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

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

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?

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.

R Fan pic- Marissa pic (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)

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?