It’s that time of year again—the time when those of us in the South pray desperately for cooler weather and envy those of you in northern climates. And the time when, even as adults, we get to PLAY! I can’t think of any time more playful than HALLOWEEN.

We’re going to have some fun with the spooky and scary this month. Comment below about the scariest movie you’ve ever seen! Title, pictures, or (double entries) a movie trailer. I’ll go first. 😊

* * * I’ll choose a winner on Friday, October 26thfor a little “Trick or Treat” package I’ve put together—fun October decorations, candy, a “spooky” black book light, and a signed paperback copy of Gena Showalter’s BURNING DAWN. * * *

 (Likes and shares with your romance-loving friends appreciated but not required!)

October Giveaway.jpg

Positive Life

Jan 19 Image.jpg

Many people have talked this month about their “word for the year.” This is a concept I absolutely love, a way to narrow down your focus to one concept that you want to bring into your life. Too often we have 50 million goals and accomplish none of them. I like to focus in and actually get somewhere, LOL!

I have more than a word for this year, though. It’s a phrase: POSITIVE LIFE. I’m looking to inhale the positive and exhale the negative. Be happy with my life and my choices and my goals, and strip away the things that cause anxiety and stress and depression. What about you? Do you have a focus word or phrase for this year? Do you set New Year’s resolutions every year? I know I’m not the only one, and I’m hoping this year will be better and happier and more positive for us all!

Another Year, A New Year

About eighteen months ago, I was in one of my favorite places ever, a small town in Michigan where I take my kids to visit with their uncle and his family every other summer. It was the year my health had finally started going haywire enough that I was able to find a couple of solutions (and even more questions). It was a time when I was heading into self-publishing and taking control of my career, and also the time when my ability to write was beginning to break down.

Hump Day Healthy Writer: Journaling

The past couple of weeks have been stressful, and the next couple of weeks promise to be more so. See, I'm releasing a book this Friday. I'm also having surgery. Yes, the same day. It was either that or ruin Christmas with my kids, and I would rather miss a release day. I've been scrambling to get everything finished ahead of time, get my ducks in a row, deal with the anxiety of going under the knife, finish my next book's rough draft that is a month overdue

Hump Day Healthy Writer

I have a secret: for the past year I've worried that I'd lost my mojo. Sometimes I wondered if I wanted to write at all. Every day at the page seemed to be a battle, and I knew deep down it would be easier to give up the fight and just go back to being someone's employee instead of the boss. The responsible one. The creative one. So why didn't I? Because I couldn't.

Starting Anew

file0001693526020Starting a new book isn't easy for me. I see a lot of authors post about writing "The End," and then the next day's post is all about the book they just dived right into overnight. Believe me, I wish I was like that, but I'm soooo not! I'm currently working my way into Hank and Sage's book, and not only do I not have a title, but I don't have much actual "book." The scenes read more like sketches than anything else. There's no pizzazz, no wonder, no spark. It's like a story "bud" instead of a story ready to flower. Lord help me.

But really, this is how every book is for me. I am a plotter, so I almost always have an idea of where the book itself is going, but also where the next few scenes are going in detail. Still, it takes me a while to find the "spark" that ignites both my interest and the characters' personalities. And with every book I worry I won't discover that spark. Where is it? When will I happen upon it? What if it never appears and this book sucks wet stinky socks?


You get the picture. I've never not found the spark, but it weighs heavy on my mind until I do. In the meantime, I pick up tiny bits of my characters' lives and personalities, bringing them slowly to life. Hank, for instance, has a dog. I didn't know that until this morning. Of course, neither Hank nor said dog care in the least that I have no dogs and know almost nothing about actually owning a dog. Hank said he had a dog, and so he has a dog. Oy. Now to figure out the dog's personality. :)

Thankfully I have plenty of time to meddle in other story ideas while this one fleshes out. Ian and Cassie's book, for instance, which I'm hoping to put out as a Christmas novella. And another small surprise novella that may or may not come out this year. Just depends on if I have time to figure out those characters along with my two currently ornery couples. We'll see. So many love stories, so little time!

Have a great week!

~ Ella

Hard on Ourselves

I've recently lost some weight. I know, I should be jumping for joy, right? But before a recent trip to see family, I stood in the dressing room at Target despairing because my new size was "only" a TEN. I haven't been a size ten in twenty years. I didn't look in the mirror and see all the things that have improved about my body; I saw all the flaws I thought should be fixed still. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Recently cyberspace has been full of articles that "debunk" the idea that marriage is hard work. (Something about a celebrity couple and marriage and what they had to say about it... Whatever.) A couple of weeks ago I happened upon a thread in a friend's Facebook feed asking if the women who followed her agreed or disagreed. So many women said marriage isn't supposed to be "work," and if it is, you're doing something wrong. Which of course means I looked at the marriage I've worked very hard on and despaired. "I must be doing something wrong."

No, no I'm not. Sometimes I think we only value what is easy, when in fact it should be just the opposite. It's easy to value the $50 dinner you only pay for, not prepare, but nothing can compare to that feeling of buying the best ingredients, spending time at the stove, and striving hard to make food you and others will love. Both are good options, but easy doesn't = better.

imageI'm beginning this week working on my latest book. It doesn't have a title yet, but it has a premise. The things you have to work for are often the best. Hank, my hero, isn't looking for love; he certainly isn't looking for anything complicated. But the moment he meets Sage, he knows she's worth it. She's complicated, and she's hiding secrets that she's afraid Hank won't want to deal with. She's hard on herself. But Hank truly sees her, and is willing to work to make their relationship fulfill both of their needs. There's nothing better than that.

And that's why he's my hero. :)

Try not to be too hard on yourself this week. Enjoy what you have, what has come easily, what has come the hard way, and look forward to both in the future. Every journey is worthy, no matter how hard we have to work to complete it -- we just have to be willing.

~ Ella

New Year's Resolutions

Staring at the blank page before you Open up the dirty window Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance So close you can almost taste it Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin No one else can feel it for you Only you can let it in No one else, no one else Can speak the words on your lips Drench yourself in words unspoken Live your life with arms wide open Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten

~ "Unwritten," Natasha Beddingfield

DSC04748This song has struck me hard the past few months. Why? Because I've spent a lot of time working. A lot. There's no better way to describe it except maybe that I've been drowning. So many of us find ourselves in this place at some point in our lives, wondering how to get out of the hole that seems to be consuming us. So many of us never find the answer, but I was determined to. I want to "live with arms wide open," not with my eyes forever on a computer screen. And so my New Year's resolution is just that:

I want to live with my eyes, arms, and heart open -- to my family, to my creativity, to my faith, and most of all, to those around me.

I'm still figuring out what that means for me. My first step is to LOOK UP. I spend a lot of time looking down -- at the computer, at the ground, at my feet because I'm too shy or too self-conscious or too scared to meet other people's eyes. Not anymore. I'm looking up, really trying to see the world around me, not just the characters in my head or the work that's waiting for me.

There will still be plenty of characters, of course. TRUST ME will be here on February 1st. TAKE ME, book three in the Southern Nights series, will be released this spring, featuring the enigmatic Gabe Williams and his twin brother, Sam. Hopefully Ian's book in the Secrets To Hide series will be written and released later this summer. And if all goes well, there just might be a new genre on the horizon. That's right; my paranormal series, The Archai, is on my to-do list this year.

And in and around all of these great books will be lots of moments of living intentionally, of looking up and truly seeing and living, not burying my head in the sand or letting work rule my life. What about you? What is your New Year's resolution this year? Inquiring minds (like mine!) want to know... :)

~ Ella


When Writers Don't Read

ella sheridan, writer, author, romance author, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, erotic romance, reading, what I've been reading, refilling the well, creativity and readingIt's terrible when you have to schedule reading time so you can write a blog post. That's what has happened to me over the past few months. In order to write my monthly "What I've Been Reading" posts, I've had to schedule reading time -- not because I didn't want to read, but because I simply didn't have time. I hesitate to go into the "why" for fear of sounding, well, why-ney. :) But the truth is, life's been kicking my butt. Getting TRUST ME out by Christmas has been my number one priority, and unfortunately, my writer brain has not been cooperating. Of course, neither has my kids' sports and school and orthodontist schedules, my husband's work schedule, my work schedule (that's right; I work a day job in addition to writing)... You get the drift. In fact, for a little while I feared TRUST ME would not only be late releasing, but would not release at all. Everyone has those times when the avalanche descends and you wonder if you'll make it out alive.

Well, I have, but only because I made some tough decisions. And one of those was making time to read.

Last month in Birmingham I heard Sylvia Day speak. It was at a readers' luncheon, and of course she talked about reading. Or rather, her lack thereof. She discussed how, when she ended up in a crazy publishing schedule that took every ounce of time she had, she couldn't squeeze in the minutes and hours it took to read. And when it came time for a particular deadline, she realized that the book that was due just...wasn't going to happen. She was done, dried up. Her creativity was taking her nowhere with this story, and she didn't think it ever would. In fact, she didn't think she'd ever write another story. Ever.

So Sylvia contacted her editor and gave her the bad news. After much discussion and pushing off of deadlines, Sylvia said her editor finally asked one all-important question: When was the last time you read? (A book that wasn't yours was implied.) And Sylvia told her, I don't remember. So her editor gave her an assignment, not to finish writing, but to go read. It was the spark Sylvia needed to see the light on her own story and find her well of creativity again. She read other writers' novels, eventually finished her own book, and rediscovered a piece of herself in the process.

As a writer and a woman (mother, spouse, sibling...), I think I fell into the trap many women fall into: that something we find pleasure in is unimportant. My kids spend hours a day playing video games and reading books and watching TV/movies, and I WORK. Day in and day out, I work, because that's what a good mom and wife does, right? But my need to write was going nowhere. And then I heard Sylvia speak and realized, other than my scheduled monthly posts, I haven't read a book for pleasure in...I can't remember when.

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, reading, refilling the well, creativity and readingFor a writer, it simply isn't possible to sustain your creativity without nourishment. And for a woman, it isn't possible to sustain your supportive, positive, hard-working attitude without taking time for yourself as well as others. I knew that, but the tyranny of the urgent was louder than what I knew, until the urgent couldn't be taken care of because there was no fodder for the fire. TRUST ME wanted to be written, but I wasn't giving myself enough fuel to sustain the creative need. We have to feed ourselves, body and soul, if we hope to continue feeding others. I wasn't doing that, but now I am! And it is oh so sweet to find that place of comfort and pleasure again. :)

Reading again has made a huge difference in my life and in my writing. And next month, I'll share again some of What I've Been Reading -- without the whole scheduling thing. I hope you are nourishing yourself too, taking care of you so that you can take care of others. So tell me, what have YOU been reading? What else do you do to feed your soul? What difference does that make in your life?

~ Ella

Must-Read Advice for Writers

ella sheridan, erotic romance, author, romance author, for writers, encouragement, author tips21 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Writing: Must-Read Advice for Writers at All Levels By Robin Black

This article appeared on The Review Review website -- and my Facebook feed -- last week. After a particularly long and work-heavy month, I was taking a morning of downtime and actually managed to read an article I'm interested in. Yay! I found Black tips encouraging at a time when I'm struggling to handle my workload, deal with medical issues, and still manage to be enthusiastic about revisions on my current novella. It's not easy. But the validation of seeing some of the things I'm trying to tell myself reiterated from an experienced author helped me see that I am on the right path. I'm not delusional. This really is how I should see the world. And yes, "it will get better" is just as much a fact as "the downtimes will come again." Everything has its season; isn't that what Solomon said? :) Here are a couple of the tips I found particularly helpful:

" The best you can do is the best you can do. There’s a fine line between learning from other authors, and trying to be them. Be yourself. There are more than enough different types of readers out there for us all. I can’t tell you how much time I have wasted wishing my work were more 'hip'  and 'edgier.' And every single moment was indeed a waste of time. I didn’t even like much of the writing I wanted to emulate. I just liked the attention heaped on the people who wrote it. Write the book you’d most like to read – not the one you think will win over the editor du jour."

How often I have done this! I have lamented not being as good as so-and-so. I've lamented not being able to get my work in front of some big-time agent or editor. I've worried and wondered and agonized over the quality of my work -- and not believed my wonderful editor and critique partners and readers when they say they love it. It's got to stop! Can I doubt? Yes. Can I do it for more than a few seconds? No. As my daughter is fond of saying, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

"You cannot write the pages you love without writing the pages you hate. Nothing that you write is pointless, useless, or unnecessary. The product requires the process. The good days may be more enjoyable, but the tough ones are the ones they’re built upon."

Amen! Telling myself this was the only thing that got me through a period of severe writer's block (and yes, it does exist -- denying it doesn't make it so) over the last six months. I spent so much time agonizing over every word that I trained myself to have panic attacks when I sat at the computer to write. It has taken a lot of time, effort, and patience with myself to come out the other side, and still my confidence is more shattered than intact. That's okay. I'll get there. But it means going through the bad days as well as the good days -- and not being afraid to do so.

The final piece of advice speaks for itself, in my opinion. And, honestly, doesn't just apply to writing. Think about it.

"Don’t believe there are rules. There is only advice. There is only opinion. There are only my experiences and yours and yours and yours. . ."

Check out the full article and all of Black's tips here.

~ Ella

*Photo courtesy of AnimaTigris.

The Yin Yang That Is My Life

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance, erotic romance, life, yin yang, balanceThis week, I go back to the doctor for what seems like the umpteenth time. I'm there every three months for a checkup, and it's something I hate to do. Being a perfectionist, I struggle with the constant feeling that, for my doctor, I can never be good enough -- and I can't. At any given time I find I can only work to improve one thing, and something else inevitably gets left behind. If I'm working hard to stick to my diet, I end up not working out enough. If I'm working out five days a week, I'm not watching what I eat carefully enough (usually because I'm starving after all those workouts!). If I'm working hard on a writing project or a new writing skill, both workouts and diet go by the wayside. Needless to say, my doc is never completely happy with any of it.

That's not to say I am completely happy with it. If I was, I wouldn't dread going to see him so much. But this year my goal has been to accept imperfection, to realize that no one is perfect -- especially me -- and to be okay with the process instead of some nebulous end result. The yin yang symbol is my daily reminder that no light is completely devoid of darkness, and yet no darkness is completely devoid of light. It's okay not to be perfect as long as I'm striving to improve, and on my darkest days, I am never a complete failure either, no matter how much I might feel like I am.

Yin yang is all about balance. Balance by its very nature cannot be attained if I am perfect all of the time -- and all that perfection would probably make me arrogant anyway. :) If I am perfect in one area, another must naturally fall away. It's that whole "you cannot be all things to all people," except applied to myself. I can't do it all, no matter how much I want to. I'm trying to realize that, accept it, and not beat myself up about it like I have for the last 39 perfectionist-driven years. So when I go into my doctor's office this week and he looks at me and asks how I've been doing, I'll say I've been doing okay and mean it. I'm not required to be anything else. I don't have to be fantastic. I can just be okay -- a work in progress, as we say in the writing world. That work leads to some really great stories, and I look forward to the process. :)

Great minds think alike! Head on over to my sister Dani Wade's blog and see what she has to say about being a WIP today!

*Above picture courtesy of DonkeyHotey on Flickr.

The Joy of Silence

"Silence is a source of great strength."  ~ Lao Tzu Sound clutters the mind. I am, by nature, a talker -- I love words and use them often to work out what's in my mind. But I've realized lately exactly how cluttered my mind is, that often I have to fill any silence with, if not actual words, then thoughts of words. I can't go a moment without running conversation through my mind. Silence makes me antsy, yet all that noise in my head is exhausting.

ella sheridan, joy of silence, romance, authorWe need rest. Our minds need rest. When I began my publishing journey last year, I was on constant deadline. I was thinking about writing, listening to music to inspire my writing, talking myself through scenes for my writing, talking to others about my writing or my books or my career -- and doing nothing for me, the internal me. The realization that I'd not had a vacation from writing in over two years was illuminating. No wonder I felt burned out. No wonder my mind was tired all the time. And yet when I tried meditation, to immerse myself in the silence, it was virtually impossible. I was too used to the noise.

When I was a kid, we lived in a house with no air-conditioning. So during the summer, we slept with those big box fans running in the bedroom, usually in the window so it would blow the cooler air inside. I loved it, but I didn't love the transition from summer to winter. See, that was when the house went from no air-conditioning to only wood heat, and we went from all that glorious noise at night to complete silence. I hated it. I'd toss and turn and try to sleep, and all I could hear was the silence after that big, noisy fan was put away. The lack of noise was a void I couldn't ignore for the sake of sinking into the silence. And yet the absence of sound slowly became the norm again, and I could sleep without the interference between me and the silence.

I think, in today's busy, modern, information-filled world, the value of silence is even higher. We need the silence to calm our minds. We need to teach our kids to find themselves in the quiet rather than having to constantly be fed on chaos. The more we practice silence, the easier it becomes and the more centered we get. The bits of ourselves that we forgot existed float back to the surface. Like our creativity. Our joy. Our passion. Our hunger for something other than chaos. It's a hard transition, but one I think is well worth it.

In the silence, we rediscover who we are.

How very true that is. And what strength we find on the journey.

~ Ella