Monday, January 31, 2011

V-Day and Valuable Info

Can you believe there are only two weeks left until Valentine's Day? The official day for romance...or is it? I know many people who think Valentine's Day is just another commercialized holiday and that love should be expressed every day of the year. I think it revives the man-gift dilemma too soon after Christmas. What DO you give a guy on Valentine's Day? More on that in just a sec. First, I have a few must-visit links to point out or I'll be guilty of withholding valuable info.

1. Harlequin Superromance editor Victoria Curran is over at the Super Author's blog this morning. She gives a great peek at what an editor juggles behind-the-scenes. Plus, senior editor Wanda Ottewell will be there tomorrow with more insight on what an editor wants.

2. Registration for RWA Nationals in New York is underway and rumor has it that the hotel is filling up quickly. Attending my first Nationals meeting in DC was one of the best things I ever did for myself as a writer. To register visit

3. Author Donna Alward does fantastic 'Writer Wednesday' blog posts. One of her more recent posts included an actual before-and-after example of her CP's comments and how even the most subtle revision changes can make a huge impact on the story strength. Here's the link to that particular post called What's It Really About Anyway.

4. And don't forget to stop by on Monday of next week for my interview with Superromance author Jeannie Watt. She'll be stopping by to answer any writing questions you have. Don't miss out!

And now back to Valentine's Day and men.

As writers we're supposed to avoid cliches like the plague. Well, what's more cliche than flowers and chocolate on Valentine's Day? I mean, I love chocolate. So much that I eat it everday of the year (just about) which takes the thrill out of getting in on February 14th. As for flowers, love 'em outside but they wreak havoc on my allergies if indoors. And what guy wants to get flowers? I'm of the opinion that men secretly despise Valentine's Day. I think the pressure scares the #*%# out of them.

So how about getting them to relax? Remember RWA's push to give books during the holiday season? Why not for V-Day? Not all men will read a romance, but how about a fast-paced hot read like a Harlequin Blaze or something hotter that you can download on your Kindle and cuddle in bed with? He won't read it? Read it to him!

Too much for you? Okay, what about nixing the dinner out and snuggling with a romantic movie that even a guy would enjoy?

What do you think about V-Day? What are your romantic man-gift ideas? Any plans?

Monday, January 24, 2011

New look and jumpstart jokes

Notice the new look? It's a subtle change, I know. Baby steps :).

I had an exhausting weekend, so I wanted to jumpstart the week with some humor. Three jokes to be exact, and I tried to strike a balance for both sexes ;). But first mark your calendars for Monday, February 7th and spread the word! I'm sooo excited about my next interview. Harlequin Superromance author Jeannie Watt will be here. Trust me, you don't want to miss this interview!

And now to start your week with a smile...

The forgotten anniversary

Ed was in trouble. He forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife was really angry. She told him "Tomorrow morning, I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in less then 6 seconds AND IT BETTER BE THERE!!"

The next morning Ed got up early and left for work. When his wife woke up, she looked out the window and sure enough there was a box gift-wrapped in the middle of the driveway. Confused, the wife put on her robe and ran out to the driveway, brought the box back in the house.

She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.

Ed has been missing since Friday.

The Silent Treatment

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day,he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight.

Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 AM." He left it where he knew she would find it.

The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. The paper said, "It is 5:00 AM. Wake up."

Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests.

What is my gender?

Ziploc Bags are Male, because they hold everything in, but you can see right through them.

Copiers are Female, because once turned off, it takes a while to warm them up again. It's an effective reproductive device if the right buttons are pushed, but can wreak havoc if the wrong buttons are pushed.

A Tire is Male, because it goes bald and it's often over-inflated.

A Hot Air Balloon is Male, because, to get it to go anywhere, you have to light a fire under it, and of course, there's the hot air part.

Sponges are Female, because they're soft, squeezable and retain water.

A Web Page is Female, because it's always getting hit on.

A Subway is Male, because it uses the same old lines to pick people up.

An Hourglass is Female, because over time, the weight shifts to the bottom.

A Hammer is Male , because it hasn't changed much over the last 5,000 years, but it's handy to have around.

A Remote Control is Female. Ha! You thought it'd be male, didn't you? But consider this - it gives a man pleasure, he'd be lost without it, and while he doesn't always know the right buttons to push, he keeps trying!

That's all folks! Have a great Monday!

Monday, January 17, 2011

RWA Flooded Communities Book Appeal

I first saw this post over at The Pink Heart Society, and it has been making its way around the writing community. Please take a few moments to read it and pass it on. Small acts can mean so much in times of need.

We've all seen the devastation the recent Queensland floods have wrought and have wondered how we can help. We know that for many affected families, books will not be high on their priorities list for some time to come.


We also know how valuable books can be in providing time out when reality gets tough.


With the aid of some wonderful volunteers, we've put together a Romance Writers of Australia Flooded Communities Book Appeal.

What we need?

FICTION BOOKS! Romance books, children's books, young adult books, genre books, whatever – either new or in sparkling condition.

Please send them to:

RWA Flooded Communities Book Appeal
PO Box 1717
Noosaville Post Office
Noosaville BC
Queensland 4566

When to send them?

Now! And any time over the next few months. The books will be boxed and delivered to the appropriate libraries/schools/neighbourhood centres/community centres in batches as soon as the communities are ready to receive them. We’ll be liaising with councils, libraries and schools to ensure this is done appropriately. Feel free to pop a note inside, or if you're an author, sign it.

All languages welcome - please repost.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Food for thought...literally

It's Therapeutic Thursday AND my 50th blog post! I can't believe I hit 50. It feels like a birthday, albeit a fairly young birthday in blog years ;). In the spirit of staying young, I want to hit on a topic that I feel is so important to a writer's health and productivity. Food.

Food for thought...literally. We often hear writers complain about their muses going into hibernation. We've all read articles on how to battle writer's block. Some even claim that writer's block doesn't exist...that it boils down to nothing but writer laziness. Well, when it comes to serious writers, laziness is a strong word, and I think that it may carry the wrong connotation. Drained is more appropriate. How would you feel if you starved yourself for days? How would you feel if you ran a marathon, but didn't drink or eat afterwards to replenish your reserves? Drained of energy. Jittery. Unable to focus or think worth a darn. Guess what? Your brain needs nourishment too. I'm not talking about a day at the spa, a nap, or a movie. I'm talking food.

Studies have shown that thinking actually drains the brain of energy. Seems like common sense. I don't know about you, but I feel hungry after typing away at pages and pages of a manuscript. Seriously though, all that plotting, creative thinking, emotional investment, and editing we do actually depletes energy stores in our brain. That's why we feel exhausted after writing. That's why we can reach a plot problem and not see a solution until we've eaten dinner and had a good night's sleep. It's also why not eating breakfast is like trying to drive to work on an empty gas tank.

So what should we be feeding our brain? The brain is made up mostly of fat. That means it needs fat (fatty acids) to be healthy, but the good kind of fat like we get from olive oil, avocado, seeds, and nuts. The myelin sheath that protects neurons and promotes rapid signal travel is also made up of fat. See how important it is? Omega 3 fats are extremely critical to good brain health. You can find these in seafood, flaxseed, and walnuts. Omega 6, found in fruits, other seeds and certain nuts, is also important, but the balance between 3 and 6 is a bit off in today's diet, compared to that of the cavemen. The abundance of processed foods, even those using healthy oils, has tipped the scale for omega 6. More omega 6 than omega 3 in our diet can lead to inflammation, including that of the brain. The trick? Eat more foods high in omega 3 and opt to eat natural sources of omega 6. The less 'off-the-shelf' foods, the better.

By the way, TRANS/HYDROGENATED OIL is POISON for the brain! It actually weakens brain cells and disrupts communication and mental performance!

The brain also runs on glucose for fuel. Yep, sugar. But not the refined, bad-for-you, table sugar. The brain breaks down complex carbs from whole grains and fruits to gather the glucose it needs to function at optimum levels. If you gorge on refined sugars that put you at risk for diabetes, you'll actually starve your brain rather than feed it. That's why simple sugars lead to a sugar crash experience...jitters...inability to concentrate etc... That's also why following a low glycemic index diet works so well and a zero carb diet doesn't. By eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs that don't sugar up our system too quickly, we give our brains the constant energy source it needs...and it gives back by letting our muses work their magic.

The brain also needs amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and essential micronutrients found in a balanced, varied diet. A few other foods that boost our concentration and thinking are caffeine, chocolate, and blueberries. Good news, huh? Caffeine, even that from chocolate, has been shown to increase short term concentration and focus. As with everything, don't overdose. Chocolate, the dark type (lower fat and sugar), is full of antioxidants that help protect against cognitive decline. All you need is once ounce per day and that'll keep the calories in check. Blueberries are high in antioxidants and have been shown to protect the brain from oxidative stress. In studies, they actually brought the learning capacity of older rats up to par with younger rats!

Okay, I tried to keep it basic, but I'm probably boring you with facts anyway. Hear me out though. Think about it. Maybe the way to mastering your muse is to feed it. I did a recent blog post about being cave women at heart. Well, we need to eat like cave women and men if we want to keep our minds healthy. Measure out a handful of nuts and dark chocolate chips (about an ounce each) and keep them on your desk for snacking instead of chips or candy. Have some blueberries, whole grain, and coffee at breakfast. Try it and you might find yourself spending less time zombie staring at your computer screen and more time quality typing.

I really did skim over brain/diet detail, but if you're hungry for more check out The Brain Food Pyramid by The Franklin Institute's Resources for Science Learning. Click on each of the brain's essential components. Interesting stuff made simple.

Here's to a year of good food, excercise, and healthy muses!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Office supply junkie

Is there a writer out there who doesn't love office supplies? I mean looooove office supplies. Please, tell me that I'm not alone! I'm not talking about anything electronic. No plug ins (well, except a really rockin' pencil sharpener) or battery powered gadgets. I'm talking about the basics.

Remember the good ol' four color Bic pen? The one that has red, blue, black and green all in one...just click down on the color of your choice? I had one of those back in my school days and thought it was the coolest pen ever. Still do! I came across it the other day and couldn't resist buying one for each of my kids, plus one for my office.

Back in the 1980's when The Container Store was a huge fad (everyone at school bought plastic containers and used paint pens to label them with bubble letters and flowers...ignore the age implications), I was in heaven. I still have a thing for drawer organizers except that I now love anything in metal mesh. I have a mesh drawer organizer, mesh pencil holder, mesh trash can. You get the idea.

Other office supplies I love include:

Clear rulers
Staplers that actually work well
Good titanium sissors
Paper clips or clips of any kind
Sharpies...fine, medium or fat...Sharpies rock! I can't live without them!
Post It notes in cool colors
Dry erase magnet board
Calendars...the old-fashioned, write-on-it calendars (not Blackberry style). I like to be able to see my whole month at once. It's an OCD thing.
Note books, notepads...same idea as calendars.
4X6 note cards...I use these for manuscript notes, outlines, GMC 'em!
Pentel's Hi-polymer white erasers. They're the best.
Hanging files
My good ol' egg timer ('s typically a kitchen supply but we writers have imagination ;)

I can spend a very long time browsing the aisles in an office supply store or even the office supply section somewhere like Target. While some women browse shoes, I browse pens.

What about you? Any favorite office supplies? Any must-have suggestions? All I need is one good excuse to go shopping ;).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Are we cave women at heart?

Good first Monday morning in 2011 to all!

I just came across a super interesting article regarding research linking Darwinian theory and the psychology of romance readers. The article, Evolutionary Psychologists Turn Attention To Romantic Fiction, posted this past March in The Guardian, is based on an analysis of over 15,000 Harlequin romance novels done by two Canadian researchers from the Centre for Psychology and Computing in Dartmouth, Canada and the Department of Psychology at St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia. More specifically, they analyzed key words in Harlequin titles and looked for a correlation between those buzz words and our 'survival of the fittest' instincts. The most commonly used word was 'love'. Check out the article to what words came up next and why Harlequins fly off the shelves. It seems we go for the same type of guys our cave sisters went for ;).

Also, speaking of Harlequin, today is the launch party for the new Super Romance Author Blog! Head on over there to meet up with a group of truly amazing authors and (rumor has it) Super's editors, Victoria Curran and Wanda Ottewell.

Have a wonderful start to your New Year!