Sunday, October 25, 2015

5 Ways to improve your mood and decrease anxiety without medication

It's almost November, and for those of us in the northern hemishere, that means short days and grey skies, especially if you live in Vermont, which I (thankfully) do. Short days and grey skies, in turn, have a deleterious effect on mood--and that means for everybody, not just the approximately 1/3 of people at northern latitudes who meet the criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It seems timely, then, to write a post about the best ways to boost mood without medication.

1) Get your ass moving: I could write an entire thesis on the mood effects of Exercise (fortunately for your mood I won't) but it would take too long and I want to go hiking later this morning. Suffice it to say that exercise causes your body to release endorphins, a chemical that has the effect of reducing stress, boosting mood, and decreasing the perception of pain. The best part about endorphins is that, unlike morphine to which endorphins are related, they don't engender addiction or habituation. Hot Damn!! Talk about the perfect drug! And it's naturally produced and free--all you need is a pair of hiking boots (or running sneakers or swim trunks or a rowing machine, etc.) If that's not enough to get you headed to the gym, exercise is also a proven way to boost self-esteem, and the sense of the well-being that comes from regular exercise is an independent promoter of good mood. 

Here's a great article from the Mayo Clinic on the subject: Exercise and Depression
 2)Into the arms of Morpheus: It wasn't until I became a resident physician that I came to understand the importance of Sleep. Well, I wasn't getting any (minimum 80 hour work weeks and TWO kids, both born during my residency) and Man, Oh Man was it an effort to keep my spirits up. Every once in a while, Morpheus would toss two or three nights of good sleep my way and the effect on my mood and spirits (not to mention my irritability index) was dramatic. I don't want to put you to sleep <grimaces from bad pun> with the medical literature on the subject, but suffice it to say that studies documenting the link between sleep and mood are rife and irrefutable. Take home message: Turn your damn computer off (after you finish this article and share it with your friends) and shut off the lights. zzzzzzzzzzz

The Link between Sleep Deprivation and Depression 

3)Hit the Lights: As I referenced above, light has a lot to do with mood. I think most people would agree with this, but the issue is: What the heck can I do about it, other than move to Southern California? (And who can afford to do that?) Well, in the mode of killing three birds with one stone, why don't you skip lunch (we'll talk about the role of food and mood next) and go for a walk: Exercise, daylight, and fresh air all at once. Talk about being in a good mood. If you simply can not get outside for the natural stuff, buy a bright light, and use it every day for at least 1/2 hour. 

 How to treat depression with Light

4) You are what you eat: To all of you people who rely on M&Ms (yes, me...) to get you through the day, this one is for you. While there is no doubt that Skittles gives you a boost when you chomp a handful (Just ask Marshawn Lynch) you have to realize that the boost is very short term. The big spike in blood Sugar you just got from eating that whole bag of circus peanuts (substitute Gummi Bears, Candy Corn, Jelly Beans, etc,) leads to a big spike in insulin, which then drastically lowers your sugar levels, making you feel like a nap is the best idea in the world. Even worse, fluctuating blood sugar plays havoc with the levels of serotonin in your brain, deleteriously affecting your mood. Plan: Stay away from simple carbs, such as sweets, juices, sodas, sugars, etc.

If you want to read more about it, here's the link to A WebMD article on Food and Mood

 5)Get Unplugged: The data is undeniable. Too much Screen Time causes depression, increased anxiety, irritability and loss of focus. Although the studies have been done mostly on children and teens (brains in formation) there is good evidence to suggest screen time has similar effects on adults as well. I can't imagine this surprises you, and it begs the question: How much is too much? This is still being worked out, and is probably the area where the distinction between forming brains and formed brains is most important. Keep something in mind: the frontal lobe (the area of the brain where decision making and judgment happen) doesn't stop forming until at least 25 years of age. So turn off the TV, take a walk instead; put away the X-Box, play Scrabble; Shut down the laptop, read a book instead (I can find the opportunity for shameless self-promotion anywhere).

Interested in more? Screen Time and Mental Health
The New American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on screen time limits.

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Interview with Author Lily Gardner

I recently had the privileged to interview author/ Barnes and Noble Queen, Lily Gardner.


The Introduction

Lily GardnerLily Gardner plays cards and writes noir mysteries in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon. She’s a big fan of noir film, Scandinavian noir and American murder mysteries, both hard and soft-boiled.

A Bitch Called Hope is the first book in Gardner’s Lennox Cooper series, a story about a poker playing detective who only catches a break at the card table. Her second book in the series, Betting Blind, is coming out on March 29, 2016.

The Interview

Your novel, A Bitch Called Hope, ruled the B&N bestseller list. Did you know you wanted to do the sequel, Betting Blind, even before the first one became a hit?

When I found my detective, Lennox Cooper’s character, I knew I wanted to continue to tell stories with her voice. A story is one thin slice of a human life, so there’s dozens of stories that could be told.

Did you find writing the sequel to be harder or easier than writing the first Lennox Cooper novel.

Both.  I found it difficult to reveal the backstory for Lennox and her poker buddies in a new and artful way from A Bitch Called Hope. That said, having a protagonist and supporting cast with developed characters and voices is a wonderful thing. I also had the confidence of having written a novel from start to finish, so I knew I could do it again.

When do you let your friends and family read your novels, pre or post release?

The problem is readers’ fatigue. My books change with every critique and edit, and I go through this process over and over. Which version do I give my friends and family? The best version—the published version.
Lennox is a a strong, capable woman, as well as a seasoned card player, and you are too. How and when did you start playing?
I started playing Pitch my freshman year in college. I’d like to say I played during my lunch hour, but the truth is I skipped a lot of classes to keep playing. When I moved to the country post college, I played hours and hours of Hearts and Canasta. I’m pretty solid with those games, but I suck at poker. I have the worst card luck when I’m playing with my own money.

Are there other parts of Lennox that you identify yourself with?
We both have potty mouths, and our thoughts about Luck and Chance are identical. Otherwise we’re very different. Lennox is little and tough and never stands down from a confrontation, whereas I am tall and timid. She puts her work before her love life. Yeah. Well. All her friends are men. All my friends are women. She has only her mother. My family is the size of a small village. It’s wonderful imagining a character so unlike me.

What is your most, and least favorite part of writing?
Building a new scene is the most difficult stage of writing for me. Accomplishing my scene goals; creating conflict between my characters; and placing them in an interesting setting that is so vivid that the reader feels she’s there in the story is really freaking hard. My favorite part of writing is re-writing. Once I have the raw prose on the page, I can make it better.

How will Betting Blind differ from its predecessor?
In A Bitch Called Hope, Lennox’s primary motive for solving Bill Pike’s murder is to prove to her cop community that she still has the investigative chops she had as a homicide detective in the Portland Police Bureau. In Betting Blind, Lennox is fighting with all her skill to clear her dear friend from a murder charge.

A Bitch Called Hope is a world of wealth and entitlement. Betting Blind is a world of cyber crime, a place where people prey on the lonely.
A big, big thanks to Lily for letting me interview her!
If you’re yet to read the best-selling first book in the Lennox Cooper series, A Bitch Called Hope, or want to sample it, CLICK HERE!
Betting Blind comes out on March, 29, 2016 through Diversion Books.

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in Sacramento, California. Her international bestsellers, Stalking Sapphire and Silencing Sapphire, were published in 2013, and followed by the third book in the series, Sentencing Sapphire. Mia is currently working on completing the series’ last two installments, due out through Diversion Books in 2016 and 2017

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Interview with author Ash Krafton


Ash Krafton has been hard at work on being her alter ego, AJ Krafton. She released her New Adult debut THE HEARTBEAT THIEF on Kindle in June and is thrilled to have made the Amazon Bestseller lists in four countries so far. Follow #AshKraftonEuroTour2015 as she takes the THIEF on a tour of Germany, Switzerland, and Venice (or follow @ash_Krafton on Instagram).

The Interview

First of all I want to say how much I love your name: Ash Krafton. It may be the best name I’ve ever heard. I know you also write under AJ Krafton. What made you decide on a pen name and how did you settle on AJ?
That's so funny that you say that. I remember getting a rejection from a magazine editor who said she loved my name (but I guess not the story, considering the rejection.) But her email went, "Ash Krafton, Ash Krafton, Ash Krafton. I love saying that out loud!" Writers are a wacky lot : )
I decided to use a pen name for this book because up until that point, my writing has been for adults. The Heartbeat Thief is more of an all-ages (or at least mature teen and up) book so I wanted the different name to make that distinction. The J in AJ represents my family, which is a little heavy on the J names.

Both you and I write NA, a genre that makes a lot of people frown and say: “New…Adult?” How do you usually explain the genre to those who don’t know?

New Adult differs from Young Adult in that the themes are heavier, more mature. It represents the 18-30 year old group, that place in between YA and mainstream adult reading. Often, NA books feature sexual relationships, career/life choices, leaving home, or emotional situations that would be difficult for a younger teen to fully digest.

I chose a NA approach to this story because it's a dark fantasy that explores the phenomenon of death. It contains violence and a sexual relationship (along with its consequences). Now, as the story is also a historical told in the style of Jane Austen, a reader shouldn't expect steamy sex scenes. However, I didn't feel that it was a book aimed at young readers in middle school. A YA tag would mistakenly present it as such.
That being said, there have been several readers who say it's recommended for readers of all ages. I've been reading Stephen King since I was twelve and look at me: I turned out juuuuussssstttt fine. *winks*

How old were you when you started putting stories together, and who got to read them?

I've been writing since I was a kid. Most of the time, my mom would read it and send it into the newspaper. I'd just shrug and think, that's cool. I wasn't really writing for an audience other than my mom.
I started writing professionally when my youngest started Preschool. (He's fourteen now.) My husband is the first reader of everything I write. Then, it goes out to the world.

And my mom still reads my books, too. <3

With a name like Ash Krafton, have you ever considered starting a Detective Agency? And if so, would you hire me if I promised to dump my boring name and change it to something equally cool?

Only if you want to run it. I'm clueless when it comes to mysteries. I never fail to be surprised at The Reveal. Worst part is, I watch a lot: Sherlock, Castle, Miss Fisher, Poirot, Miss Marple, Jessica what'shername from the 80s. And I have NEVER guessed who did it. NOT ONCE. So, I'll go in on the business if you make us look good because I'm fairly certain I'd suck at it.

Some writers read in the same genre they write, some don’t. Do you read NA and Speculative Fiction, or do prefer different genres?

I do read NA and loads of Spec Fic. I love sword and sorcery and epic fantasy. But I also like historical fiction and period writing, as well as poetry.

What is your favorite thing about the NA and Spec Fiction readers?

It's hard to know where their limits are and so pushing boundaries is a fun challenge. No matter how far-out an idea I have, there is always at least one reader saying, "Yeah, and then THIS happens…" and I'm left agape.

Click HERE to Check out The Heartbeat Thief

That's awesome.
Your novel, The Heartbeat Thief comes out in paperback today—Yay! What is next for you?

Um, um, um. A couple things.
Audiobook is in production for the first book in my urban fantasy series, The Books of the Demimonde. BLEEDING HEARTS is being narrated by the sassy and wonderful voice of Kelly Pruner and I can't wait to hear what my Sophie sounds like!
Currently I'm writing a serial about a magician/exorcist who is caught in the battle of Light versus Dark. I hope to make it very difficult for a reader to root for a particular side because I don't think big choices are easy to make.
I've also started work on my next NA title and write in that file when I need to switch gears.

Next week, I'll be blog touring The Heartbeat Thief. Stop by my blog for more details.

A big, big thanks to Ash for letting me interview her!

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in Sacramento, California. Her international bestsellers, Stalking Sapphire and Silencing Sapphire, were published in 2013, and followed by the third book in the series, Sentencing Sapphire. Mia is currently working on completing the series’ last two installments, due out through Diversion Books in 2016 and 2017