Category Archives: Kids

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


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)


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?

SEEKING CHRISTMAS with Brenda Maxfield

Welcome Scribers and Readers, PJ Sharon here. I have with me as today’s guest, Brenda Maxfield. Her short story, SEEKING CHRISTMAS hit home with me since neither of my two sons has a relationship with their dad. Brenda Maxfield’s perspective from the minds of teen siblings, Courtney and Dennis, truly reflected how I imagine my sons dealing with this situation. And may I also say, I LOVE this cover!

Blurb for Seeking Christmas (an Ocean Mist short story Two):

Brenda Maxfield-SeekingChristmasCover

The Christmas season has eighteen-year-old Courtney crossing the state line with her little brother Dennis to rendezvous with the man who deserted them years ago. Courtney remembers him only as the tall man who ran away. Dennis doesn’t remember him at all.

Courtney is furious, but Denny is curious. Will their meeting result in a happy Christmas memory or another miserable disappointment?

I asked Brenda what made her write this as a short story. Here’s what she had to say.Take it away Brenda…

Thanks PJ!

My first thought is that “Short Can Be Sweet”. But there was more to my decision than simply wanting to write a short story. Here’s what happened.

Open Call for Submissions: Such musical words of opportunity to any writer’s ears.

Except when such writer is buried deep in her latest work-in-progress and stretched thin between a day job, family, and uh, well, trying to stay sane!

That’s where I found myself a while back when my publisher put out a call for submissions. Sometimes emails are ripped open like paper envelopes showing checks through tiny little windows — and that’s how I opened that one. Yet even while my eyes flew downward over the content, censuring comments such as, “Who are you kidding, Brenda? You’re insane. All you need is another project…” coursed through my mind.

You know how it goes, scolding yourself even as you continue with whatever you were doing. (Hmmm, now I’m thinking about that luscious half-eaten piece of dark chocolate cake. But I digress.) My scolding continued until my eyes landed on the phrase, “Short stories only. No longer than 5,000 words.”

I major perked up. That I could do! That I could find the time for!

I’d never considered short stories as part of my writing career. I love the YA novel, the joy of unfolding a character’s crisis, angst, redemption, and growth over the course of chapters. I didn’t realize the fun of writing a short story: the smaller time frame to completion, the opportunity to give readers a taste of your style, and the possibility for those same readers to get hooked and become fans of your novels.

I did answer that open call and send a short story to my publisher. I’ve also self-pubbed two other short stories. The first was Player, which introduced the characters in Buried Truth. (Writing about two-faced Daniela in Player turned out to be a blast. Oy, I couldn’t stand the girl!) And this season, I’ve released Seeking Christmas, dealing with the aftermath of Cornered, which is releasing in a few weeks.

Christmas in September

I couldn’t bear to let the Christmas season go by without a release. So in September, I started playing with the characters from Cornered in my mind. I wondered what would happen if Courtney heard from her jerk of a dad — the guy who deserted her and disappeared like so much water down the drain years previously. Would she want to see him? Could she swallow her anger long enough to hear him out? And what about her little brother? Would taking Denny to meet the guy result in a disaster? What kind of Christmas would it turn out to be?

The characters wouldn’t stay quiet, yet I knew I didn’t have time to write another full. Thus, the short story Seeking Christmas was born. (It’s @ 8,000 words.)

I loved it. I loved the whole process. We writers are fortunate to have many avenues to get the stories out of our heads and onto the page. Short stories are just one of those ways. I heartily encourage all writers to give them a whirl!

And of course, I’d be totally thrilled if you’d give Seeking Christmas a read. During this season, take a bit of time to curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and take a trip with Courtney and her little brother in Seeking Christmas.  I hope you enjoy it!

Seeking Christmas Purchase Links:


Barnes and Noble:


Ocean Mist Books:

Author Bio:

Brenda Maxfield author PhotoMy passion is writing! What could be more delicious than inventing new characters and seeing where they take you?

I’m a teacher so I spend most of my waking hours with young people. I love chatting with them and hearing their views on love and life. My students are magical, and I am honored to be part of their lives.

I’ve lived in Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Costa Rica. Presently, I live in Indiana with my husband, Paul. We have two grown children and three precious grandchildren, special delivery from Africa.

When not teaching, I love to hole up in our lake cabin and write — often with a batch of popcorn nearby. (Oh, and did I mention dark chocolate?)

I enjoy getting to know my readers, so feel free to write me at: . Join my newsletter at: Visit me to learn about all my books and some smart and sassy, clean teen reads:  Happy Reading!

Contact Links for Brenda Maxfield:



Goodreads Author Page:




Amazon Author Page:     

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Thanks for joining us today, Brenda! Readers, if you have any questions or comments for Ms. Maxfield, please don’t be shy!

How about you? Do you like to read short stories? Have any favorites you’d like to share? Are you reading any wonderful Christmas stories right now? We’d love to know!

Harvest Fair is Here!

PJ Sharon here. After record breaking temps the past week here in New England, followed by a rainy, wet and seasonably chilly weekend, I’m hoping for something in between for next weekend’s Granville Harvest Fair. If you’ve never been, it’s a wonderful time. The leaf peeping is superior this year and will be in full show this coming week. You won’t want to miss it.

Granville, Massachusetts is one of those idyllic little towns in the foothills of the Berkshires, the perfect place to celebrate autumn and harvest time. Granville Country storeCentered in front of the Granville Country Store—world famous for their outstanding homemade cheeses—several hundred vendors set up tents and show their wares. This is one of the best fall fairs in New England in my opinion. There’s everything from crafts and pottery, to hand crafted jewelry and woodworking. They have face painting for the kids, a pumpkin contest, and a free bus ride up to the top of the hill where you can enjoy apple cider and baked goods at the orchard, and see the magnificent quilts hanging up at the Old Town Meeting House. The little ones love the scarecrow and tractor display, and there’s nothing like a piece of warm apple pie with a slice of Granville country cheddar cheese on top and a cup of cider. My mouth is watering already!

As for me, I’ll be sharing a tent with J Monkeys, and signing books down in front of the library, right across from the country store.  You have to try some of their homemade pies and cheese bread…yum! I hope if you’re in the area, you’ll stop by and say hello. I’ll need someone to bring me a piece of pie.

Anyone in the area going? Are there other harvest fairs you’ve been to? Traditions you love this time of year?

Pot smoking teens and other family dramas

Hey readers,

PJ Sharon here on a lovely autumn day in the Berkshires. I’ve actually seen a few patches of yellowed leaves on the trees and the star-filled nights here are getting cool.Crane This crane will likely be taking flight to warmer climes soon enough.

It’s also the time of year for the spreading of colds and such.*sniffle…sniffle*

I guess I can’t complain. It’s the first time I’ve been sick in a few years and it gives me some needed downtime to rest and reflect…and write.

As I swim through the murky middle of my current work in progress, PIECES OF LOVE, I’m reminded of my own teen dramas and those of my many siblings. You see, I grew up in a pretty crazy, dysfunctional family. Lots of alcohol, a dash of mental illness, secrets, lies, some seriously scary and frequent catastrophes, and lots of drama! Yes, we all loved each other in our own way, but each person in that house of seven children and three adults, was flawed. As we all are. It’s what makes us human. It’s also what makes us interesting to paint into the canvas of a story.

There’s a reason that I write YA dramas that touch on  taboo topics that encompass everything from grief and loss of a loved one, to teen pregnancy, bulimia, the effects of war, and even sexual abuse. I draw as much as possible from personal experience and from all that I have seen to be true in the human condition.

So when I began PIECES OF LOVE, I wanted to make sure to give Ali’s plight its due. Not that I’ve ever lost someone to an alcohol overdose or been arrested for marijuana possession, but I’ve certainly seen my share of these kinds of family dramas to draw real emotion and conflict from them. Understanding the motivation behind why people do what they do is a key element in making your fiction believable. As is sharing accurate and interesting detail to utilize your setting to enhance your character’s journey. Since I’ve been on a Mediterranean cruise, I have lots of insights into how Ali sees the world anew with each port she visits. It’s been fun and interesting to revisit the places I went and relive it all through her eyes, watching her transformation from self-centered, immature teen trying desperately to avoid dealing with the painful realities of life, to a young woman who learns to appreciate the people in her life who love her.

Here’s the blurb for PIECES OF LOVE:

Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to smoke pot and play guitar. What’s the point in planning for the future? Her world is shattered by her sister’s accidental alcohol overdose at college, and she is arrested for marijuana possession a second time. Her mother’s breakdown is the final straw that forces Ali to spend the summer with her Grandmother in Malibu.

But problems aren’t so easily dismissed. After Ali steps over the line one too many times, she’s certain her life is over and that she’s destined for juvenile detention. Her ‘Malibu Barbie’ grandmother, Maddie, takes desperate measures…a Mediterranean cruise…for seniors. If overwhelmed and motion sick Ali needs further torment, Maddie has decided that her granddaughter’s childish name could use an upgrade and renames her Lexi. Can a new name and a French haircut fix everything that’s wrong with Ali’s life? Maybe when Ethan Kaswell says the name.

Eighteen year-old Ethan, the poster child for being a good son, who is stranded on the cruise when his famous heart surgeon father is kept away by an important consultation, finds Lexi irresistible. Although he’s smart enough to see that there is no future in falling for a “vacation crush,” Lexi’s edgy dark side and soulfully sad eyes draw him like an anchor to the bottom of the sea. As she spirals out of control, will she bring him down too, or was he already drowning? Maybe by saving her, he can save himself. 

Greece2011 224 (2013_02_16 18_14_38 UTC)Visiting such ports as Portofino, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; and Rome. From the Greek Islands to Tunisia, North Africa; and Barcelona, Spain to Dubrovnik, Croatia; you’ll see the sights and walk on sacred ground with Ali as she learns about herself, her family, and what it means to love someone–even when you have to let them go.

Infusing our own experiences, we can create flawed but redeemable characters who are on a journey of self-discovery. The more vividly we can paint that portrait, the more we bring the story to life with their color, depth, and the rich texture of emotional reactionary drama that makes us connect to them in an intimate way. When the character’s fatal flaw forces them to face the consequences of their actions and choices, and we see them grow, it’s satisfying and uplifting. Readers heart’s are touched. It’s what all writers strive for and is so challenging to do, and do well.

One thing I’m sure of is that we can’t shy away from addressing tough issues when writing for teens, but we have to be willing to step fully into their shoes to get it right. Knowing that “pot” is now mostly referred to as “weed” and other such specifics, are important for authenticity, and can only be known if you hang around teenagers and ask questions. It’s been my experience that they are most willing to share their opinions and ideas when I tell them why I’m asking. They seem to appreciate that I’m willing to have an open dialogue and that I’m not interested in judging them. I don’t think any of my teen library group kids are “potheads,” or “stoners” as they call them, but they are fully engaged in the youth culture in a way that I am not.

I’m hoping for the book to be ready for release in the first part of 2014. A cover reveal and the ability to pre-order the book through Smashwords should be coming up at the end of November. I’m also working on recording a theme song for the book–possibly two, written by yours truly!

So if you’re a writer, write what you know, ‘they’ say. I agree. Either draw from your own experiences, or find a way to walk in someone else’s moccasins for a mile or two. Your characters will be so much richer for it! Just be real, and let your characters take the story where it needs to go. You might even experience some healing as you create/or re-create a painful real-life event that still holds you back from being the best you can be–just like your characters.

I often have to remind myself that ‘do-overs and make-believe are not only allowed in fiction writing, but encouraged.’

Today’s unlocked secret: Infuse your personal experiences into your writing to create vivid, authentic, and memorable characters. Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough problems, and keep it real.

I’m heading back to bed for more rest. I have to be better for my trip to Nashville and New Orleans later this week, where I’ll be at my step-son’s wedding and doing some research for book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I hate getting on a plane and being THAT person who gets everyone else sick. I’m also thinking my sinuses aren’t going to appreciate the flight…uggh!

To happier thoughts and my original statement in this post, I really do love it here in the hills. Our town has the cleanest air on record in Massachusetts, and has one of the healthiest ecosystems. I routinely see lots of wildlife, including a host of various birds here. Although with hunting season commencing, and flight of the migratory bird populations, that will likely be less now. Blue heronI am so grateful to live where I live and feel blessed to be part of my small community.

As such, I’m participating once again at the Granville Harvest Fair coming up Columbus Day weekend (October 12-14). I’ll be hanging out in front of the library signing books with a few other authors. If you’re in North Central CT or Western MA, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. There’s tons to see and do. I swear, we have one of the BEST harvest fairs in New England!

Do you write what you know, or rely on a mix of research, empathy, and experience? I’d love to hear from you about your process and how you make your characters authentic.

Curve Balls by Katy Lee

My #1Kid recently suffered an accident that left her with a concussion. Now for those of you who know my daughter, you know she’s got goals. (She blogs about her “Road to Gold” here if you want to trail in her wake.) And when she says “Road to Gold” she’s not kidding. To say she is driven doesn’t come close. She’s a plow with an Olympic torch as her guide.

As a writer I totally understand that drive. I saw my name up there as “Published Author,” and I went after it much in the same way as she does a record-breaking swim time. Because of this I have encouraged her every step of the way. Who am I to tell her she can’t have her goal, even if the stats and competition say otherwise? I’ve cheered her on and shared in her victories. I’ve hugged her and commiserated in her losses. Each and every time telling her it’s all part of the journey whatever the outcome. The losses can even make her stronger than the wins if she uses them as tools. (Every rejection I ever received were the tools I needed to make my writing better. And I tell her to let no rejection take the dream away.)

But then this summer happened.

In an accident in the pool, #1Kid came up against something stronger than a loss or rejection. #1Kid came up against a head injury that benched her. And not only benched her but put her on the couch in sunglasses and earplugs. All goals for the summer screeched to a halt. All dreams darkened like the rooms in my house. (On a side note, my electric bill should be pretty low this month.)

But as her tears flowed, I found myself at a loss for words and encouragement. Saying “life stinks sometimes” wouldn’t cut it. And not only that, I wanted to do more than validate her pain. Instead, I wanted to give her another goal. I wanted to give her something to look forward to. But most importantly, I wanted to make sure knew she wasn’t alone through it all.

I will be honest and say I have always included God on my journey to publication, and with every victory and contract, I thank Him for His favor. On the other side, for every rejection, I thank Him for his protection and guidance. No matter what, though, I take Him along with me.

And so for my daughter, I told her God loves that she is so driven. He made her so. He loves that she has dreams, and the truth is He wants to give them to her. He promises that all things are possible for those who love Him. But, He doesn’t want to be left in her wake. I asked her to be honest with herself. Was she taking Him along with her? Or was she leaving Him behind?

And after some soul searching? I think I can speak for her and say the real curve ball wasn’t only the head injury, but also the realization that she had her sights set on the wrong torch.

The Unlocked Secret and Outcome: I’m so proud of #1. She had her time of tears for a few days, then just as I had wanted, she formed a new goal to strive for. Making sure Jesus became her torch to plow toward instead. And five weeks later, here she is at the state games. Still not able to dive, still struggling with barriers, but knowing full well she’s not alone on her “Road to Gold.” In fact, she’s got the greatest champion before her, beside her and behind her.


Question: #Curveballs….we’ve all been thrown them. How do you cope?