All posts by PJ Sharon

PJ Sharon is the award winning author of several contemporary young adult novels, including PIECES of LOVE, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, winner of the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award the 2013 HOLT Medallion Award winner. She has recently completed the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, a YA Dystopian trilogy. WANING MOON, WESTERN DESERT, and HEALING WATERS are now available. You can find her on the web at http://www.pjsharon.com follow her on twitter: @pjsharon or look her up on facebook at www.facebook.com/pjsharonbooks

Back on the Wagon!

Healthy holidays to you and yours!

I hope this end of year post finds you all healthy, happy, and looking forward to a bright new year–that time when we make a fresh start, set those goals, and forge on with determination that this year…we’ll do better about sticking with the plan.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of thinking that gets us off track every time. Setting goals is helpful and necessary, and planning for the future is a great habit. But when we put off making better choices until tomorrow, we subconsciously give ourselves permission to cheat like crazy in the meantime. It’s easy to say I’ll get back on the scale on Monday, or I’ll start that new exercise routine after New Year’s, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires developing daily routines you can’t live without–all year long. Healthy LivingI’m not saying you can’t enjoy a ham dinner and have a piece of pie, but the holidays shouldn’t mean that we get to go completely off the rails and then pay for it later.

This “life on credit” belief system is a toxic cultural mindset that is at the root of many failed diets, unsuccessful exercise programs, and even the outrageous credit card debt that most Americans live with these days.

Developing healthy habits is never easy–especially when we’re faced with constant temptation. We all tend to over-indulge at the holidays and we are conditioned by years of tradition to do so. But when splurging becomes the habit rather than the occasional exception, it’s much harder to get back up on the wagon and be good. And we all know it’s easier to give in to temptation than it is to fight it. It doesn’t help that there are layers of emotional, social, and physiological reasons why we over-indulge. These issues need to be addressed as well if you want to achieve lasting results in your weight management and healthy living goals. I recognize how challenging it is to get on, and stay on, the right track, but it most certainly can be done–even through the holidays.

Real change begins with the belief that we can change.  We must convince ourselves that we CAN eat moderately on a regular basis and still enjoy an occasional splurge in moderation, or a day off from our exercise routine. It simply takes training. Or in most cases–retraining.

The thing is, habits are created through repetition. If you have–like most people–developed the habit of making excuses and procrastinating on making necessary changes, your first order of business (if you want your goals to mean more than words on a page), is to work on developing a NOW attitude. Don’t wait until after New Year’s to start an exercise program. Start today! Never start a diet on Monday. Often, people gain weight on diets when they habitually practice the “I’ll start on Monday” mantra, since this gives their subconscious mind the green light to eat all the goodies in sight over the weekend.

Change starts NOW!

I know Christmas has passed, but with New Year’s Eve right around the corner and Valentine’s Day nipping at its heals with an abundance of sweet temptations, now is as good a time as any to grab the reins and take back control.  Follow these simple rules and I promise, you’ll leave your holiday dinner feeling satisfied, not stuffed… and grateful, not guilty.

  1. Micro-portion control. Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your belly! Since there’s likely a feast of foods to choose from, literally take a bite or two of each food onto your plate. Same with desserts. A sliver means three bites. Trust me, if you do this one thing, you won’t overeat, and you’ll feel satisfied rather than overly stuffed. Just remind yourself that there will be leftovers and you can enjoy the meal again the next day–in another round of small portion-sized servings.
  2. Skip seconds. This probably echoes rule #1, but less is more at the holidays and more isn’t always better. Meals should be social times, but the more we associate eating with a feeling of love and belonging, the more we will use food to care for our emotional needs–which leads to habitual overeating. Instead of going for seconds, pour a second glass of water or make yourself a cup of aromatic tea and sip that while people are still eating. Enjoy the conversation and focus on how grateful you are for the loved ones in your life. Remind yourself that love is NOT about food and that you want to stay healthy and fit for them as well as for yourself.
  3. Choose wisely. With all the food and beverage choices we have to make through the holidays, and the abundance of sugary delights, it’s no wonder the entire nation doesn’t suffer a diabetic coma by New Years Day. Egg Nog–spiked or otherwise–is loaded with sugar and saturated fat. Consider the light version and “water” it down by mixing it with skim milk. It’s still plenty sweet and creamy, but it isn’t so filling or calorie laden. Be mindful of how much alcohol you’re consuming and keep track of the calories ( a 5 oz. serving of wine is about 106 calories). Practice the trade-off method, as in…trade-off the second glass of wine for a sliver of pie, but know that indulging in both will probably put you way over your daily calorie count. Think about how hard you have to workout to make those treats go away. In other words, choose consciously and choose wisely.

Making consistently positive choices about diet and exercise is the only way to achieve lasting fitness and succeed with weight management goals.

Visit my website’s Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle page to get started on the new you, and for more tips on Fighting the Battle of the Bulge or Making and Breaking Habits, pre-order the e-book copy of my upcoming release and have it delivered straight to your Kindle on January 12th.

(Print copies will also be available!)

Overcome Your Sedentary Lifestyle

(A Practical Guide to Improving Health, Fitness, and Well-being for Desk Dwellers and Couch Potatoes)

PJSharon_OvercomeYourSedentaryLifestyle_eCover_800[1]

 I hope you’ll join me in celebrating on January 10th and get your signed copy ahead of everyone else.

You’re Invited to the book launch party!

1-4 p.m. Refreshments, book signing, and Q&A

January 10, 2016 (SNOW DATE: Jan. 17th)

Granby Yoga Studio

29-B Hartford Ave. Granby, CT

PJSharon_StandUpForLife_Logo_1LG_900x2300

If you live in the New England area, I hope to see you there. In the meantime, have a wonderful rest of 2015 and make your first goal of the new year adopting a NOW attitude!

What’s your new mantra going to be this coming year?

PJ’s Pantry and More Fun Stuff

Hey Scriblings,

It feels like ages since I’ve posted here. I missed last month entirely! That’s because I’ve been working diligently on finishing my non-fiction book, OVERCOME your SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE (A Practical Guide to Improving Health, Fitness, and Well-being for Desk Dwellers and Couch Potatoes). I’m finally done with the first draft and working on revisions…yayyy! The book should be available for preorder in November and will release in January, 2016. PJSharon_OvercomeYourSedentaryLifestyle_eCover_800[1]Although writing non-fiction is easier in some ways than novel writing, it still requires a tremendous amount of research to get the facts straight. After all, I’m not just making it up as I go along and people are counting on me to get it right.

Another hold up was that I had written several sections and then decided afterwards that they weren’t quite right for this particular book. One such section was a chapter at the end of the book I was going to call PJ’s Pantry, listing all the healthy foods I stock in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. But once I started researching all of these “healthy” foods, I was shocked–and more than a little disappointed–that some of them were not as healthy as I had thought. With “hidden” chemicals and unhealthy additives, my list quickly grew shorter and shorter! In good conscience, I couldn’t put them in the book without adding all the research I’d done as well.

Since information about which foods are healthy and which are not seems to change daily, I decided instead, to put PJ’s Pantry on my website rather than have it in the book where it would be more difficult to update and change as new information arose. Feel free to stop by and check it out. I’m sure you’ll find some helpful tips on stocking a “healthy” pantry and you may find some interesting tidbits on foods you thought were good for you, and why they may not be.

Eat your heart out, Headless Horseman!
Eat your heart out, Headless Horseman!

In other fun news, I’ll be signing books at the Granville Harvest Fair again this year. If you’re in the New England area and looking for a fun place to hang out with the kids Columbus Day weekend, I hope you’ll stop by. There will be the usual yummy food vendors, pies, crafts, face painting and scarecrow contest, as well as the magnificent quilt display at the old meeting house. And you’ll definitely want to visit the Noble and Cooley Drum factory museum, built in 1854 and still making drums for today’s musicians. I’ll be down next to the library where they’ll be having a huge book sale (all the books you can fit into a bag for $5). You can swing by my tent and grab a book mark and say hi on your way out, LOL. We had wonderful weather last year, so hopefully the sunshine and warmth will be in our favor again.

I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite smoothie recipes.

Green Choco Monkey Smoothie

Inspired by my addiction to the Coco Monkey Smoothie from the Granby Village Health Food Store in Granby, CT., I’ve adapted their recipe and added a few twists.Choco monkey smoothie

Ingredients:

1 cup Silk Chocolate Almond Milk

1 tbsp. Almond butter (or organic peanut butter)

1 frozen banana (peeled and cut into pieces)

1 scoop Green’s Organics Superfood (Amazonian Chocolate) powder. (According to the label, 1 scoop has the nutrients equal to 7 servings of fruits and veggies!)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

(I also add a tsp. of Maca powder for an extra energy burst)

 Instructions:

Blend all ingredients on high (Smoothie setting on Blendtec) for 45-60 seconds until smooth. Drink and enjoy!

Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe you’d care to share?

The Language of Words

PJ Sharon here. When I began studying the writing craft about eight years ago, I hooked up with a retired high school English teacher friend of mine who suggested that I needed to learn how to “speak about language.” What she meant was that I needed to understand the difference between parts of speech, learn the ways in which we use language, and be able to differentiate the tools that help us define communication. More than basic grammar and usage, I needed to re-learn the difference between homonyms and synonyms, and idioms and euphemisms.

I find all these terms confusing on a good day! To help me keep it all straight, I get my word and grammar fix from Daily Writing Tips, a newsletter subscription that sends me…yes, daily writing tips. It keeps me learning new things, and often helps me drag some old reminders from the recesses of my 10th grade brain. I found the definitions of paranym and paronym this week and was delighted to learn a new term. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you should! http://www.dailywritingtips.com/

I don’t know about you, but differentiating between a paranym and a paronym would never have even been on my radar before I became a writer, began hanging out at writing conferences and taking workshops where people smarter than I seemed to understand this “foreign” language of English in a way that made me want to be “in on the secret.”

Since I’ll be at the National RWA conference next week, I thought I’d study up. After all, it’s not ALL about the shoes! And no, my feet would not be caught dead in these, LOL. I’ll be wearing flats.picture038

Here are those definitions…in case you’re interested. Courtesy of Daily Writing Tips and Wikipedia.

I’ll start with euphemisms. This one, I get. Wiki defines Euphemism as a mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive.

Examples of a euphemism:

“Eliminate” in place of “kill,” “kick the bucket” instead of “die,” or “unmotivated” rather than “lazy.”

An Idiom is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. An idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.

Examples:

It’s “raining cats and dogs,” she’s “pulling your leg,” “it’s not rocket science,” or you “spilled the beans.”

Paranyms- A euphemistic word or phrase whose literal sense is contrary to the reality of what it refers to, used especially to disguise or misrepresent the truth about something. In other words, words whose meaning is generally the opposite of that intended by the speaker.

Example: “Everlasting life:” Or in other words, “death.”

Paronyms- A word which is derived from another word or from a word with the same root, and having a related or similar meaning, (e.g. childhood and childish). Another definition is a word similar in sound or appearance to another; especially, a near homonym.

This is where all those pesky confusing words come from.

affect/effect, farther/further, alternately/alternatively, interested/interesting, corrupted/corrupt, adopt/adapt, continuous/contiguous

If you want to know the difference between Heteronyms, Homonyms, Homographs and Homophones, check out this article by Lee Masterson of the Fiction Factor, an online magazine for fiction writers that also has great tips on the language of words. http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/hhhh.html

I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson.

Which vocabulary definitions throw you for a loop? (Yep…I used an idiom).

 

Top 5 Tools of the Trade

2013 RWA conference picPJ Sharon here. I’ve been taking an online course this month to learn how to use Scrivener. For those of you who don’t know what Scrivener is, it’s a software program developed specifically for writing. Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips. It’s a way to organize your work into chapters, scenes, or sections so that it’s easy to move and manipulate them within your document. There’s even a place to keep all your research together in one easy to find folder. Think of it as one of those cool binders you loved to shop for when you were in high school…or maybe that was just me.scriv pic

Scrivener is available for Windows or Mac users and there are tons of tutorial videos out there. So why am I taking a course? Because I’m one of those non-tech-savvy individuals who needs my hand held whenever I’m faced with learning anything new on the computer. I’m convinced that this is why I married an engineer (aside from his being a sweetheart, a hottie, and a heck of a good kisser).

Scrivener is one of those writing tools that I can see has amazing potential to streamline my writing process. Once I’ve completed my manuscript, the program compiles it all into a professionally formatted document and even allows me to produce a .mobi file and an .epub file for upload to Amazon and B&N, respectively. I’m not there yet, but I’m pretty sure it will generate the appropriate file format for I-Books and Kobo as well. This would save money on hiring a formatter to do this for me, and I would continue to have complete control over making changes as needed.

If I were one of those folks who loves new gadgets, gets excited about the prospect of Windows 10, or one who can’t wait to buy the latest greatest I-Phone, I’d be stoked about learning Scrivener. Alas, I am not one of those people. Although I pride myself on being an intelligent person with a “can do” attitude most days, my brain does not appear to be wired for organization of files or the minutia of the not-so-intuitive Scrivener program. I’m more the absent-minded professor type who lives with piles of notebooks and file drawers full of things I’ll probably never need but can’t get rid of. Frankly, I’d rather be writing my stories than learning ANOTHER new computer program.

I’m hoping to feel differently after the course is complete and will report back as to its usefulness, or more to the point, my ability to adapt to it.

There are however, other tools of the trade that I have found exceedingly helpful. Here’s my top 5 list!

Authorgraph: Nothing to learn and everything to gain! Signing up for Authorgraph is free and easy. It allows me to digitally “autograph” my ebooks for readers who request it, and it sends me weekly updates regarding my books’ Amazon rankings. It also notifies me of new reviews. Great tool! http://www.authorgraph.com/

Canva: I’m new to Canva and will be attending a webinar to learn more about how to use all its features, but it appears to be user friendly and intuitive. It allows me to make my own graphic designs, has templates for Facebook and website headers, and offers a ton of royalty free photos to use for the designs. It’s perfect for creating graphics for Pinterest boards, blog tours, or events. I’m looking forward to letting my creative mind explore this fun new resource. https://www.canva.com/about

Drop Box: This is a “cloud based’ storage area for all of your files, photos, and documents. The free version offers enough memory for most of us to never run out of room (unless you’re storing tons of photos or videos which take lots of space). You can buy more storage space if needed, but the standard free 2 GB are plenty for my files. Drop box allows you to store, share, and work together on projects with others and syncs up to all of your devices so your info is always available. I use this as my back up to One Drive (which is also cloud-based storage). I also periodically back up my computer onto an external drive from Seagate.             https://www.dropbox.com

Excel: Not long ago, I recall saying the only thing I knew about spread sheets was how they fit onto a mattress. After a few quick tutorials with techno-hubby, I was able to reap the benefits of this most excel-lent tool. I use it for my list of websites and passwords, keep track of bloggers, reviewers, and promo sites, and compile my quarterly/yearly sales reports (when I get around to them), all done with excel spread sheets. I know only the basics of how to use it, but it seems to be doing the job for me just fine. Excel is available through Microsoft Office.

Hoot Suite: This social media powerhouse allows me to schedule tweets ahead of time. The basic program is free and user friendly. Again, I’m certain I’m only using the most basic features, but it does what I need it to. When I have a promotion going on, I can set up my tweets and schedule them to release throughout the day without having to be on Twitter all day long. It also allows me to group certain individuals, much the same way Twitter does. I can have bloggers and reviewers in one group, writers and publishers in another, and readers in yet another, so that I can target tweets to a specific audience. Very handy indeed! And don’t you just love their logo? (Casey Wyatt? I’m talking to you!)hoot suite image                  https://hootsuite.com/

So these are a few of my favorite tools of the trade. Have you used any of these? Love them or hate them? Any I’ve missed that you’d like to share?   

“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