“It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

 PJ here. I was watching an old movie the other day with a great premise, snappy dialogue, and excellent performances from Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie was BOUNCE, cir. 2000. It’s essentially a romance, but the premise is that a young mother of two becomes a widow when her husband dies in a plane crash after exchanging tickets with an ad exec. The playboy ad exec—played by Affleck—then goes off the deep end with guilt, and in an effort to redeem himself, sets out to help the widow, never imagining he’d fall in love with her.

The movie didn’t do well at the box office, and I won’t try to convince you there were Oscar worthy performances involved, but I appreciated the nuances. The evolution of the romance was sweet and entertaining, the individual character arcs were well executed, and the black moment was satisfying—if not predictable. But my favorite line of the movie was, “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

Again, this isn’t a new concept or an original line, per se, but it sums up so much of what we look for in our heroes and heroines. Heroism is in admitting your fear and acting anyway. Doing the right thing and not always the easy thing. Choosing to become the person you’re meant to be, rather than a shadow of your true potential. Growth is hard. Most days, it’s downright scary.

Sometimes fear paralyzes us, but it can also be a prime motivator. It pushes us to change, to step out of our comfort zone, or maybe even forces us to face a part of ourselves we’ve been hiding from for whatever reasons. The result–when we can manage to face our fears head on–is that we become stronger…better. It is in those moments of overcoming our fear through action that we become heroes. Examples of this can be seen in almost any romance novel or movie. We lovers of the genre live for that transformation and can’t wait to see our protagonist find the courage to change from scaredy-cat to hero by the end of the story.

Have you read any books lately or seen any movies that showcase this transformation particularly well?

Speaking of heroines facing their fears, if you haven’t read WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael Trilogy, it’s now available for free download on all major e-retailers. Here is the blurb and links.

PJSharon_WaningMoon__200In the year 2057, in a post-apocalyptic world where a polar shift threatens the survivors of a widespread pandemic with extinction, sixteen-year-old genetically enhanced Lily Carmichael has more immediate problems. Her uncle is dying of cancer and her healing abilities are ineffective against the blood ties that bind them. In order to find a cure, Lily must leave the protection of her quiet town and journey to the trading city of Albany, all while avoiding the Industry, an agency that would like nothing better than to study and exploit her abilities.

Seventeen-year-old Will Callahan has been searching for his father since severe storms blasted through the Midwest, killing his mother and sister. When he learns that his father may be in the city, he catches a ride with Lily, a girl who has come to his rescue more than once. As the two embark on a dangerous journey, the tension between them grows. But the secrets Will’s keeping could put Lily in far more danger than traveling to the city with him, and if he was any kind of man, he would have told her to run the minute she found him.

Amazon     Amazon UK     BN     I-Book Store     Kobo      Smashwords 

Enjoy!

Peace and blessings,

PJ

The Power of Being (I’m not procrastinating…I’m preparing)

Hello Scribes friends,

PJ Sharon here. Some of you may not know this about me, but I can be a bit lazy. I know—you’re thinking, “No way, PJ. Not you! You’re so motivated and productive!” Um…not really. Looking at the big picture, I do seem to manage to keep a pretty steady schedule, meet my goals on a regular basis, and take care of my daily responsibilities while maintaining a fairly decent attitude, so I guess I’m not a total slacker. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything I do accomplish is because I know myself well enough to make my goals achievable and realistic, I accept my limitations as an imperfect human being, and I plan accordingly. Being a natural multi-tasker and somewhat disciplined helps too, but these days, I’m less rigid and a much nicer boss to work for.

With my writing, I try to push new limits, set appropriate deadlines,  and stay challenged–since I know these are what motivate me to stay on task–but it would be foolish and self-defeating to expect more from myself than I want to give. You have to want success…and you have to want it bad! And you need to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve it?”

Admittedly, I’ve given up a lot to get where I am. But certain things–like time with my granddaughter and at least one day off a week, are now higher on my priorities list. What I also won’t compromise on is exercise. I commit myself to doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week because I know the payoff is totally worth it! When I’m strong, fit, and happy, I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. If my schedule gets crazy, I let myself off the hook for a day or two, but then I’m back at it. The same applies to diet and nutrition. I’m not as rigid as I once was, but I try to eat high quality, nutrient dense foods that properly fuel my body. I like chocolate and pie as much as the next girl, but I believe in the 80/20 approach to everything. If I’m doing the right thing 80% of the time, I can slack off 20% of the time and I’ll probably be okay. Yay…pie!

For me, first and foremost, my mental and physical well-being are my priorities, and stressing out about what I’m NOT accomplishing only serves to make me feel overwhelmed and down on myself. It has become clear to me that my to-do list will never be done and that if I want to keep my sanity, I have to focus on just a few daily tasks that keep me moving toward my overall goals. It might take me longer to get there, but it’s not a race for me anymore. I’m in it for the long haul, so pacing myself is key to staying the course.

If goal setting isn’t your strong suit, here’s a great article to help you get on track and stay there.

Could I accomplish way more if I didn’t watch twenty hours of television per week or spend time gazing out the window at the lilac buds sprouting? scent of spring Maybe I could shave ten or fifteen minutes off my overly-lengthy shower time, or possibly I could sleep less. It seems changing even a few of these “recreational” behaviors would lead to a tremendous increase in my productivity. Then, maybe I could write five books in a year or spend another twenty hours a week promoting my butt off. After all, I do understand that the success of my business depends on me and how hard I’m willing to work. But how hard I’m willing to work today may be different from what it was two years ago, and will likely be different again a month from now. We each have to decide what’s important to us.

It comes down to perspective and priorities. In my opinion, none of those “recreational” activities are a total waste of my time. One could even argue that I am more productive because I’m living a balanced lifestyle. A full night’s sleep–when I can get it–is an essential tool for weight management, stress reduction, and overall health. I need at least 6-8 hours a night to remain productive and happy. Staying up late to write that blog that’s due in the morning, or waking at the crack of dawn to sneak in some “quality” writing time may help me check off a few to-do’s, but it’s going to leave me cranky and tired, and increase my susceptibility to illness. That’s not worth the trade for me at this point in life. Maybe some of you can live on five hours of sleep, but I’m betting it catches up with you eventually.

As for the apparent television addiction, I do try to limit my viewing to “must see” shows that give me the most enjoyment. I’m not a total hedonist! I TiVo my favorites and dole them out throughout the week as reward for accomplishing my tasks for the day. Getting lost in my favorite shows not only helps me decompress after a full day of massage work or long hours at the computer, it activates my creative brain. I’m constantly analyzing and deconstructing what I watch. I’m looking at story structure, dialogue, characterization, metaphor, etc. My mind is being entertained, but I’m also in my writer’s brain and learning.

The long hot showers, which some may argue are a luxury and a waste of not only water and resources, but are a self-indulgence. I assure you, they are a necessity for me. There are many challenges in daily life, and few “inexpensive” luxuries for most of us. If spending a half hour in the shower (where I do a stretching routine to treat my arthritic neck and back) relaxes me and reduces my pain, then so be it. I’ll take every little bit of relief I can get. Besides, my shower time is the most creative and productive time of my day as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a cup of tea, a soothing massage, and an opportunity to let my thoughts flow freely without my internal editor alarms ringing, all rolled into one.  My best ideas and snappiest lines of dialogue come to me while standing under a piping hot shower. I’ve also been known to belt out a few tunes while I’m there. Singing elevates my mood, clears my lungs, and centers me. It helps me shift from my right sided “business” brain to my left sided “creative” brain so I can get those 1,000 words on the page. The long hot shower is staying!

So, what about the inordinate amount of time I spend staring out the window, walking around my yard to see what’s coming into bloom, or simply sitting on my front porch with a hot cup of tea, paying attention to my breathing for a few minutes and taking time to be grateful for the multitude of gifts I have in my life? Am I procrastinating?

Maybe, but these moments too, are priceless. When I’m not actually writing, I’m usually preparing to write. I’m processing my next scene or coming up with some brilliant twist to my plot. As a writer, my brain is always processing some bit of information that will ultimately lead me to where I need to be on the page.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m a human being first, and a writer second. I NEED to stay connected to my higher self–the part of me that knows how to live in the moment and appreciates the power of just being.teens prayers5 (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC) That’s the part of me that inspired me to write in the first place and continues to be the well from which I draw my best work. Whether it’s called prayer or meditation…or just plain daydreaming, we all need it on some level.

I know that nothing can substitute for diligence, consistency in getting those daily word counts on the page, or putting in the overtime, but these quiet moments of stillness and reflection are essential to my sanity and well-being. I know this to be true about myself. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate, but I prefer to think of it as “preparing” the soil. The fertile ground of productivity is only as good as what you feed into it. So next time you start to feel guilty for daydreaming instead of writing, or taking a day off to hit the beach, don’t look at it as “slacking”. Consider it part of the process. Tomorrow is another day and there is always more work to be done. Today, take a moment to reconnect to what nurtures and feeds your soul. You may be slightly less productive on paper, but you’ll be happier and more balanced in the long run.

Namaste!

PJ

What are your best “self-care” indulgences? What fuels your muse? What have you done for you lately?

The Joys and Perils of Genre Jumping

Hey there, Casey here.

Change is hard. Even when you want to change, it’s still a challenge to teach your mind that what you’re doing is okay. That it will all work out. That you shouldn’t panic!

OSV - Grape Arbor

Last summer, I wrote a contemporary romance called Over Easy. I did it because I wanted to grow my writing skills and to try something new and challenging.

All of my books have been paranormal romances. And while I love the genre (and I don’t intend to leave it all together), I need to stretch myself once in a while. So I had this idea about a woman and a struggling diner in a small town in Vermont.

The idea percolated in my brain while I wrote Mystic Hero and Lachlan’s Curse (which I recently sold – yay me!).  I knew going in that it would be hard to switch from one genre to another. Sure, they are both romances, and in theory, the heart is still a love story. . . but. . .

. . . But here’s the thing. They aren’t the same. With contemporary romance, I wouldn’t have magic, evil villains or explosions to rely upon to get my hero/heroine in and out of jams.

Nope.

I’d have to rely on good, old fashioned emotions. Every day problems. Accessible issues. Hearts and flowers.

Hmmm.

Those were kind of scary to me. In real life, I don’t like drama. I hate confrontations. And I don’t like overly emotional situations. Heck, I’m not sure I’m even that romantic.

Well, personal fears aside, I wrote the book.

It came out too short. And while it was okay and my beta readers liked it (it even placed in a contest), I knew it wasn’t as good as it could be.  So I did what most writers do in that situation.

I let it sit. And sit. And sit some more. Then panic and doubt set in, until it morphed into THE. WORST.BOOK.EVER.

That’s when I knew it was time to ask for help. I’m lucky that my RWA chapter has a mentoring program. And I’m even luckier that my mentor is well-versed in the genre.

After a frank assessment of my work, I have new path to follow. I’m learning how to be less plotty (yes, that’s a thing) and be more real. AND to face all those emotions that scare me. Yup. I’m digging deep. It’s uncomfortable, but I’ll live.

In order to write the best book I can – to hatch a beautIMG_1086iful butterfly – I need to return to the cocoon and start again.

See? Maybe there are some hearts and flowers in me after all.

Has anyone else faced the same problem? How did you deal with it?

Conference Season is Upon Us

Good Day, Scribe Followers,

PJ Sharon here. March is an exciting month for authors. Springtime is around the corner and this year’s conference circuit begins. Since I’ve been at this a few years, now…eight to be precise, I’ve come to learn the value of attending at least a few hands-on workshops and major conferences every year. There are so many great opportunities out there, how does one know which conference is worth the time, effort, and money?  I’ve narrowed down my favorite, and most productive conference experiences. I’d love to share my take on a few of them.

I’ll start with the CTRWA sponsored events. I may be biased since this is my home chapter, but the events planners for CTRWA manage to consistently offer fantastic programming at very reasonable prices. With a smaller, more intimate gathering of authors, you can enjoy getting to know other writers, networking, and learning from such greats as Michael Hague and Kristan Higgins. Michael Hague’s teaching on story structure and the heroes’ journey revolutionized my writing. I can’t wait to hear him speak again this coming weekend! CTRWA also puts on an incredible Fiction Fest conference in the fall. These two events are on my MUST attend list.

This will be the first year I’m attending the New England Conference April 24-26, so I’ll be anxious to see how that one is. I’ve heard good things, and I’m looking forward to presenting, as well as seeing some of my CTRWA pals giving workshops as well. If expenses are tight–which is the case for most of us writers–presenting workshops can be a great way to attend conferences at a discount and also get your name in front of a a good number of people.This will be my first time presenting to a crowd this size, but with a workshop on Ergonomics and Self Care for Writers (Subtitled: Is your writing killing you?), how can I go wrong?

One of the funnest parts of attending conferences is that you never know who you’re going to meet. I rode an elevator with Nora Roberts three times before realizing who she was…my bad. I also got some amazing and very sound advice from Bella Andre at the 2013 National conference. She was open, warm, and honest–just like her books.

RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

Me and Bella Andre at the 2013 National RWA conference, where she rightly told me to set aside the third book in my Lily Carmichael trilogy and go home and finish another contemporary YA romance. I did as she suggested and produced PIECES of LOVE last summer before finishing HEALING WATERS which released in December. In doing so, I was able to keep my contemporary readers happy, add a box set and novella to my bookshelf, and still finish up the trilogy before the end of 2014. I don’t think I would have written and recorded my PIECES of LOVE theme song if I hadn’t been pushed to write that book at that time. I needed that time away from writing the last book in the trilogy to regroup and get organized again before bringing the series to a close. Writing something totally different and using my music in a new way gave me the creative boost I needed and offered my contemporary readers new content.

I’ll always value the opinions of others who have done it before me and done it well. Conferences are rife with good advice from the pros!

When it came to deciding between RT Booklovers and the National RWA conference this year, it was a no brainer for me. I’ve been to RT twice, and both times found it to be a bit disorganized and chaotic. There were some good workshops and the schmoozing is always fun, but overall, I get much more bang for my buck at Nationals. One caveat, is that RT is a great place to meet readers.

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The YARWA folks do an amazing job putting together a Day of YA, where hundreds of young readers show up to meet and chat with authors. I might have to go back again for just that event! I took this pic of me and one of my YA readers who actually recognized my name and had read my books! One of those perfect moments I’ll never forget.

Meeting awesome people and rooming with others is one of the greatest parts of conferences for me. I’ve had the best roomies and it saves me a bunch of money! That’s me and my Scribe’s pal Katy Lee at the 2013 National conference below. I’ve had the great pleasure of bunking with some top notch ladies who are always up for an impromptu brainstorming session or a late night cocktail. The hotel bar is a hot spot for agents and editors, so be ready with those elevator pitches and always be professional.

 Me and Katy Lee

Since my focus has shifted a bit this year toward creating visibility, opening myself up to educational opportunities, and writing my non-fiction book, I figured offering my workshop at the National RWA conference in July would be an excellent way to spread the word about my first passion–health and wellness. How much fun will it be for me to share my best life balance and self care tips with hundreds of authors–all of whom are suffering from the sedentary lifestyle syndrome that is sweeping the globe? (My story about how this idea came to be and my celebration of 10 years as an entrepreneur is up at my website, along with my three best exercises for improving posture.)

For those of you who spend hours a day at your desk or in your car, or find yourself imprisoned by your computers and perpetually attached to your cell phones, i-pads and e-readers, you know the pitfalls of the sedentary and chair-bound lifestyle all too well. Do you suffer neck and back pain, poor posture, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, or even significant weight gain from all the sitting you do? With today’s fast paced, digitized world, we’re all finding ourselves in this predicament and there seems to be no end in sight to the perils of techno-overload and the inevitable decline of our health as a result. Having the experience and knowledge to help others navigate their way back into a health body is a privilege and I take the responsibility seriously. The more people I can reach with positive messages about proper ergonomics and self care, the better.

We won’t even talk about all those gorgeous (and non-ergonomic) shoes we’ll all be wearing! Conferences are a mecca for fashion and glitz…an opportunity to feel like a princess a few times a year.shoe pic

The last conference I’ll attend will be CT Fiction Fest in September. That should round out my year nicely with an affordable way to advance my writing, meet some new people, and hang out with my pals for another fun-filled weekend of replenishing the creative well. I had to skip all the conferences last year in lieu of finishing two books and a novella in 2014. This year, I’ll be making up for it!

Which conferences or workshops are on your MUST list? Any tips you’d like to share about making the most of your conference experience?

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are: Life Lessons From Winners-Book Review

INWYKBack Cover Copy: We live in a culture obsessed with celebrity. We love winners and we want to be winners. But take it from a man who knows more famous people than most of us will ever meet–it’s not who you know that’s important, it’s who you are inside.

In this inspiring book, Pat Williams draws from over fifty years of brushing shoulders with the greats to help you discover what it really means to be a winner. Through his short meditations on success, leadership, family and friends, impact and influence, and becoming a person of excellence, you’ll meet

· a young singer who messed up the national anthem and shot to stardom anyway
· a coach who sacrificed his time to give his players the edge
· a marathon runner who knew the secret to pacing yourself
· a political outsider who confidently reached for an impossible goal
· a football player who wouldn’t let a broken leg stop him from getting to the Super Bowl
· and many more ordinary people with extraordinary character

These entertaining stories of fascinating people from all walks of life will motivate you to do your best, be yourself, and continually strive to be the person God made you to be.

Katy Lee’s Review:  I decided to review this book because I thought it would make a great collection to my homeschool curriculum as a downtime read-along during our school days.  We couldn’t get to it everyday, but when we did the stories offered wonderful springboards into great discussions.  There were even some stories I had heard before and knew there were videos of some of the people on the web that I could look up.  It really brought the stories to life for my kids.  “It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are” is a book for all ages, and I recommend it especially to parents looking for short stories they can share with their children, but also to show them they, too, can be winners.

Thank you, Revell, for sending me the book for my honest opinion!

Beautiful You!

Hello Dear Scribe’s followers,

I’m here today to talk about beauty! I’d imagine that most of our readers are women, but even if you’re a guy, I’m here to remind you that you are a beautiful person. Each of us as individuals are unique, special, and multifaceted. We are not simply the sum of our parts, but a whole entity, imbued with gifts, talents, and a human spirit that makes us who we are…and that is awesome!

When I say that you are beautiful, I’m not talking about just the exterior “earth suit” we inhabit, but the intrinsic goodness that lives within each of us. I suppose one could argue that there are evil people in the world who are truly ugly because of who they are on the inside and the things they do to hurt others, but let’s leave them out of today’s discussion and save them for a “celebrate villains day” should we care to delve into the darker side of humanity. For today’s topic, let’s focus on what makes us beautiful. Why, you ask?

boaw-logo-2015-originalUntil March 1st, I’m participating in the Beauty of a Woman blogfest, where writers from all over the globe share their views on beauty and take time to celebrate women! That’s something I can totally wrap my head around! I even posted a “Dear Teen Me” letter to myself over on my blog  if you care to stop by and check it out. Leave a comment there to be entered to win a copy of ON THIN ICE, and make sure to drop by the events page of the Blogfest to enter to win some great prizes! You’ll also find links to some amazing and inspirational blog posts from some truly beautiful women.

So what is this thing we call beauty?

Can we all agree that it isn’t about having long legs, symmetrical features, or a killer body? Although those are all things to admire, let’s agree here and now that they are NOT what makes a person beautiful. I’ve met some beauties who, through their words and deeds, would not be considered a beautiful person in my book.

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PJ at age 15

To me, beauty comes from the light that shines from the soul of a truly good person. Qualities such as compassion, kindness, generosity, and loyalty make someone beautiful to me. The old woman with deep laugh lines and crinkly eyes from years of sharing her love with others who smiles through crooked teeth…is beautiful. The child who touches the hearts of those around them while they themselves are suffering the ravages of cancer…is beautiful. Any person who would lay down his life for others…is beautiful. Even the teenager who struggles to find something to smile about when tears are just beneath the surface…is beautiful. I could go on and on about what makes someone beautiful to me, and it would have nothing to do with appearances.

So today, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, if you showed up here to support our little blog or share your thoughts with me, you are beautiful! Thank you so much for being part of this crazy writer’s life.

If you had to sum up what makes a person beautiful in one word, what would it be? 

 

February: The Gateway to Spring

Hello Dear Readers,

PJ Sharon here at the end of this brisk and snowy January. I’m happy to see more daylight and looking forward to that first sunny seventy degree day that gives me hope for an early spring. I don’t generally put much faith in Punxsutawney Phil, but we often get enough of a warm up in February to warrant a day trip to the beach.

As I greet the second month of 2015–my official birthday and “gateway to Spring” month–I’m busy working on those new goals and projects I set at the beginning of January. I’ll spend some time this month helping friends promote their books, participate in a couple of multi-author events, and spend my birthday with a few close friends for an Outlander party, where I’ll share all eight episodes of the first half of season one in marathon fashion, serving wine and cheese, and hanging out in my jammies with Jamie, Claire, and the gang. I know…I need to get a real life, LOL, but Diana Gabaldon’s work has been an inspiration to me as a writer and the STARZ adaptation of the book has, thus far, captivated me!

If you’re wondering what kind of multi-author events I have planned, check these out. (Bookmark the following sites and come back to them to enter the giveaways once the events go live, or stop by my website and sign up for my blog or newsletter, and notification will come right to your inbox).

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’ll be celebrating my mutual love of romance with the authors of Addictive Reads. Between February 13-15th, we’ll be sharing in the Gifts of Love Blog Hop, and offering readers a chance to win a $50 dollar, or one of two $25 dollar gift cards, as well as prizes at the individual author sites. boaw-logo-2015-original

Later in the month, I’ll be participating in the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest, where I’ll be posting on my blog, along with bloggers and writers from all over the world, talking about some facet of beauty as we know it. My post will be a letter with advice from me to my teen self. That should be interesting! You can check out all the blog posts between February 23 and March 1st. Make sure you make the rounds to all the participating author’s blogs for inspiration and prizes.

On the writing front, I’ll be working on my non-fiction book, ERGONOMICS and Self-care (A practical guide for writers, readers, desk jockeys, and couch potatoes). I’m still in the beginning stages, but it’s coming along nicely so far and I’m having much more fun writing it than I thought I would. On the fiction side, I’m planning a series of novellas to go with SAVAGE CINDERELLA, which has almost 3 million reads on Wattpad. My Wattpad followers love, love, love Brinn and her journey of survival. I look forward to revisiting these characters and creating further adventures for her supporters.

In keeping with my health and wellness goals in 2015, I’ll be taking myself to the beach for my birthday and then attending a four day Qi-Gong workshop at the end of the month. The workshop will consist of training in the ways of movement and breath work, nutritional healing, and energy balancing. Since I’m all about the multi-tasking, it will also help me meet my continuing education credits for my massage therapy license. Professional development is at the forefront of my goals this year. Whether attending writing conferences or healing workshops, sharing time with like-minded individuals is always so energizing! I’m sure the workshop will be the perfect opportunity to help me usher in Spring.

What are you up to in this coming month? Are you getting cabin fever? What do you do to beat the winter doldrums?

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