life

More POSITIVE LIFE

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More POSITIVE LIFE for May! Are you ready?

A positive life must include SLEEP! That’s what I’m learning. I always knew I didn’t feel good when I went low on sleep, but the past couple of years? I get the walk-into-the-wall, too-fuzzy-to-think, can’t-deal-with-life blues if I don’t rest. I feel so much better, clearer headed and able to, yes, be positive, if I just get adequate sleep!

I’m also learning that the kind of sleep you get makes a difference. Apparently not dreaming is a big deal—you’re not getting REM sleep. I rarely dream anymore, although I used to when I was younger. I’ve always been envious of authors who literally dream their stories up.

What about you? Do you get enough sleep, or are you one of those people who doesn’t seem to need much. (That’s NEVER been me! 😝 )

 

Positive Life

 

I admit that there is one aspect of a POSITIVE LIFE that is giving me some negative moments:

 

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY 😟

 

It seems like every time I make a push to get more active, an old injury rears its ugly head. Recently it’s been my knee—I have damage to one knee that is limiting both how vigorous I can be and even slow activities that require me to bend, like tai chi.

 

*whine* I just want to work out and get it over with! *whine*

 

So what obstacles get in the way of your physical fitness? How do you overcome them? I could use the encouragement, so share your story with me!

 

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Positive Life

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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!

What's In The Box?

* * * January Monthly Contest * * *

This month it’s all about surprises and anticipation! I have an assorted grab bag of paperback books, a MYSTERY BOX, that I’ll be mailing to this month’s winner, along with some great swag. (International entries are welcome!)

 

So tell me, what are you looking forward to this year? I have several things that I’m anticipating, personally and professionally, not the least of which is releasing another book this spring (MOMENT, anyone? 😉 ). My son starting his senior year of high school in the fall. The possibility of getting a new (to me, lol) car. What about you? What is going on in your life right now that you’re relishing? Let’s share some good things for 2018!

 

Head on over to my Facebook page for your chance to win!

 

*** Likes and shares with your booklover friends are appreciated but not required! Contest ends JANUARY 26th! ***

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Balance

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How do I find that balance?

In all honesty, I think that’s a never-ending journey. Every time a rock shifts, we have to realign. Every time something settles, we have to readjust. In this new stage of life, I’m still finding my way. I know I’m doing something right, though, because I’m writing. And I’m finding joy. Those are the best indicators of balance for me.

How about you? How do you find balance? How do you know when you’ve succeeded?

Balance.

It’s an easy word to say. Not so hard to live.

A lot of the parts of my life are out of balance right now. Getting my oldest settled in college. My youngest getting his driver’s license—oy! Reorganizing my work so I have more time to focus on writing. Things falling by the wayside, and new things cropping up to stuff themselves in their place. If I’ve learned anything in over four decades of life, it’s that the chaos never stops, but my body and emotions need balance.

 

 

 

 

Field Trip: Dismals Canyon

Earlier this month my family took a trip together, something we don't get to do often with teenagers working and my husband and I so busy. We visited a place here in Alabama called Dismals Canyon. The canyon is a "pristine wilderness" you can read more about here. I've truly never seen anything this beautiful in the US.

The area is wooded, with massive sandstone chunks lying haphazardly around the canyon. One of the images below shows my husband next to an outer wall of the gorge, giving you the scale of what we were looking at. Dismals Branch, a crystal-clear creek, runs through the entire canyon with its beautiful sand-and-rock bottom. The waterfall at the entrance to Dismals Canyon is thunderous and, yes, the water is icy cold! (You can see my daughter and niece trying it out -- many squeals were heard, let me tell ya!)

At night the canyon walls reveal the reason for their name: a species of glow worms known as Dismalites that light up in the darkness. I've included an image here from the canyon's website, showing the Dismalites. It was impossible to photograph, but you can imagine the wonder of walking along the trails and realizing you'd been there just a few hours earlier and not realized such fascinating creatures were there with you until it became dark.

The entire area is peaceful, a great place for my family to reconnect and share in the wonder of nature. Have you ever visited someplace like this, a natural wonder that made you catch your breath?

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.

Recipe of the Month: Flourless Chocolate Cake

I've talked a bit in my Hump Day Healthy Writer posts about the food allergies I've developed over the last couple of years. The change in my diet is never felt more keenly than at the holidays, when all the traditional family treats I've made for years are now off limits. So what's a girl with gluten, soy, and dairy allergies supposed to do?

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.

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

March Update

kitty in boxWhere have I been? (Sometimes that's what I'd like to know...) It's been a long couple of weeks of being sick around Chez Sheridan, which is why the blog is currently empty of oh-so-sparkling commentary. ;) I just haven't been able to kick this whatever-it-is yet, but hopefully I'll be back on track soon. I DO hope all of you are feeling much better than I am. In other news, the website is about to get an update -- WOO HOO! Yes, there will be new and wondrous things coming this month: new colors, new man candy, new layouts. Lots of stuff to "ooh" and "aah" over. I feel sorta like a girl about to change the color of her room -- a little giddy and a lot happy.

TAKE ME is underway as well. I'm hoping to have news of a release date soon. Rough draft is getting an overhaul, including new characters, more smexy stuff, definitely more Sam (Gabe's pushy, doncha know, and takes up a lot of page space). Hey, working with two heroes is not as easy as it sounds. ;) But I love these two tough guys and their tough-as-nails heroine. I can't wait to share Gabe, Sam, and Peyton's story with all of you!

And now, I apologize, but after that short and somewhat unsatisfying update, I'm heading back to bed. Can someone bring me a magic get-well pill? No? A whiskey with honey then -- pleeeeaaaase?

Until next week...

~ Ella

A Day in the Life...

This year, in keeping with my New Year's resolution, I want to take the time each month to tell you about something that's happened in my life, a moment, big or small, that meant something to me -- and hopefully to you. And I want to encourage you to look for moments in your day that add meaning, and value, to your life and world. This week is, of course, fairly hectic, with TRUST ME releasing in less than a week (oh boy!). I'm learning I have to give myself moments in the day where, even if things are hectic, I take the time to relax my mind, exercise or even relax my body, just "be." Do you have a place where you can do that? I do! Whenever the weather cooperates -- and sometimes even when it doesn't -- I have a walking trail a few minutes from my house that I visit to de-stress.

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Beautiful, isn't it? These were obviously taken in two different seasons, but that's part of what I love about this trail is that it is so soothing no matter when I go. (Sometimes there are more people than others, which might be why I enjoy the colder weather sometimes, but... :) )

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The best thing about this area is the water. Many authors find water a creative energizer. Water flowing is soothing for me, both the sound and the movement. I often find myself coming up with new ideas for books or blogs when I walk here. And sometimes the water attracts companions that brighten my day:

photo 3Can you see the heron there? At least I think it's a heron; I'm a bit bird illiterate. :) But he was a pretty thing, perched there on the log, watching the water, one stick-like leg holding him up. I passed him twice, and both times he would open his beak and swing his head back and forth real slow as if warning me away. I wanted to hang out with him all day, of course, but he didn't seem to feel the same, so...

What about you; where do you go to get away from it all and de-stress? Does it involve activity, or do you prefer rest (like a massage)?

Don't forget, next weekend is release time! Next Monday I'll be hosting my traditional release day dance par-tay!!! (So obviously I need the R&R this week. :) ) And check back this week for details on the Facebook party coming up this Sunday. It's gonna be so much FUN!

~ 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

 

No Sick Days

ella sheridan, romance, romance author, erotic romance, sick days, writingThere are no sick days in writing. Okay, for some people there are, but unfortunately I’m not one of them. Between the kids and the editing gig and just plain normal maintenance -- hey, this body didn’t get this way by itself. Actually, it did, but I’m trying to work on that! ;) -- I have to write when I have time, not when I feel like it. And that means writing when I’m sick. Depressed. Just don’t want to.

Suck it up, buttercup. You still have to write.

This week I’m on a deadline. My wonderful editor has sent me revisions that will make Just a Little More a “more better” story. And that means I need to actually follow through on them (imagine that!). I spent this past week struggling through therapy for a bulging disc in my neck, and this weekend both my son and I got hit with a nasty virus (him more than me). All I wanted was to curl up in the bed, cover my head, and sleep the bad feelings away…but I can’t. I have to write. The week ahead is already full of work, and the revisions have to be squeezed in around that. The whip must be cracked and the laptop must be opened. There’s no time to waste on a sick day.

My birthday is coming up in about six weeks. Think I could wish for a sick day when I blow out the candles? ;)

How ’bout you, do you get sick days? Wish you did? Save them for when you aren’t really sick? (Wish I had that option!)

~ Ella

Photo courtesy of mcfarlandmo.

The Rain

ella sheridan, author, romance, romance writer, rain, reading, walking in the rainIt's currently cool and rainy down here in the Deep South. On mornings when I wake up to the gentle patter of rain, it's like a huge sigh settles over my soul -- there's just nothing better than rain. The steady drum, the muffling of outside noise, even the rushing tide of heavy winds when the rain breaks completely free. In all its faces, rain draws me in. ella sheridan, author, romance, romance writer, rain, reading, walking in the rainIt's my favorite time to walk. Let's face it -- the South gets HAWT, and not in a good way. Considering that my career means sitting on my rear for 90 percent of my day, I know moving is important, both to my mood and my health. But I hate the heat! This past winter I reveled in the few days we got snow, went out and walked in it and felt the soft flakes on my face, but nothing compares to walking in the rain. As Roger Miller says, "Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet." The cool breeze caresses your face, and there's that strange sense of cool wetness on your skin when you aren't actually wet. You know what I mean, right there under your raincoat, with the raindrops beating against you like a massage and the world coated in a hazy gray blanket. All the things that weigh heavy on my mind are coated too, drowned out, and I can just be, there in the rain.

ella sheridan, writer, author, romance writer, romance, rain, reading, walking in the rainI grew up in an old farmhouse with a tin roof. Lots of houses out in the middle of nowhere in the South have tin roofs, especially the barns, but I was lucky enough that my bedroom was right underneath it, right up there in the eaves, right where the sound of the rain on the metal would resonate in my ears. Sure there were times that the thunder and lightning would scare the bejesus out of me, but mostly I remember how calming that sound was, how it sank down in my chest and felt like home. Even now, when I listen to meditation or sleep programs, I'm drawn to the ones that sound like rivers or streams, the tinkling of water over rocks, the sound that reminds me of the streaming of water down that old tin roof. There's no other sound quite like it.

The absolute best thing about rain, though, is curling up with a good book under a fuzzy blanket while the water pounds away outside. Maybe it's the white noise effect or maybe the sense of being enclosed, cocooned against that relentless force; I don't know. I can lose myself in the sound as much as in the world of the book I'm reading, or maybe that fiction world becomes clearer as reality is dampened by the rain. I know I'm conditioned now -- when it rains, all I want to do is curl up and read. Not a bad way to think, huh?

Does the rain draw you? Why? While you think about it, I'm gonna go curl up. Coffee's calling, and a book, and the rain.

~ Ella

Photos by: Yuliya Libkina, llya, and docoverachiever

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

A Little Secret

The weekend before last I was given the privilege of teaching a small workshop at my local Romance Writers of America chapter's annual retreat. I wanted something new and a bit different from other workshop topics I'd heard often, since the writers' circuit tends to focus on certain areas (craft, business) and not on others. Say, for instance, the personal and private fears of an author. So of course that's what I chose to talk about. (I like to torture myself that way, ya know. ;) ) http://gamemoir.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/doctor-wait-what.gif

Wait, pause for the smirk. *smirk* Okay, let's get serious again.

What personal and private fears did I talk about? Fear of failure and perfectionism. I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm a perfectionist. I know, I was shocked too, but it's true! I really am a perfectionist, a hard-core one, in fact. And that drive for perfection led to some very real fears when I decided to pursue publishing, the biggest of all being, What if I fail? Now that I'm published, that fear of failure has morphed, not gone away. What if my next book isn't as good as my last? What if my publisher doesn't want any more books? What if my book doesn't perform as well as expected?

ella sheridan, author, romance, erotic romance, paranormal romance, failureWhat if, what if, what if? It can become like a rat race in your head, literally driving you crazy. That's what happened to me. The "crazy" became so bad I couldn't write. All I could hear were those questions spinning through my head, unending, paralyzing, blocking out the voices of my characters and my love of writing. A problem like that doesn't just go away -- it takes time and kindness to yourself and patience and, sometimes, help from outside sources. But it can be made better. You can learn to deal with it, walk through it. It doesn't have to kill your love of writing or anything else you love to do well.

ella sheridan, author, romance, erotic romance, paranormal romance, failureThe number one thing I learned as I suffered through this tough time was this: Failure is not inevitable, but if it does happen, it's not the end of the world. (Again, shocking, I know! :) ) But I learned something else too: Failure can be just the beginning of some very satisfying things. Sometimes we have to slug through the struggles to get where we want to be.

There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this: "Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up." Don't refuse to get back up. Failure happens, but it's not always a bad thing. We don't have to be perfect; we just have to keep trying. That's what I'm striving for this year, to keep trying, keep getting better, keep moving forward. Whether that leads to failure or not, I firmly believe that it's the trying that makes us a success.

~ Ella

Games, Games, Games!

ella sheridan, romance, author, games, stress, funAfter a long week, my family decided to visit some friends Saturday night for a bit of board game fun. We don't play often -- it's one of those things that we have to convince ourselves to do, but once we get a game out and begin, we really enjoy. (Go figure.) Saturday, though, we found ourselves playing one of our very favorite board games: Settlers of Catan. We played this game for the first time last year, never having heard of it before. Apparently the game is well-known for intricacies and adaptability, but we just think it's fun. :) The premise is basically the settling of a fictional land called Catan. Players earn various resources and use those resources to build and explore and establish an empire in a new land. Players barter with each other and scheme their way to riches until one of them earns enough points to be the winner.

ella sheridan, romance, author, games, stress, funWhy is this so much fun? Honestly, I don't know. :) I am not a good schemer, but I think for me it's the "making order out of chaos" aspect of the game that's appealing. My kids love the bartering and manipulating their resources to make new things. We also have the Seafarers edition (an expansion of the original Settlers), which allows players to create shipping empires and discover new opportunities and even gold mines on convenient Catan islands. I've even heard of the game described as a sort of pioneer version of "Monopoly," and I think there are aspects of that too. The player with the most "money" (resources) wins. But there's just something primitively satisfying about making something out of nothing -- oh, and beating your opponents! That's satisfying too. :)

So, what's your favorite board game? Do you and your family have a favorite pastime that helps relieve the stress of a busy/difficult week? Let me know what it is -- I'm always looking for fun new things to try!

Have a great week! :)

~ Ella