Writer Wednesday: Wellness Check In #writerwednesday #wellness #amwriting #probiotics

One of my main goals of 2017 is to incorporate more healthy choices into my daily life. I want to feel great, keep my creativity flowing, and (hopefully) be a good influence on my children. Now that I’ve been doing this for a few months, I have a handle on what’s working for me.

  • Incorporating probiotics – I’ve been incorporating probiotics into my diet since mid-January, and I felt the beneficial effects almost immediately. Aside from the physical improvements, I’m much more even-tempered and calm. I get my probiotics from a combination of kombucha and fermented foods like kim chi. (Standard disclaimer: I am no health professional. If you’re interested in learning if probiotics can help you, see out a qualified professional. Here’s an article from The Mayo Clinic, and another from Web MD, to get you started.)
  • I gave myself some curfews – No social media after 10 pm, and in bed before midnight. Really, no one needs more social media, and having an hour to wind down before bed leads to quality sleep. If only I could dream up some new plot twists…
  • I’m eating more real food – I didn’t want to go on a diet so much as I wanted to eat better. Therefore, I didn’t limit myself on what I could have, but I did make an effort to purchase more vegetables, whole grains, and vegetable-based protein. With all that good food in the house, who needs all that processed junk?

Check out this awesome infographic from Positive Health and Wellness:

probiotics

Thanks to these (and a few other) healthy changes, I look and feel better already. Even though it’s only April, I’ve already successfully launched two titles this year, am on track to release three more, and I haven’t missed a deadline yet. By prioritizing wellness, I have the stamina and mental acuity to keep everything else in line. Will I still have setbacks? Of course I will. Everyone does. But by staying as on-track as I can, those setbacks will be minor bumps, not game-changing catastrophes.

What positive changes have you made in 2017? Tell us in the comments!

Coming June 6: Gallowglass

Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.

Gallowglass Promo Graphic 3

Preorder here–> http://amzn.to/2nG62e5 http://amzn.to/2nG62e5

 

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Writer Wednesday – Take Care Of Yourself #WednesdayWisdomForWriters #amwriting #wellness

Recently, I was discussing con crud with a writer friend. What’s con crud, you ask? I assure you, it’s just as gross as it sounds.

This ailment got its vivid name because it tends to pop up among conference and convention goers a few days after the event in question has ended. Typical symptoms include congestion, cough, and a general feeling of malaise. I know, makes you want to sign up for even more conferences, amiright?

For years I thought that con crud was the inevitable result of being packed into a hotel or other public facility, breathing in the same recycled air as hundreds if not thousands of others, subsisting on stale coffee and cookies, and sleeping less than usual. Many anecdotal cures promise to cure the crud, ranging from taking high doses of vitamin C to eating raw garlic. They never worked, at least not for me.

But what if con crud wasn’t inevitable? What if by making a few small changes to my pre-con routine, I could avoid con crud altogether?

This called for science, and its buddy, research. In true mad scientist fashion, I used myself as a test subject.

I put my plan in motion shortly before I attended Necon this past July. During the week leading up to the event, I slept a full eight hours every night, and took at least one nap per day. I doubled my water intake, eliminated alcohol, and made sure to consume vegetables and protein at every meal. Basically, for a week I behaved like a normal healthy person, not my usual overstressed, pretzel-munching, coffee-guzzling self. And guess what?

I didn’t get con crud!

By resting, keeping myself hydrated, and eating as well as I could manage, I got my body into the best condition it could possibly be in BEFORE the con. While at the con I still drank the stale coffee, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough, but I didn’t get con crud. In fact, after four days at Necon I didn’t even have my usual post-con fatigue. In short, I felt great.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Quite a bit, actually. First of all, your creative impulses are a higher level function than talking or moving around or breathing, so when you’re not feeling 100% your body naturally diverts resources and energy to where it’s needed most.  If you imagine your creative process as the top 10% of your energy, you can (probably) visualize what I mean. And have you ever tried writing when you’re sick or tired? It’s not easy.

Therefore, the better shape we keep ourselves in, the better our creative output will be. I’m not saying you should live like a monk, and ingest nothing  but spinach and water and sunlight. Just take the time to take care of yourself, and know your limits. If you have a big event, a deadline looming on the horizon, or are taking part in a writing challenge (ya’ll didn’t think I’d forget to mention NaNoWriMo, did you?) be cognizant of your habits. You’ll never make your word count if you’re too tired to type.

Do you have any tip on avoiding con crud? Tell us in the comments!

I’ll be at Whipowill Stables for their open house on September 18, selling books and playing with horses. Learn more about the event here.

StrangeAuthorsSign up for my mailing list here and get a free ebook anthology, Strange Authors!

Writer Wednesday – So, What’s In Your Writer’s Toolbox? #WednesdayWisdomforWriters #amwriting #craft

A frequently heard manta among writers is “hone your craft”, and it’s true–writing is a craft, just like woodworking or glass blowing. And just like those crafts, you need the proper tools in order to bring your artistic vision to life. Hence, the writer’s toolbox.

Of course, many of a writer’s tools are intangible. We need things like a solid understanding of grammar, punctuation, and the many nuances of language. If we decide to write in a dialect we must research that area of the world, watch and listen to native speakers, perhaps even track down someone from that area to answer our questions about local colloquialisms and syntax. In fact, a strong tendency toward research is probably a writer’s greatest tool. We must understand what we know, and what we need to learn. The devil’s in the details, as they say.

That’s all well and good, but what about the tangible tools? First and foremost, you need a comfortable place to write. It doesn’t have to be a desk, the location only needs to allow your words to flow. For years I wrote propped up in bed, and then while seated on a stool at the kitchen counter. Some like crowded coffee shops, others a silent library. Either way, a good location is essential.

Once your writing space is secure, you need to decide how you will write. Pen and paper, quill and parchment, on a laptop? In this day and age you will certainly save a few steps if you utilize some modern technology (check out Kevin Hearne writing with an old fashioned typewriter here.) but there is something to be said for getting the words out longhand. As for software I use regular old Microsoft Word, but I have many friends who swear by Scrivener. To each their own.

In my opinion, the best, most important a writer can have is networking. Whether online or in person, getting out there and meeting other writers is the best thing you can do for your craft, and your writing career. It’s how you will learn about conferences and events, writers groups, and other events. And the amount of beta readers and editors and cover designers you can meet at one decent-sized event beats hours of internet searching any day.

What’s in your writer’s toolbox? Tell us in the comments!

I will be at Glendi September 9 -11, selling books and eating baklava. Learn more here.

StrangeAuthorsSign up for my mailing list here and get a free ebook anthology, Strange Authors!

Care And Feeding Of a Writer: Cooking Hacks

Let’s face it, writing can be stressful. From wrestling with your rough drafts to crafting query letters, writers are constantly wondering if what they’re doing is good enough, relevant to their careers, and the perennial nail-biter, will I get paid for this.

Okay, maybe stressful is an understatement.

Just like Britt, the heroine in Changing Teams, cooking is my Zen.

I don’t set out to master multi-step gourmet recipes (though those can be fun, too), but I do like to eat well and use a variety of fresh ingredients. However, that comes with it’s own set of stress: buying fresh herbs gets expensive, and much like poor-ass Britt I don’t have the time or the climate to maintain my own herb garden. Here are a few tips and tricks (read: hacks) I’ve picked up along the way that both help my budget and up my taste quotient.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with these products or companies, other than I’ve purchased and eaten them.

Lemongrass paste: Lemongrass imparts a citrusy, herby flavor that just can’t be mimicked. Instead of buying a whole stalk that will dry out before you use it, try this paste. Saute it with some chopped garlic and butter, and add it to white rice for a quick, flavorful side dish.

Ginger paste: Much like the lemongrass paste above, ginger paste is more economical than purchasing a whole root, and will last much longer. Use it in everything from stir fry to marinades.


Freeze dried chives are up there with canned tomatoes and frozen corn in terms of year-round freshness. it only takes a moment to rehydrate them, and they taste identical to fresh.

I love love love this chili paste! You get the flavor of the chilies along with some heat. It’s a great way to spice up everything from salsa to shakshuka.

Those are some of my favorite ingredients for gourmet cooking on a budget. What are some of your favorite cooking hacks?

Voice – I Can’t Explain It, But I Know It When I Hear It #amwriting #voice #Gallowglass

If you follow me on a somewhat regular basis, you already know I’ve written an urban fantasy called Gallowglass. There’s a post about it here, and an excerpt here. Gallowglass represents my first NaNoWriMo win, and it’s my most loved project. I mean, I’m a crazy person who gets half an idea and writes s first draft in two weeks, but I researched Gallowglass for years. I taught myself Scottish history, how to speak Gaelic, and gained a working knowledge of geology before I wrote my first word. (For those of you new to the Gallowglass party, it takes place in Scotland, the heroine is a geologist, and the hero is, shall we say, well versed in Scottish myth and legend.) I went into this novel prepared, and–according to numerous critique partners and beta readers–I crafted a compelling and imminently readable story.

Which is why I was shocked when my queries were met with crickets. No, not only crickets; there were rejections too.

Rejections aplenty.

To recap, I had the best story I ever wrote, the tale closest to my heart, and I couldn’t get a nibble. Be they agent or publisher, no one was buying what I was selling. As painful as the realization was, I understood what was wrong: my story was broken.

But how was it broken? It had passed muster of all my critique partners and betas. But, critique partners and beta readers are just that – partners and readers, not people willing to invest months or years in your story as you coax it toward publication. Their help was invaluable, and I never would have completed Gallowglass without them. Fuzzy feelings aside, I needed to fix this beast, and since desperate times call for desperate measures, I wrote a Facebook post asking for a few super-honest, give-no-fucks readers to help me out. Five responded; only two actually critiqued the story. I’ll call them Reader A and Reader B. Protecting the innocent, and all.

Here’s what happened: Reader A, a coworker of mine, devoured the manuscript in a day. Her thoughts were that the beginning was aimless, she had no idea what the characters were doing, and that the heroine didn’t grow a spine for at least fifty pages. Reader B, a fellow writer, said much the same, and added that certain repetitive phrasing – again, in the beginning of the manuscript – might be alienating readers. After I’d memorized their comments I re-read the manuscript, and finally figured out what was wrong.

Before I make the big reveal, let me explain a much talked about concept: voice. You can Google the term, or read about it here, but voice is basically this: it’s how you sound when you write. It’s what makes Stephen King sound like Stephen King, and Madeline L’Engle like Madeline L’Engle. Whenever an agent or publisher or reader likes one of your stories – likes it enough to pay money for it – it’s because they liked your voice.

In Gallowglass, you don’t hear my voice until you’re almost a third in. Basically, I’d researched myself right out of my own story.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to tear down that first third and rewrite it. And then the second third. And, just for good measure, the third third. Gallowglass will sound like me, dammit, and once it does I’ll be able to share it with ya’ll.

Moral of the story: don’t take the stories so seriously 🙂

A mad king. An escaped slave. One warrior to save the realm…

Heir to the Sun, book one of the Chronicles of Parthalan. Find it here.

ProvostCopperGirl

Sara had always been careful.
She never spoke of magic, never associated with those suspected of handling magic, never thought of magic, and never, ever, let anyone see her mark. After all, the last thing she wanted was to end up missing, like her father and brother.

Then, a silver elf pushed his way into Sara’s dream, and her life became anything but ordinary.

COPPER GIRLBook One of the Copper Legacy

Care And Feeding Of A Writer: Writer Wellness

(Author’s note: this is an ongoing series on how to combat everyday obstacles and other setbacks to the creative process. If there’s a specific topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know in the comments.)

We’re all guilty of taking less that ideal care of ourselves from time to time, or even falling into bad habits that last for weeks or months; we stay up too late, eat too much junk, and engage in a host of other bad behaviors. Yes, we’re only human, and yes, bad habits can be overcome, but us creative types need to be especially cognizant of our well-being. It’s hard to be creative when you’re feeling “off”, and that can lead to substandard work, missed deadlines, and all sorts of complications.

I was going to post my writing schedule for the rest of 2015, but I didn’t want to scare anyone. Basically, I have four ongoing series and a crap ton of short stories in the pipeline, and that’s enough to drive anyone to drink. In addition to my crazy schedule, I’m also taking care of my family, managing my home, working a day job, and I’ll be starting grad school next month. Basically, I can’t afford to bring anything less than my A game, or the domino effect from missed deadlines could be catastrophic.

A few months ago my day job transitioned to a virtual office, which means that I now work from home. I saw this as not only a great way to save on gas, but also the ideal time to make changes to my routine.

I started small, and upgraded what I eat. At the office cafeteria I would typically get a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast; now, I have oatmeal and a glass of vegetable juice (yes, I like vegetable juice). Since I now have time to go to the farmer’s market, I always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks and salads. Over the past few months my junk food habit has become almost nonexistent.

Once my eating habits improved, I took stock of how much time I spend sitting. Pretty much everything I do, from my day job to writing to school, is accomplished by me sitting in front of a computer. This is unhealthy for a number of reasons, but the fix is pretty easy: step away from the computer. I make a habit of getting up once an hour and moving around; sometimes I go outside with the kids, or I might do something as mundane as put in a load of laundry. Those short bursts of activity really do add up, and keep the blood–and creativity–pumping.

The third change I made involves sleep. Some of my friends joke that I don’t sleep, which is close to the truth. My natural rhythm is to sleep from midnight to around six am, and I feel fully rested after six hours–usually. There are times I need more, such as after a multi-day event or if I’m coming down with something, but the problem was that I wasn’t letting myself get the extra rest when I needed it. That, coupled with the fact that I love getting up early and writing while the house is quiet meant that I was driving myself to near-exhaustion, and ending up losing days while I recovered.

So how did i conquer that obstacle? No, I didn’t start going to bed earlier. What I did do was schedule breaks in my day, two half hour chunks where I give myself permission to do nothing. No computer or phone is allowed during this time, but other than that I do whatever I want. I might nap, or read, or make Play-Doh. These short breaks recharge me almost as much as a full night’s sleep, which is a pretty good return on investment 🙂

Based on my rigorous unscientific research, here are my three rules for writer wellness:

1. Eat some vegetables every day.

2. Move around often.

3. Rest when you need it.

What are your wellness habits? Let us know in the comments!

A mad king. An escaped slave. One warrior to save the realm…

Heir to the Sun – available everywhere June 1, 2015. Add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

Like it on Facebook here.

Care And Feeding Of A Writer, Volume One: Recharging The Batteries

 (Author’s note: this is the first in a series of posts on how to combat everyday obstacles and other setbacks to the creative process. If there’s a specific topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know in the comments.)

We’ve all been there, probably more often than we’d like to admit. Whether we attribute it to writer’s block, stress from the day job, or our printer being out of ink, sometimes we just can get the words out of our brains and into our WIP. A closely related condition is when a scene forms perfectly in your head, but when you write it, it comes out something like this:

“She woke up, then went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. A bolt of lightning illuminated the darkened room, revealing the dark smudges beneath her eyes, all that was left of her nightmare.”

Or, if it’s not horribly cliched purple prose, it’s this:

“Hero: Me John. You want date John?”

Yeah. The only thing that crap’s good for is the delete key.

So what’s a writer to do when they want to write, but can’t? In my experience, the best thing to do is recharge your creative batteries.

Many things take a toll on our creativity, whether it’s a day job, financial stress, or just plain being tired. Why, this past winter it was 20 below in my neck of the woods, and let me tell you there is no way I was creating anything except a cozy spot in the blankets. The snow melted eventually, and while sunlight is an excellent way to recharge, there’s one specific type of event I’d like to discuss today: the writer’s conference.

These conferences vary greatly, and so will your experiences. It’s important that you choose conferences that are germane to your subject; for instance, if you write Amish romances you probably don’t want to attend something focusing on splatterpunk. That doesn’t mean you can’t have cross-genre appeal, but be aware of what the conference will be focusing on and who your fellow writers are.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Anthocon in Portsmouth, NH. Check out their website, and their Facebook page. Here’s their mission statement from the website: In its fourth year, AnthoCon is three days of panels, workshops, readings, and demonstrations related to imaginative fiction and art. Let me tell you, it’s a lot more than that.

Anthocon is a wonderfully diverse and inclusive event, and they welcome all writers of speculative fiction. There is a large concentration of horror writers, but paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and even middle grade fantasy is well represented. The attendees run the gamut from multi-published, award-winning authors to those just starting out. It’s three days of talking, and commiserating, and just being with other writers. Remember the bee girl?

At Anthocon, I feel like the bee girl 🙂

I brought my laptop with me, but I was so busy having fun I didn’t write a single word. Since I came back home, I’ve written over ten thousand. The moral of the story is that nothing gets the creative juices flowing like being around creativity. 

I leave you with the one picture I took during Anthocon, the Bloody Mary I had on Sunday morning. Boy, did I need it!

Doesn’t this look tasty?

How do you recharge your creative batteries? Tell us in the comments!

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Heir to the Sun – available wherever books are sold. Add it to your GoodReads shelf here.

Like it on Facebook here.