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Posts tagged with: tips

Kids Are Back in School=Let’s Get Down to Business

It’s that wonderful time of year when the kiddos go back to school. There should be some holiday songs to accompany this like:

Silent Day, Wholly Productive Day

Rudolph the Brown Nosed Teachers Pet

Over the river & through the woods, back to school we go…

 

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love my three darlings and sleeping in a bit over the summer, but my writing takes a hit when I’m hauling them to all sorts of activities or encouraging them to entertain themselves. So when the end of August and early September roll around, I’m ready to get back into my school year routine. I treat this time like New Years, and re-energize myself to jump back into writing.

So let’s talk about productivity goals for the “New Year.”

Do I really need to make goals? Yes. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Without knowing where you’re headed, you end up wandering around until you realize you are hung over, trapped on the roof of a hotel in Las Vegas (wasn’t that a movie?) when you really want to be lying in a cabana on the beach, drinking Sangria. So write down some overall goals and then the little steps to help you navigate toward them. My personal little goal is to write at least 2000 words EVERY week day. It’s doable with my current schedule, not too taxing, and really moves me forward in my projects.

Find the surface of your desk. Take a day or an hour to sort your desk, clear it off and make your work papers easily accessible. I’ve recently installed a drop down pocket system that lets me keep information about each of my WIPs in separate, but easily found, places. This helps me spend less time looking for things and more time writing.

Just say no to drugs (I have kids. It just rolls off the tongue) and say no to bake sales and community newsletters and hosting in-home retail parties and …. Take fifteen minutes to list out all your responsibilities. Whew! There are a lot of them. Then look at each one critically. What can you knock out of your über busy schedule so you have more time to relax, write and/or breathe?

 

Couch diving for extra minutes. Finding time to write is sometimes like digging for coins in the couch cushions. A dime here, a quarter there, but they add up. Little snatches of writing time can be found the same way. Instead of in the couch cushions, they can be found in carpool, doctor’s offices, at hair appointments and sports’ practices. I use a lightweight AlphaSmart Neo electronic notebook, but you can use a regular paper notebook. I’m amazed some days at how many words I actually write in these little periods of time.  

Creative Feeding of the Brood. I cringed at how much time I spent feeding my family. Coupon clipping, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning – it’s massive! On average I spend over an hour a night on dinner prep alone. So I spoke to my hubby and kids, and we’ve implemented a few changes. Instead of cooking seven nights a week now, I’ve implemented “Take-out Tuesdays” with some success (sometimes it’s a different day or just a left over day).

I’ve also dusted off my crock pot and made room in my freezer. I signed up for the New Wellness newsletter, which sends out free (and to purchase) crock pot recipes for the freezer. Here’s some of their free stuff:

21 Healthy Freezer Meal Prep Sessions for Back-to-School

 On Sunday I prep freezer bags with meat, sauces and vegetables. I label them and put them in my freezer. Then once or twice a week, I take one out the night before and throw the whole thing in my crock pot in the morning to save me a lot of time cooking. I usually only have to make a pot of rice and cut up veggies as a side. My kids don’t always love the all-the-food-is-touching dishes that you get with a crock pot, but I can usually pull out some meat for the picky eaters. Here’s the link to the page.

I gave birth, now it’s your turn to work. I have one kid in high school (one just left for college & took her dirty dishes and laundry with her), so he helps clean the kitchen at night. And my 10 yo can empty/fill the dishwasher now and clean the table. So after a little time training, (and yes, they forget, but then I re-train so they know they can’t get out of it because they suffer with spontaneous amnesia) the two of them clean up while I catch an extra forty minutes of writing after dinner (or relaxing time – you know that’s allowed and encouraged, right?).

Sprint your fingers off. Writing sprints are timed periods where you write as fast as you can for 20 or 30 minutes, and then see how many words you’ve created. Many writers find it a highly productive time, without their internal editor nagging at them to back up and re-write. NaNoWriMo has sprints in November. The Rubies host sprints as part of the Winter Writing Festival in January, but you and your writer friends can set up sprints anytime. Meet on a private FB page and agree how long to write. Someone times it, and then you all talk about how you did. It’s a fun way to write fast and interact with others.

Keep your body going. Writers are often sedentary creatures. We spend so much time in our own minds that we forget about the rest of our bodies. But the brain needs the body, hopefully for several more decades, so you HAVE to take care of it. Please make time to exercise. Ideally we should exercise an hour a day and stand up and walk around a bit every hour throughout the day. Now that the kids are back in school, I walk the dog and do some yoga first thing in the morning. I also try to fuel my body with some good food in the morning, so I don’t snack all day.

Okay, my chai latte is warm and cinnamon-topped in my favorite cup. The soundtrack for my latest WIP is playing softly in the background, and I have my collage with WIP pictures set where I can see it. I’ve cracked my proverbial fingers and am poised to make magic with my words. Ah sweet back-to-school, let’s start this “New Year” off with a strategic and productive rush.

Does anyone else have helpful tips for finding your productive groove?

7 Crucial Items to Bring to Conference

Hello everyone! Today I am packing for the Moonlight & Magnolia Romance Writers conference in Atlanta this weekend (http://www.georgiaromancewriters.org/mm-conference/). Georgia Romance Writers puts on a fabulous three-day conference, which brings in a couple hundred romance writers, editors and agents, as well as readers for their grand book signing. I love this conference, because it is big enough for great networking opportunities but also small enough to bring a type of intimacy to it, so I don’t feel incredibly overwhelmed (like I do at the national conference). This year I’m especially excited because my YA paranormal romance, BROKEN, is up for a Published Maggie Award – Yay!

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finalist-ya-pubSo…packing. For three days away, it’s amazing how many things I need to remember to bring. But bringing the right items to conference is important and requires thought. After all, you’ve paid good money to go and sacrificed writing and family time. So you need to make the most of the experience.

I’ve created a list of the top seven crucial items to bring with you to any writing conference:

1. Goals – What do you want to get out of the conference? Do you want to attend five workshops or meet five new writers or give your pitch to an editor without passing out? Are you going to learn about the business or the craft? Are you going to meet up with writing buddies to strategize how to help each other promote? There are numerous possible goals, but the important part is to know them ahead of time and aim to achieve them. You don’t want to be flying home on Sunday wondering what it was you actually did over the last couple days.

2. Swag/business cards – I’m packing pens and notepads to put out in the Goody Room. I will take bookmarks and business cards to hand out at meals around the table. Of course it all has to fit in my suitcase and stay under 50 pounds. Yikes! Some people ship items to the hotel ahead of time but allow plenty of time for them to arrive.

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Box of swag!

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Clicking my Ruby shoes for good luck!

3. Clothes – It’s better not to go naked : ) Okay, conference clothes can be a whole blog post in itself. But remember to bring a sweater or jacket as hotels are usually freezing (summer and winter). Most conferences require a lot of walking, so remember to bring at least one comfortable pair of shoes to wear if your feet start screaming on the first day. I have a killer pair of Ruby red heels that I’ll be wearing Saturday night, so I’m bringing fold-able ballet flats in my purse for the dancing after the ceremony.

You’ll also want to make sure you have a cocktail dress or formal wear for the Saturday night dinner/awards ceremony, if there will be one. Some conferences and reader events hold special costume parties (historical dresses, steam punk, vampire wear). You’ll want to pack something appropriate if you plan to attend any of them.

4. Pitches – If you’ll be pitching a project or yourself to an editor or agent, remember to bring your cards or plan for doing so. Advanced preparation is key. You don’t want to completely wing it in a pitch because the time is very limited. I usually put my pitches together on the plane ride there, so I make sure to have index cards and a pen in my bag to do so.

5. Travel/contact info – Keep copies of travel itineraries and phone numbers for the shuttle company with you. You don’t want to get stranded and have to track down numbers from scratch. Also, if you are meeting up with friends, make sure to have their cell numbers.

6. Medicine – At conferences we can get nervous or eat things we are not accustomed to eating. It’s a good idea to take, along with all prescription meds, some pain reliever and tummy medicine. Having to spend the whole day in your room because of a headache is not going to help you reach your goals.

7. Smile – I’m an introvert, so conferences, with all those people, are not in my comfort zone. But they can be fun and are important for networking and learning tons. So I need to put on my conference, extrovert face. Internally I talk myself up and plaster on a smile, keeping my eyes and ears open. As hard as it is to start, once I say “hi” and begin meeting interesting people, my smile becomes natural. Always remember to be polite and as friendly as possible. Observers may not necessarily remember your book titles or genre, but they will surely remember your tantrum over a hair in your food.img_1835

This is obviously not an extensive list. Others might include snacks, flash cards of industry names, lap top, lucky underwear, notebook, cash, etc. Make a list for yourself, but be sure to include the seven crucial conference items above.

Okay, you experienced conference goers, what did I miss?

Stop the (Negative) Insanity!

Happy Monday everyone! Okay, so you may not feel like celebrating the start of the work week, but I bet you can find something to smile about if you look. Perhaps the traffic lights were green or a butterfly landed on your arm. These might seem like little things, but they’re important. Often times we dwell on the annoying things that go wrong, letting them eat away at our peace and daily joy. But we must also pay attention to the little good things, which people tend to forget about as soon as they happen.

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The same can be said about the huge events in our lives. Bad seems to be talked about and remembered longer than good. Scars on the heart and body haunt us while fabulously joyful happenings fade to pleasant memories that must be recalled purposely.

What does this have to do with writing, Heather? Well, happiness affects all parts of our lives, including writing. Which review sits longer in your psyche? The glowing five star or the one where the reviewer calls your book idiotic and not worth ninety-nine cents? I know the answer for me is the later. And yet these negative strikes shouldn’t be given any more attention than a positive review. (Easier said than done!)

Focusing on the negative will eat away at the joy of writing. It can chase away your muse and cripple your prose with second-guessing and a wildly slashing internal editor. It can make us jealous over the triumphs of our peers, giving their success the power to wound us further. Our bad thoughts will increase the terrible things we say to ourselves in our head. It’s a destructive spiral of doom! BWAHAHA!

“Even though people claim to hold themselves in high regard, the thoughts that spontaneously occur to them—their “mental chatter,” so to speak—is mostly (up to 70%) negative, a phenomenon that could be referred to as negativity dominance. Negativity dominance suggests that there is a disconnect between how people respond to questions about how well they are doing relative to their peers, how rosy their future is, and the extent to which they wield control over their outcomes—all of which exhibit a distinct positivity bias—and how they actually feel, deep down in their sub-conscious, about their life. Deep down, it turns out that people are much more self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful than they let out in their conscious thoughts.” Psychology Today, Raj Raghunathan Ph.D.

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So apparently there are a lot of zingers flying around in our heads each day. How does one stop all that negative “mental chatter”? Here are some ways to turn away from the Dark Side, padawan.

 

 

 

1. Talk about the good. At the dinner table I ask each person to tell something good that happened to them that day. It gets us talking and reminds people that we shouldn’t shrug off the good things, no matter how small. Sometimes my kids (and the adults) forget all the amazing opportunities in their lives.marbles

2. Keep a marble jar. Every time something good happens, add a marble. When you see the colorful mix of marbles growing, it will remind you that there are good things happening all the time.

3. Display the positive. Hang up your good reviews and fan mail. Read them over daily.

4. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down three to five things each night for which you are thankful. It really brings the focus back to the light side of life right before you fall asleep.

5. Smile. By forcing the body to act happy, often times we can trick our minds into following along. Breathe deeply too. Stress is a sneaky thief of joy.

6. Wear a rubber band on your wrist. Every time you start with the negative self-talk, snap it. I know that sounds crazy, but I learned it in a seminar, so it must work : )wrist-snap-resize

 

7. Celebrate the big things. Many of you know that I’m an ovarian cancer survivor. I was stage IIC when they found it. I was unaware until just a few months ago that at that at Stage IIC I only had a 57% chance of living five years after diagnosis. I endured extensive surgery, 15 months of chemo, and 6 more months of recovery. 

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I reached five years survival on 4/5/16 with a clean bill of health. I could have just had a nice dinner and treated myself to ice cream (I’m on a diet), but I told my husband that I wanted to celebrate big. So we had a party, a big party. In fact the police showed up! I told everyone “there is enough bad in the world that when something good happens, we really need to celebrate.” So we did : ) And each day that I walk my dog and hug my kids and sit on the couch without pain I thank God I’m still here. I actually find it a lot easier to be positive after that journey.

Sometimes no matter what you try, the negativity builds. If you experience negative thoughts for more than two weeks, you should definitely see your doctor. It could be a chemical imbalance, leading to depression (been there too). The right meds and therapy can really help.

These are the basic symptoms of depression.

  • you feel hopeless and helpless
  • you’ve lost interest in friends, activities, and things you used to enjoy
  • you feel tired all the time
  • your sleep and appetite has changed
  • you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
  • you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
  • you are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
  • you’re consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-signs-and-symptoms.htm

Do any of you have ideas or tricks for cultivating happiness in your life? What good happened to you today/yesterday for those just waking up?

For those interested in more information on ovarian cancer and Heather’s journey, you can find it on Heather’s web site at http://www.heathermccollum.com/ under the ovarian cancer tab.

Quick! Write a Book!

Today is a momentous day for me! SACRIFICE, the fifth and final book in my paranormal romance series, The Dragonfly Chronicles, has released!Sacrifice_w10212_750

 

Amen! The first book in the series, PROPHECY, came out in 2009. Ugh! Really?

So I had some hang-ups in the last seven years, which delayed each book: three busy kids, taking in a crazy golden retriever rescue, spending two years fighting ovarian cancer, etc. Plus each book weighs in at about 350 pages and took mountains of research (five different time periods) and intricate planning to create a complete story arc over all five individual stories. So yeah – seven years. And although I’m exceedingly proud of the books, and they’ve earned lovely reviews (one of them was a finalist in the Golden Heart), I haven’t sold enough copies to bring in decent royalties. Sigh…deskhead

I’ve tried blog tours, networking, social media platforms, better author branding, giveaways, etc. Not really working. So what do I need to do to sell a book?

After reading posts and conversations between my Ruby Sisters, I’ve concluded that I have to write more books, faster. Yes, that sounds obvious, and I can say, “Great, I’ll write more books faster.” But I need a realistic list of action items to help me reach my goal.

First – What is my main goal for my next series? To publish two books together and then subsequent books every three to four months. <Big Breath> I still have three busy kids (without drivers’ licenses) and a crazy golden retriever, along with a lot of ovarian cancer awareness events. So…what steps am I going to take to achieve this goal?

1. Don’t get cancer again : ) Not that I can actually control this, but I do need to make room in my day for exercise and healthy eating.0 to 1

2. Shorten my books. When I look at a number of successful romance authors, their books run about 250 – 280 pages in length, about 100 pages less than mine. So these will be faster paced books, without so many subplots. They will follow a more straight forward path to the conclusion. My paths are usually very convoluted, so this will be a challenge.

3. Chart out my plots and try to stick to them. Sometimes tangents take me to fabulous places, but often times they do not. If a tangent looks crazy-promising I will of course check it out, but I will try not to write in circles.

Collage for MASQUERADE: Book 3

Collage for MASQUERADE: Book 3

4. Keep a story series bible from the start. I’m terrible at remembering where scars are located and the color of eyes and little details that might pop back up in another book. I spent way too much time finding these details in earlier books to keep consistent through the series. With a story bible, I’m writing all this down on One Note (an electronic story bible) and/or in a collage for each book.

 

 

5. Track my word counts. I’ve done this off and on through the years, but just like with counting calories while dieting, counting words written per day can really push me toward success. If I can write 10K words a week, that’s just 2K words every work day, I’ll finish a book in about eight weeks. That should still keep me on track for a three-four month release. So despite my kids needing rides, spring break, cancer awareness talks and events, walking the dog, cooking dinner and cleaning up after my wonderful yet messy family, I will get in 10K words per week.

 

 

Repeats with gusto – “I WILL get in 10K words per week!”

 

 

 

 

 

6. Implement Take-Out Tuesdays and freezer to crockpot dinners twice a week. I tend to make dinner each night for my family. I still want to save money and7-Crockpot-Soup-Freezer-Meals-In-Two-Hours provide healthy food for my family, but I can make a bunch of freezer meals once a month, to pull out twice a week. Here is my favorite site with freezer to crockpot recipes. http://newleafwellness.biz/ And anytime I do make dinner, I make a double batch and freeze half, from hamburgers and meatballs to BBQ chicken and marinated pork tenderloin, making extra takes only a smidgen of extra time.

7. Maintain my quality by keeping reference material and web sites within reach. I won’t lower my quality, but I will make sure to keep my history books on my desk and my etymology and Gaelic translation sites open on my computer. My series sound track will play in the background, while my muse will type away as I sip my Chai tea latte.

 

So this is my initial plan. What do you think? Do you have other tips on how to create fabulous books in a shorter time frame?

Oh, and I have a giveaway going on in honor of my new release! Check out my web site to enter for a chance to win a $10 gift card to Amazon, signed copy of the first book in the series, and a dragonfly gift pack! Enter here: http://www.heathermccollum.com/

Back to School=Back to Writing

Happy Monday! Why am I so happy this morning? Because my kids are all back in school today! Woot! Usually people talk about goals and new plans for productivity around January 1st, but as a mom, my “New Year” starts when the kids go back to school. So in celebration of a quiet house and hours without a request for lunch or a ride or a playdate, I’m posting today about my productivity goals for the “New Year.”back to school

 

 

 

1. Do I really need to make goals? Yes. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Without knowing that, you end up wandering around until you realize you are hung over, trapped on the roof of a hotel in Las Vegas (wasn’t that a movie?) when you really want to be lying in a cabana on the beach, drinking Sangria. So write down some overall goals and then the little steps to help you navigate toward them. My personal little goal is to write at least 2000 words EVERY day. It’s doable, not too taxing, and really moves me forward in my projects.

goals

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Find the surface of your desk. Take a day or an hour to sort your desk, clear it off and make your work papers easily accessible. I’ve recently installed a drop down pocket system that lets me keep information about each of my WIPs in separate, but easily found, places. This helps me spend less time looking for things and more time writing.Eleri organized

 

3. Just say no to drugs (I have kids. It just rolls off the tongue) and say no to bake sales and community newsletters and hosting in-home retail parties and …. Take fifteen minutes to list out all your responsibilities. Whew! There are a lot of them. Then look at each one critically. What can you knock out of your über busy schedule so you have more time to relax, write and/or breathe?

 

4. Couch diving for extra minutes. Finding time to write is sometimes like digging for coins in the couch cushions. A dime here, a quarter there, but they add up. Little snatches of writing time can be found the same way. Instead of in the couch cushions, they can be found in carpool, doctor’s offices, at hair appointments and sports’ practices. I use a lightweight AlphaSmart Neo electronic notebook, but you can use a regular paper notebook. I’m amazed some days at how many words I actually write in these little periods of time.  

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5. Creative Feeding of the Brood. I cringed at how much time I spent feeding my family. Coupon clipping, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning – it’s massive! On average I spend over an hour a night on dinner prep alone. So I spoke to my hubby and kids, and we’ve implemented a few changes. Instead of cooking seven nights a week now, I’ve implemented “Take-out Tuesdays.”

I’ve also dusted off my crock pot and made room in my freezer. My friend forwarded me this fabulous list of 31 frozen crock pot dinners. On Sunday I prep freezer bags with meat, sauces and vegetables. I label them and put them in my freezer. Then once or twice a week, I take one out the night before and throw the whole thing in my crock pot in the morning to save me a lot of time cooking. I usually only have to make a pot of rice and cut up veggies as a side. My kids don’t always love the all-the-food-is-touching dishes that you get with a crock pot, but I can usually pull out some meat for the picky eaters. Here’s the link to the page.31 Frozen Crock Pot Meals

6. I gave birth, now it’s your turn to work. I have two kids in high school, so we make them clean the kitchen at night. And my 8yo can empty the dish washer now and clean the table. So after a little time training, (and yes, they forget, but then I re-train so they know they can’t get out of it because they suffer with spontaneous amnesia) the three of them clean up while I catch an extra forty minutes of writing after dinner.

7. Sprint your fingers off. Writing sprints are timed periods where you write as fast as you can for 20 or 30 minutes, and then see how many words you’ve created. Many writers find it a highly productive time, without their internal editor nagging at them to back up and re-write. NaNoWriMo has sprints in November. The Rubies host sprints as part of the Winter Writing Festival in January, but you and your writer friends can set up sprints anytime. Meet on a private FB page and agree how long to write. Someone times it, and then you all talk about how you did. It’s a fun way to write fast and interact with others.rss_winterfestival-badge1[1]

Keep your body going. Writers are often sedentary creatures. We spend so much time in our own minds that we forget about the rest of our bodies. But the brain needs the body, hopefully for several more decades, so you HAVE to take care of it. Please make time to exercise. Ideally we should exercise an hour a day and stand up and walk around a bit every hour throughout the day. Now that the kids are back in school, I walk the dog and do some yoga first thing in the morning. I also try to fuel my body with some good food in the morning, so I don’t snack all day.walking2

 

 

 

 

 

 

chailatteOkay, my chai latte is warm and cinnamon-topped in my favorite cup. The soundtrack for my latest WIP is playing softly in the background, and I have my collage with WIP pictures set where I can see it. I’ve cracked my proverbial fingers and am poised to make magic with my words. Ah sweet back-to-school, let’s start this “New Year” off with a strategic and productive rush.CrH collage (500x375)

Does anyone else have helpful tips for finding your productive groove?

A Healthy 2013

The ball has dropped, confetti thrown, kisses landed hopefully where they should. It’s another new year. Will 2013 be your year for greatness? What are your goals? I’m a firm believer in goals. If you don’t take time to decide where you want to be, you will never get there. Or worse – you will arrive and move on without even knowing you’ve won.
New Years 2011. I was fit, the lowest weight I’d ever been, had just published my second romance, was busy raising my three kids with my hunky Highland husband. We were comfortable. Life was good, even though I’d just turned 40. My budding mid-life crisis mixed with all those New Year’s “what are you doing with your life” questions, making me depressed.
What I didn’t know was that my life was precious, solid, and perfect just the way it was. I didn’t know that until three months later when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that old perfect life was over. Major surgery, instant menopause, five burning months of chemo, total hair loss, ten more months of an experimental chemo, forty pounds gained from steroids, and residual neuropathy pain everywhere. Ugh! But as my blood test showed two weeks ago, the cancer seems to still be dead. Yay!

Regardless of where you are in your life journey, your health should be #1 on your priority list. As writers and readers, who must remain sedentary for stretches of time (although I’ve been known to walk while reading), we often neglect the goal of remaining healthy. But health is what makes the plot of our own life story move. Without it, the whole thing falls apart. So here are my strategies for keeping healthy.
 1. Make those doctor appointments. I was a “too busy” mom before cancer. I had a 3 strike rule. I didn’t go to the doctor unless there were 3 things wrong with me. I actually went in because I thought I broke my hand playing soccer. Luckily I mentioned the slight bloating and sporadic pain in my abdomen. She found the 5-inch tumor growing and spreading.

TIP: Schedule a time each week to sit down with the phone and calendar to make any appointments for you and your family.

2. Exercise. Yeah, yeah – we all know it’s important, but hell’s bells it’s crucial! I’m not talking about running a marathon, but walking. Even with neuropathy pain I made myself walk. When I couldn’t stand the pressure on my feet, I’d ride my mom’s recumbent stationary bike. I also found a slow, meditative yoga DVD which I do nearly every morning to stretch and build strength. After talking with a doctor about what you can or shouldn’t do, figure out how to build some form of exercise into your everyday life.

TIP: Lay out comfy clothes the night before. Even if I don’t feel like exercising, I put them on first thing in the morning. Then if I feel better or can squeeze some exercising in, I’m already dressed and ready to go.

3. Stop eating crap. Bye-bye Twinkies! Hello organic food! Whether you believe organic is better or not, we probably all can agree that cupcakes and fast food are bad. We don’t really know what causes the body to go haywire and start growing out of control (cancer). There are some obvious things like smoking (which I don’t) and sunbathing (which I don’t) and playing with uranium (which I don’t), but otherwise it is just a series of little things that add up. One more little nitrate-filled slice of bacon could break the camel’s back. So I cut as much of it out as I can.


I also added cancer fighting foods like wild salmon, kale, and walnuts into my diet. I’ve cut the amount of meat I eat in half, and I consume sugar with the understanding that it is what cancer cells love to feed on, which makes it easier to say “no thanks.”
 TIP: If you really want to watch what you eat, you have to record it. I use the free My Fitness Pal app. http://www.myfitnesspal.com/


4. Tell yourself that you want to be healthy. Huh? What got me through the darkest moments, those moments when I had to answer my 4-year-old’s questions about me dying, those moments when I caught myself writing my own obituary in my head (because as a writer I would do a hell of a job), those moments when I hurt so bad I understood why some people decide not to fight – what got me through that was convincing myself that I could win. And to do that I said positive affirmations at least twice a day, out loud.

 

“I am living a long and healthy life.” “I am strong and full of energy.” “My body is comfortable and beautiful.” “I am cured and full of health.”  Even though I didn’t believe them, I still said them, cried them, prayed them. And slowly they sank into me, reorienting my mind so that my body and spirit knew what to aim for.
 

TIP: Use post-its on the bathroom mirror so you can read them when you get up and before you go to bed. But remember to tell your partner/roommate/spouse what you’re up to or they may wonder.
 
5. Feed the spirit. To be healthy you feed your body good things. You also must feed your spirit, which means effectively reducing and managing your stress. I do yoga, watch birds, and journal to combat the stress of everyday life. I see a therapist to help me cope with fears of dying, and I talk to God.

TIP: Try various techniques to see what works for you. You are unique, so find something that resonates with you.

 

 

 

Those are my top 5 ways to become healthy. You’ve heard them before, but it’s time to practice them. Make health your #1 priority in 2013. Because if you don’t work toward this goal, the rest will fall apart.

A Tale of Two CPs

Today is the release day of the third book in my Bayou Boys series The Road to Bayou Bridge, but since I like to hog Ruby Release dates, I’ve decided to share the day with a person who started out writing at the same time I started, someone who has shared the path with me for a while.

Long ago when I started writing, I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of a wonderful group of writers at varying degrees of experience. One had finaled in the Golden Heart and taught writing classes at a local community college, another had umpteen thousand finals on the contest circuit, the other was published in historical Texan romance (I think that’s a category). And then there was me. Or technically it should be “And then there was I” but that sounds so weird, so anyway, I was the lone newbie who this group who vowed to help me learn to write. Cause the book I had written was a book, but not a book-book. It was garbage and I had lots to learn about how to turn trash into treasure.

So each Tuesday we’d meet for lunch at a restaurant and we’d critique, and I learned so much from those women. But eventually, as they worked on their wips, I felt like I needed to find someone like me, someone who was new and learning all she could the way I was. Enter Keri Ford.

I met Keri at a local conference when we gathered together in some horrific, scary cold read session with an editor. Sweat much? Dear Lord. It was horrifying but so informative. Keri and I sat next to one another, and then after getting our manuscripts ripped to shreds, we sat around comparing notes about contests, online groups and craft. Then and there, we decided we’d suit.

The funny thing is that at the time we were both working on Regency pieces. We truly were the blind leading the blind, but there was a beauty to it. Okay, not beauty. More of a necessity. As if we had to waffle about a bit, making mistakes, calling each other out, and getting through those first few years together. It’s like Freshman orientation where you don’t know where you are going and you look like a dork, but, hey, at least you’re in it together. Through Keri, I found my voice, found what I liked about my writing, what I didn’t, and where I was meant to go.

We did set forth some guidelines in regards to critique partners. Keri found them somewhere, but we modified to fit our needs. So I’m going to share a few valuable ones:

1. Don’t rewrite your partner’s scenes. DON’T DO THIS! Make suggestions, underline word choice issues, and use ? for things not understood.

2. Respect the premise. It’s not your book. Don’t try and change the overall plot. You can suggest rethinking certain elements, but don’t impose your ideas on your cp

3. Be timely on your critiques – if you say you’ll have it done in a week, have it in a week.

4. Set limits together. One chapter at a time? Two? Whole book? Decide first how you want to operate the critiques.

5. Look at other critique partnerships that work and figure out why. Don’t be afraid to model your partnership after successful partnerships.

6. Don’t be afraid to walk away. Sometimes no matter how much you like the other person, a critique partnership can stifle and do more harm than good.

All of the above were things I had a great deal of problem with. It’s the greatest flaw of a writer – wanting to rewrite, impinge and force oneself on another’s piece of work.

After about two years of critiquing each other’s work, we sort of drifted apart. Not as friends. But as critique partners. I think we both realized we weren’t helping each other grow, and this was no big decision on either of our parts – we just slowed in sending each other work. And eventually, we just stopped. Keri has since found a new critique partner who she loves, and I have found a brainstorming partner who meets with me each week to write and vet our plots. It’s working for me and her, but at one time we needed each other.

And what fun today is! Today we both have books out. For me, The Road to Bayou Bridge, the last book in the Boys of Bayou Bridge releases TODAY! And the second book in Keri’s Roughneck series Rough Play released last week. For two gals who didn’t have a clue, we managed pretty well.

From Keri: (Because we got our lines crossed on this holiday weekend)

Thanks Liz for having me here today and for wanting to talk a little about the cp relationship!

Liz and I critiqued for each other once upon a time. We were both young writers. Not far along our destination and fumbling our way around each other in the dark. We weren’t each other’s first.

I’d critiqued with a few other people and Liz had as well. We learned from each other, always a good thing. And we quickly learned we did a lot of things alike. Not so much in writing style. Liz just has this flavor in her writing I would never be able to pull off! With plotting and characters and that whole thing, we did a lot of the same thing. We would pass chapters back and forth and find strange similarities that were taking place. Not the same conversations, but the same motivations or actions or reactions.

Looking back, I wonder if that isn’t part of why we moved on? The cp relationship is something that’s flowing and moving, but also challenging. I can’t recall telling Liz to make big sweeping changes to make improvements…because she was already writing the story the way I would want it told!

While we didn’t make the perfect cp relationship, we did make a great friendship and a great support system. We may not talk every day, but if she needs something, she has my email and phone number and everything. And if I need something, I know only need to contact her.

You hear a lot about relationships in the writing world. The agent-relationship, the editors, the critique partners. The author-reviewer and author-readers. Liz and I created our own new relationship of just a strong support system, waiting to help the other. I’m glad to have her.

ABOUT KERI: Keri Ford was raised in South Arkansas on a farm surrounded by family, horses, cows, donkeys, ostriches, emus, chickens, ducks, Canadian Geese, and enough dogs one would think they were a pound…and then she bought a Cosmopolitan when she was twenty-two. She doesn’t recall the fantastic sex tip that drew her to the magazine, but she vividly remembers reading an excerpt of Christina’s Skye’s Code Name: Princess. One elevator scene and quick thought of, I didn’t know people wrote stuff like this… and her life would never be the same. For more info and excerpts on Keri’s books, go to http://keriford.com/

Leave a suggestion or observation about a critique partnership, and we will give out prizes! I’ll offer up a choice of the Boys of Bayou Bridge series and Keri will offer up a copy of Rough Ride, book one in the series!

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