Nothing brings fear into the hearts of women—especially women who ate their way through the holidays—than the knowledge that in a few short months they’ll once again be faced with trying to cram themselves into the worst reality check device in history: The Bathing Suit.
If you’re one of these women, you know it’s all fun and games—and food—during the winter months, where you and your extra pounds can go incognito under oversized sweaters and bulky coats. But when that abundant consumption of muffins leaves you with a muffin top, it’s time to do something about it before the top button of your jeans shoots off like a rocket into galaxies unknown.
Of course, you have the greatest intentions. In fact, you have big plans to start your new diet and exercise regime next week, right after that big dinner party which is certain to soar you into a dress so large it could double as a parachute.
So fast forward to June, and you’re fatter than you were in February. All of those good intentions got washed down the drain along with the soda, cheese cake, and hollandaise sauce you clandestinely consumed. And now you’re left with the raw truth that can’t be avoided–or covered up with a Big Shirt—you’ve packed on pounds as if you’re storing up for Armageddon.
You’ve resigned yourself to the fact you have no hope of stuffing yourself into that adorable little two-piece number you bought back in in early January, to inspire you to get in shape. With that in mind, you head out into the cold, cruel world of bathing suit shopping.
You enter the store and wince, quickly walking past string bikinis even too tiny for a mouse to wear with any decency. Then you head straight to the section where the one-piece skirted suits, with patented turbo tummy tightening designs hang out.
After picking out a suit your great-grandmother would wear, you head into the chamber of horrors—otherwise known as the dressing room. You convince yourself all you’re going to do is see if you can fit into the insipid suit, without even so much as glancing in the mirror, then get the heck out. But unfortunately you develop some sick unreasonable need to sneak a peek at your reflection, because who knows—maybe the suit will make you look thinner…
Well, that was a mistake now wasn’t it. The suit most certainly did not make you appear svelte, as the tag trumpeting the power of the turbo tummy tightening design promised, but made you look like a sausage ready to burst. Add to that the infamous dressing room lighting—lighting so bad that it would make a supermodel never want to appear in public again, and the three-way funhouse mirrors the store so nicely provided . If they want to sell clothes, especially bathing suits, they need to install extraordinarily dim lighting and instant airbrush mirrors (imagine the fortune to be made with that invention).
Irritated beyond all reason, you hastily change out of the suit, charge out of the store, and go home to sulk over a plate of sugar cookies.
Like Ebenezer Scrooge, you’ve just been visited by a ghost—the Ghost of Christmas Pounds—to give you a glimpse into your future if you don’t change your calorie consuming course now.
Just some fat-free food for thought, for the upcoming month of February.
In the all the glitz, glamor, and glitter of after Christmas sales, we’re bombarded with announcements of massive storewide sales, designed to lure us back into stores so we can continue to shop until we drop–as if we hadn’t had enough of that already. And just in case you happen to be completely in the dark about the true meaning of what a “STOREWIDE” sale is, allow me to explain:
A “STOREWIDE” sale excludes anything that is already on sale, anything that’s discounted, miscounted, or near the front of the store. Anything near the back of the store isn’t included either; including—but not limited to—anything between the front and the back of the store.
Any item that any of that store’s competitors sell for a higher—or lower price—is excluded. Stuff that you absolutely had your heart set on getting, specifically with that incredible storewide sale, is most certainly not included either.
Stuff you didn’t know you needed but decided you did once you saw it in the store – also excluded.
Valid only in the state of shopping confusion. All taxes, mysteriously added higher prices, and standing in long lines to find all this out apply. See store managers for additional frustration.
It’s become a standard yuletide tradition: every year without fail, there’s one particular toy on practically every child’s Christmas wish list. It’s also a toy that starts out at one price, but once retailers figure out how priceless that toy is to your child, they shamelessly increase it as high as they can and beyond. Not only that, but the toy becomes about as hard to find as five minutes of peace during the holidays.
It all starts off innocently enough; your child tells you at least a month in advance exactly what he wants for Christmas. It’s all he ever talks about and it’s all you hear about. You even contemplate buying the darned thing and giving it to him early just to shut him up, but you don’t. However, by the time you finally do start shopping for “The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year,” you can’t find it anywhere.
Little did you know, other kid in the universe also wants that toy for Christmas. So now you—and eight million other crazed, harassed parents who started shopping too late—are in an extremely non-festive frenzy to find this elusive item that’s seemingly no longer available anywhere. Then when and if that ridiculous piece of crap does become available someplace, you’ll have to beat each and every one of those other parents to it; kicking, clawing, and fighting, all the way. Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas.
After spending every waking moment in pursuit of this thing, you miraculously find it online. You literally jump for joy, spilling your coffee all over the Christmas cards you finally got around to making out. But that’s okay because you’ve found The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year. It’s five times the original price but hey, they’ve guaranteed you it’ll be there before Christmas. You’re finally set; the maddening quest is over. Let peace and joy reign throughout the rest of the season.
Two days later in a store, you actually lay eyes on The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year—several of them in fact—for the incredible deal of only twice the original price. But no, you’ve already bought one and it’s on its way to your house. Life is good.
Later that day and receive an email from the company which sold you the toy. They regretfully—but cheerfully—inform you that The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year is currently on backorder, and won’t be shipped out till mid-January. They conclude their correspondence by wishing you and yours the absolute merriest of Christmases. How nice—and so much for their guarantee.
Frantically, you rush back to that store you saw The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year in, grateful you stumbled across it there as you can’t even begin to imagine the nightmare you’d have to go through otherwise. At lightning speed, you stampede back to that part of the store where you saw the toy, only now it’s nowhere to be seen. You sprint to the customer service desk where an employee informs you that just this very moment they sold the last one, as they point behind you to some lady exiting the building. You look over your shoulder to see a smugly satisfied, evil witch making her way out of the store with The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year.
You briefly consider barging after her, grabbing it from her grubby little mitts and making off with it—contemplating that if the judge was also a parent she might very well let you off on a temporary insanity plea. Yet you just stand there stewing over the fact that if you’d only been there five minutes earlier you could’ve been that smugly satisfied, evil witch walking out with The Most Wonderful Toy of the Year.
Later, you spend the entire night scouring the internet, hoping beyond all hope to find another one of these stupid toys somewhere else. Then, you see it! There it is! For the downright bargain price of only seven times what it was originally selling for. Yet you’re more than happy to pay it, as by this point you’d sell your own grandmother to a mad scientist to get that toy. So you pay the unearthly price, breathe a huge, satisfied sigh of relief, put your feet up, and watch the sunrise.
Full of Christmas cheer—even though you got no sleep whatsoever—you greet your child warmly when he comes down to breakfast that morning. You ask if he’s excited that Christmas is only a few days away, to which he says he is, but also divulges to you that he’s changed his mind entirely about what he wants for Christmas.
Taken from my book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, & Mall Santas: Humorous Insights into the Holiday Season.
Most of us have received them and they usually come to us from families we hardly know, who live far, far away. People whom we haven’t seen since Nixon was President. Even so, every year we become privy to all the intimate details of what purportedly happened in their highly exciting, award winning lives since their last Christmas brag fest. Of course, not all of the Christmas family newsletters we’ve received over the years resemble what I’m about to describe. Yet there’s been enough of them to wrap Christmas presents with until the year 2023.
These delightful documents are filled to overflowing with details I’m certain the well-meaning writers never meant to exaggerate, manipulate, or dare I say, even fabricate. Yet somewhere along the way, the writer who slaved away writing, and rewriting, the history of their family’s lives over the past twelve months decided maybe a little—or perhaps even a lot—of poetic license was perfectly acceptable. Then once the newsletter evolved over several drafts, it went from being what really took place, to an all-out Festive Family Fake Fest.
I doubt they don’t ever mean for it to get quite so out of hand. However, realizing their musings might be mundane at best, they wrap it all up nicely with expensive foil paper and an exquisite bow. They never once consider we’re on to what’s really inside their pompous package of self-praise.
For all those unsuspecting people who’ve never received one before, I believe that just as the word FRAGILE is written on a parcel containing breakable stuff, so should the words BRAG ALERT be boldly stamped on the outside of the envelope of most Christmas family newsletters.
Reading through one of these newsletters—which goes on for several pages—you become aware that not even every recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize combined could possibly accomplish, in their collective lifetimes, what these amazing families have done in the past year alone. Major achievement awards, badges of honor, photographs with world leaders, and thousands of well-deserved trophies must certainly cover the walls and mantels of their humble abodes.
Unbeknownst to whoever wrote it, instead of evoking envy, awe, and admiration, they end up producing smirks, sneers, and sometimes sympathy. Sympathy for the poor writer who spent so long putting together this fourteen-page pat on the back, because you know everyone else who reads it is going to be laughing just as hard as you are. One day the writer may go back over what they sent out, and if they happen to be in a far less stuck up state of mind than when they wrote it, they will inevitably die of embarrassment.
One thing I do admire about them—which the authors of these audacious annual autobiographies never planned for—is their creative usage of the English language. For example: “Martin was given the unanimous approval senior management to take his entrepreneurial skills to a whole new level, based on his dedication to the company.” Translation? The lazy bum got fired. Or better yet, this: “Garrett continues to excel in all his favorite upper-level high school courses, and displays great leadership qualities in his extracurricular activities.” Which translates into: the only course Garrett’s passing this semester is the Basket Weaving class given in the attic of the school, and he’s also the kingpin of a local gang.
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a Daly Family Christmas Newsletter, but my creative writing skills would pale in comparison to the great works of art we’ve received throughout the years. So I think I’ll just stick to scribbling Merry Christmas inside the cards I buy in boxed sets from my local mega-mart, and leave it at that.
Taken from my book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, & Mall Santas: Humorous Insights into the Holiday Season.
Tell us a little about yourself and your book?
Well, I live in New London, Connecticut with my husband Tim and our son Cameron where we have a menagerie of very, very spoiled pets including a couple of collies, two birds, a bunny, a cat, and an aquarium full of fish which the cat thinks is The Fish Channel. We live in a lovely Victorian home, which was built in 1902, that we restored ourselves. It’s been both rewarding and a money pit all at the same time, but we love it. I homeschooled my son which was truly the greatest adventure of my life and he’s now a straight A student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary here in CT, and still lives at home which I’m thrilled about.
Aside from writing books, I edit other people’s books and scripts to make them funnier. I also freelanced for the past several years, writing everything from stand-up routines for comedians, to comedy skits, to radio commercials, and pretty much everything in between. I’ve been quite lucky because my work is very much like play, with the exception that people actually pay me money to do it.
My theme of my latest book, Surviving Gretchen, is about the importance of friendship, mutual trust, and never taking the people you care about for granted. It follows the lives of two 13- year-old best friends—Abby and Emma—and what happens to them when an extremely jealous girl name Gretchen tries to weasel her way in between them. There’s high drama as well as plenty of humor. There’s also a goat.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To become rich and famous of course. No actually my goal is to create humorous, wholesome, entertaining fiction that appeals to all ages.
When my son Cameron was younger he was a very advanced reader for his age, and it was quite difficult for me to find books to challenge him with that didn’t have unsuitable content.
So I want my books to be ones parents can feel confident about when their children read them, knowing there won’t be anything even remotely inappropriate thrown in, but at the same time be something teenagers will think is “cool,” and adults will also enjoy.
Which writers inspire you?
There are quite a few actually. From a very young age I loved Erma Bombeck. Her take on things was just so funny and real. She had a HUGE influence on my interest in writing humor. Stephen King inspires me as his writing style is just so darned good. I mean if this guy were to write a 937 page instruction manual on how to unclog a toilet it’d still be highly entertaining stuff. Same thing goes for Dean Koontz. No matter what that guy writes, every single sentence is just so beautifully constructed. Jane Austen is another inspiration for me, as her character portrayals are just so amusingly realistic. And last but not least, Lemony Snicket, of all people, because of how weirdly wonderful his writing is. I firmly believe that if we could stick them all together in a blender the result would be the world’s greatest writer.
Give us some insight into Emma and Abby, the two main characters in Surviving Gretchen.
They are inseparable best friends, and have been so for their entire lives. Their two families are more like one big happy family even though Abby’s is quite well-to-do and Emma’s isn’t. Emma is a very sweet, quick-witted ball of energy, who can also become quite reserved at times. She cares just a little bit too much about what other people think of her and she keeps a lot of things bottled up inside of her, which doesn’t really work out all that well for her. Abby is quite vivacious and outgoing. She’s got a great, big heart—to the point where she’ll go out on a limb to help both friend and foe alike—and she’sfiercely loyal to Emma.
Tell us a little bit about the character of Gretchen?
Gretchen’s the new girl in town who’s actually quite insecure but tries to hide all of that behind a snooty façade. But she’s also shallow, spoiled, jealous and manipulative. Her mom is like the epitome of a superficial social climber, and that has a direct influence on her daughter. She tells Gretchen she needs to become best friends with “the richest, most popular girl in town” who just happens to be Abby. Yet Abby’s best friends with Emma, which bothers Gretchen to no end that Abby would rather hang out with someone whom Gretchen thinks is “beneath her” and so Gretchen takes it as a direct, personal insult and she sets out to do anything and everything she can to come between Abby and Emma, and ultimately take Emma’s place.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on the first chapter of the second book in The Storms of Friendship series and I’m having a blast with it. It’s been a few months since I finished writing Surviving Gretchen, so bringing these characters back to life again is a lot like visiting with really good friends I haven’t seen in a while. Also the book opens up on Christmas Eve, so it’s a lot of fun writing that at this time of year. With my first book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, and Mall Santas, which is obviously about Christmas, I wrote it in the scorching heat and humidity of the summer, so the feeling was anything but festive, so writing an actual Christmas scene at Christmas time seems pretty nice.
What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
That would have to be when one of the characters develop panic attacks, which I’ve actually suffered from off and on for years. There’s one scene in particular where this character had a very intense panic attack and when I wrote it I actually began experiencing some of the same feelings she was having. So much so that I had to stop and come back to it a few days later. I guess maybe it’s what you might call becoming just a bit too involved with your work.
How much research did you do while writing Surviving Gretchen?
I really didn’t have to do much at all—other than consulting with a friend of mine who’s a medical doctor. And it’s a really good thing I did as she saved me from creating some unintended humor where humor didn’t belong. At all. She still teases me about it.
When did you decide to become a writer?
When I about seven or eight, I used to pull out my mom’s old typewriter and “pretend” to write books, although I didn’t even know how to type. As I grew up I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d love to be a writer, but figured my writing would never be good enough so I really never tried. So it just sort of stayed a secret fantasy of mine. That being said, I read everything I could get my hands on about writing, took a couple of courses, and got involved with some online writing groups. Yet despite all of that I still pretty much avoided writing at all costs. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in a way it does as my fear of failure was just too great. I figured if I actually wrote anything then I’d find out how terrible I was at it and that secret fantasy of mine would be squashed like a bug on a windshield.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
This is my biggest obstacle. I work from home—and have a lot of distractions—so it can be quite difficult for me to fully concentrate for long periods of time, which is essential for me when I’m writing. The one thing I’ve found recently that works out great though–when I can actually haul myself out of bed at that hour—is to get up around three in the morning to write. For me there’s just something about being up in the wee hours of the morning that seems to promote creativity where I can get a few solid hours of writing in before both the people and the dogs in my house wake up wanting breakfast.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I start out with a loose outline, but the story usually ends up going in a completely different direction than I’d planned for it to. I’ve found that when I can devote my full attention to the story, as crazy as this sounds, the characters almost seem to take over. There are times where I feel like I’m just watching it all play out, while I try to jot it all down as fast as I can. For me this is by far the most magical part of writing. The characters can—and do—sometimes take the storyline in directions I never would’ve imagined. They also don’t always behave in the way you wish for them to.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I never thought myself capable of writing an entire novel—never mind an entire series. I figured I could never write in that much depth. When the opportunity arose to write Surviving Gretchen I really had to push myself to my creative limits and found out it was actually a pretty cool place to be, even though it was much harder work than I ever thought it could be.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Finding the time I need to fully immerse myself in the story and block out all outside distractions, which is very hard, unless I get up at three a.m. I’ve been trying to convince my husband to build me a writing shed out in the backyard, but I doubt it would help as my dogs, which are two big furry, in-your-face distractions, would just follow me out there anyway, so I doubt a writer’s shed would really do me much good anyway.
What do you love about writing?
I love the whole creative aspect of it. I love being able to create characters, the situations they find themselves in and the worlds they live in out of nothing but my imagination. And then inviting others into this world to experience the story. I also love playing with words and trying to craft them into something I wouldn’t be able to do if I were just talking instead of writing.
This book is part of a series called The Storms of Friendship. Tell us a little more about the series?
The Storms of Friendship series follows Emma and Abby, as well as the people they’re closest to, through both the good times and bad times of their lives. With surprising twists and turns, it focuses on the importance of true friendship and how relationships evolve over time.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I actually have a weird, quirky thing going on where I absolutely cannot read anything, if I can help it, at the same time that I’m writing. I just don’t want to have anyone else’s writing influencing my own, or compare my writing with someone else’s. But when I’m not writing I binge read.
The cover of the book looks astonishing! Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
Thanks! My publisher and I worked very hard together to find something to reflect the tone of the friendship between the two main characters. After trying on many different looks that neither one us were sold on, we finally came across Claudia Tremblay’s incredible artwork, and we instantly knew we’d settle for nothing else. She did an amazing job and we’re very proud to have her art gracing the cover of the book.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
It comes as sort of surprise to some writers—as it did to me at first—that you can’t just do what you love to do (which is write) and not have to do any marketing. But books don’t just magically fall into reader’s hands. Someone once told me that you could write the most magnificent book in the history of mankind but no one would ever know about it if all it did was sit on a back shelf in a back room of a bookstore. And that’s basically what happens if a book isn’t marketed properly. So part of the writer’s job is to help bring their work out to the front of the bookstore, so to speak, by promoting it and helping to market it so it will get noticed. I would say a writer needs to devote at least 20-25% of their writing time to marketing. And once you start it’s actually a lot more fun than you think it’ll be.
What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you intend to create one?
I think book trailers are a fantastic as they give potential readers more insight into what the book is all about, far more than if they just read a simple synopsis on the back cover. And yes, we do have one in the works.
How do you relax?
Relax? What’s that? Haha. Actually, I do find writing relaxing, when I can fully get into “the flow” of it. I also enjoy going on great family adventures, in addition to camping, bicycling, picnics, almost anything that involves being outside really, tennis, playing the piano, composing music, and spending time with our animals.
What is your favorite motivational saying?
That’s easy. “With God all things are possible.” I know from personal experience how true that is. I also love that Nike saying “Just do it.” As I take that to mean you shouldn’t let anything hold you back from achieving your dreams, and usually the biggest thing holding someone back is themselves.
What writer—living or dead—would you like to meet and why?
I would have to say Dean Koontz. I’m a huge fan and I think he’s just about the most eloquent wordsmith there is. And he’s so prolific. I also know how dedicated he is to his writing and how much he enjoys it—which definitely comes across in his work. So I’d love to sit and pick his brain about several different things.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To never give up on your dreams, and to never tell yourself that your writing won’t be good enough. Also, writing every day is key—no matter what it is you’re writing. You know, it could be anything from beginning a new chapter in your book to writing an obnoxiously long facebook status—just as long as you write. And once you publish your first book, take reviews with a grain of salt. If you get a negative review, don’t take it to heart. Even the best books written by the greatest authors get bad reviews sometimes. Find something in that less than stellar review that might help you to improve your writing in the future. If your reviews are great, try really hard not to get an overinflated ego and act like Guilderoy Lockhart about it. 😉
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Check out Surviving Gretchen, the first book in my new series The Storms of Friendship.
Abby and Emma aren’t just best friends. They’re like two life forces sharing the same soul, certain the ties that bind them can weather any storm. Then Gretchen comes into their lives, blowing across the landscape of their friendship like a hurricane. Will Abby and Emma survive Gretchen?
Surviving Gretchen, the first book in Bonnie Daly’s The Storms of Friendship series, is a captivating tale about what happens when the bond between two thirteen-year-old girls is threatened by the dark, swirling depths of another girl’s jealousy. The story reveals the importance of true friendship, mutual trust, and never taking the people you love for granted.