleeting. I see.” His mouth broke into a full smile now, and even though his face was still in shadows, she could tell his teeth were white, and a little crooked on bottom.

Claire grabbed his hand and allowed him to pull her up. “It’s called extreme yoga,” she said, when her feet were finally under her.

“Is it now?”

“Yeah. Remember when planking was all the rage? It’s kind of like that. I should have asked you to take a picture for my Facebook page.”

He laughed aloud. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She smiled. His laughter helped her regain some self-respect.

Now that Claire could see the man’s face clearly, her heart quickened. She chastised herself. What a ridiculous, base response…to handsomeness. Pure handsomeness. She chastised herself again. Claire, you old crow. This man was clearly too young for her, with smooth skin and broad shoulders indicating a solid, healthy build. And he was a redhead. She’d never gone for redhead’s before. A slightly balding redhead at that. But even so, he was fresh off the farm. The age difference was a no-go, not to mention the fact that she’d sworn off men for the rest of her life. One whirlwind romance, followed by a hasty marriage, followed by a heart-rending divorce was enough, thank you.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

In her humiliation, Claire hadn’t thought to determine if anything was twisted, pulled, or broken. She did a quick systems check. Her left gluteus maximus must have taken the brunt of the fall, because it was the only area of her body that ached. It would be bruised tomorrow, no doubt. But she wasn’t about to tell this fellow that her bottom hurt.

She smiled into the frozen precipitation. “I’m fine,” she said. “I may be old, but I’m resilient.”

“Let’s go, Mommy,” Sylvie said, grabbing her mother’s hand. “I’m cold.”

The gentleman nodded in agreement and the three of them made careful way to the church. At the front entrance, he held the door for them both, and once inside, they parted ways–Claire and Sylvie to the right and the handsome red-haired hatchling to the left.

#

As he walked to his office, Mitchell Deitrich couldn’t stop smiling. Every time he replayed the exchange with the quirky brunette in the parking lot, his grin widened.

Who was she? A congregant? A visitor? He hadn’t been associate pastor at Parkview long enough to know the difference. With over two thousand members, he might never be able to tell the difference. As it were, every face was new to him. However, in his short six weeks at Parkview, he’d definitely never seen a face like hers–ample, well-defined cheek bones. Big, slightly down-turned cow eyes. As a former farm boy with a soft spot for cows, that was compliment, though not one he was likely to share with her if he ever got the opportunity to speak to her again.

He chuckled at himself.

It had been a long time since a woman managed to make him feel this way, her mere glance inciting a tickling yearning that warmed his body all the way to his fingertips.

He shook his head. Lust. That’s all it was. Simple lust. Not something to be cultivated.

He reached his office, unlocked it, and as he turned the knob, he reminded himself, he was in a vulnerable place emotionally, and it was no place to start a relationship. Even if the opportunity presented itself.

photo credit: candy canes ♥ via photopin (license)

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7 Easy Ways to Gain Weight!

7WaysToGainWeightThe blogosphere is inundated with blog posts telling you how to accomplish “X” in [insert number] easy steps. While there’s no shortage of advice on how to lose weight, I’ve noticed there aren’t many posts telling people how to gain it. In deference to the underprivileged and forgotten, I’ve decided to cater to this under-served group today. (Personalized catering plans available at 1-800-U GAIN IT. Operators are standing by.)

If you’ve tried over and over again to gain weight with little or no success, take heart, you can keep the weight on and keep it on. Here are 7 ways to accomplish it.

7 Easy Ways to Gain Weight

  1. Eat an entire box of Ding Dongs after every meal.
  2. Eat an entire box of Twinkies after every meal.
  3. Eat an entire box of Ho Hos…after every meal.
  4. Deep fry all of your food prior to eating it. All of it. For best results, dip it in thick batter first.
  5. Eat a wheel of cheese for breakfast, a gallon of ice cream for lunch, and a cheesecake for dinner. Other food groups are optional. Results may vary.
  6. Eat a stick of butter every waking hour. (Not recommended.)
  7. Every night for dinner, eat: an entire pan of lasagna, a dozen breadsticks, and a side salad with a plate of tiramisu for desert. (Do not try this at home.)

You’ll notice there are 7 recommendations above, 1 for every day of the week if you like variety.

To speed your progress along, we recommend you cease all physical activity. In other words, do nothing. At all. Whatsoever.

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new diet plan.

Happy eating!

photo credit: weigh loss pix via photopin (license)

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T’is (Almost) the Season

Christmas Tree with crossWe already put up our Christmas tree. When my husband posted a picture of it on Facebook, he got weird cyber stares and glares. Our reasoning for putting up the tree early is this: the holidays fly by so fast, especially with three kids, that if we wait until after Thanksgiving, we hardly even notice we have a Christmas tree.

Another bonus is the extra lighting it adds. Since we moved into our home many years ago, we’ve suffered with poor lighting in the living room. Okay “suffering” is a exaggeration, but ask anyone who’s come to our house for small group Bible study and actually tried to study their Bible. The lighting situation in the living room is simply…poor…and we haven’t yet decided to invest the money to remediate it. So, a bright Christmas tree in the corner is an added bonus.

Except this year, we have colored lights, and they don’t light up the room very well. (Happy holiday tip: Don’t store your Christmas lights in an unheated garage during the winter. They break. Also, don’t invest in a “pre-lit” tree. It breaks and you end up having to string lights on it anyway.)

Regardless, point being: our Christmas tree is up, lit, and decorated. If you need to say “bah humbug”, I understand. I was that way once too. Just say it quietly, on your side of the screen. 😉

November Novella Writing Month

Despite the busyness of the season, I’ve given myself an extra challenge. Every November, authors across the globe participate in NaNoWriMo, wherein they attempt to write an entire novel in one month.

First of all, who picked November? Hello. Thanksgiving. Christmas preparation. And, of course, my birthday.

Second of all, I think all the participants are crazy (for the above reasons). I say that gently because, it’s a good kind of idealistic crazy that makes a person think they can log 50K words in 30 days, during the holiday season.

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to take a slightly less crazy approach and challenge myself to write a 20K-word Christmas-themed inspirational romance. I already have 9K words written, and if the second 10K goes as well as the first, there’s a remote (remote) possibility that I may be able to release it in December. (I really really really want to finish it in time, but it’s a tall order.)

I’ll keep you posted. Until then, happy holidays, unless you aren’t celebrating them yet, and if not, well then…that’s coo.

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The First Principle – The Story

herBook_3DIt’s day two of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. We’re reviewing The First Principle, by Marissa Shrock. I received a print copy of The First Principle compliments the publisher.

The Story

The First Principle is Young Adult dystopian science fiction with definite Christian content. Some books claim to be Christian but handle the subject of Christianity loosely, delicately, or subtly. I have no problem with any of these approaches. Just know, Shrock’s book doesn’t tip-toe around it.

Neither does it tip-toe around the subjects of teen pregnancy and abortion. As such, I wouldn’t recommend this book for tweens or younger teens. Nevertheless, I applaud Shrock and the publisher for tackling these two important issues.

The Spirituality

I personally found the Christian themes/elements to be a bit heavy-handed and “in-your-face” at times, and prefer the spiritual aspects of a story to be presented with a bit more finesse, but remember, I’m a forty-year-old woman with three kids, i.e. I’m not the book’s intended audience.

The Characters

Shrock’s characterization often struck me as one-dimensional. For instance, the main character can hack into secure computer networks, but we’re never told where she learned that skill. As it is, her skills as a hacker seem only to serve the plot.

I found Drake to be the most multi-dimensional and, therefore, believable, so for me, he was the highlight of the cast.

The Plot

The First Principle moves from conflict to conflict at a fast clip making it an easy read. Shrock seems to have a good grasp on plotting, and I felt this was an area where she shined.

The Technicalities

The story was very tightly edited, which is more than one can expect these days, even from major publishing houses. I appreciated the author’s and the publisher’s attention to detail in this area.

Overall

I’d give The First Principle three stars. I’d recommend it to older teens.

To find out what others are saying, check out the links below.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

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The First Principle – First Impressions

herBook_3DI decided to join the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour this time around. We’re reviewing The First Principle, by Marissa Shrock.

Overview

In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of North America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For sixteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same–until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall.

When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Martina Ward, she has no idea she’s sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn’t long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory termination–or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother’s chances at becoming president.

A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn’t ready to face.

First Impression

I received a print copy of The First Principle compliments the publisher. It’s nice to hold a book—a real book—in the hands while reading. For print books, the cover is even more important. The book I received is high quality, I would say, a step above CreateSpace, and on par with larger publishers.

In my opinion, the cover lacks appeal. The pastel colors aren’t exactly eye-catching and the over-all design left me feeling a bit “meh”. I do like the computer circuit boards in the back doubling as a skyline. I think that could have been used more effectively. Although, I will admit, the cover has grown on me since the first time I saw it.

A book isn’t its cover, so tomorrow, I’ll delve into the story itself.

To find out what others are saying, check out the links below.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

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Climbing Back onto the Wagon

Yesterday’s blog post was good medicine, so I’ve decided to continue the trend with another post.

I’m feeling better today, less like I’m pretending to feel okay for the sake of others. This has me feeling cautiously optimistic about the days to come, and more confident in the road I’m taking to stabilize my mood.

I’ve found, through several years of trial an error, that food is also excellent medicine for depression. I fell off my sugarfree wagon many months ago, and as expected, my sugar consumption has steadily climbed and was on the verge of becoming unwieldy. Noticing this, I grudgingly set out to once again “do the steps” of the lifesaving Radiant Recovery program, also known as The Sugar Addict’s Recovery Program.

Although just six days ago, I grudgingly began journaling my food, I’m now joyfully looking forward to the recovery process. I’m already remembering how much better I feel when I don’t eat junk. (Hallelujah!)

Hello. My name is Jessica Thomas, and I am a sugar addict.

It’s freeing to say that. Especially freeing to say it publicly.

The great thing about the Radiant Recovery program is that it’s not about what not to eat. It’s about eating healthy yummy foods that nourish the body. Quitting sugar isn’t until Step 6, and you don’t have to wait until then to reap the benefits of stable blood sugar and a stable mind.

That being said, I had chocolate yesterday, and it didn’t go over well. Stomach did not agree. So, I’m looking for other ways to satisfy my sweet tooth, as well as creative ways to improve the quality of my diet in general.

chia_kombuchaFor instance, yesterday, I soaked chia seeds in water, scooped in some frozen juice concentrate, gave it all a shake, and voila, “Stuff with seeds in it” (as we call it at my house). Soaked chia seeds are like tapioca. They’re fun to roll around on the tongue and nibble on. Adding juice adds sweetness and almost makes me feel like I’m drinking G.T.’s Chia Kombucha. (Yummmmm.)

I have plans. Plans to make water kefir. After which I will add juice to make it fizzy, and then…chia seeds! It’s gonna be awesome. At least, it tastes lovely in my imagination. I simply need to order some water kefir grains and get to work.

To Do: Find a reputable source from which to buy water kefir grains.

Anyone know where I can get a good batch? I’m a little nervous to ferment my own drink, so I want to start with the best.

If you’ve made your own water kefir, please please share your experience below and let me know where you ordered your starter.

I’ll share the details and results of my science experiment in the coming weeks.

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