Friday, September 15, 2017

Review for THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS by Barbara Wallace


After writing an impressive collection of romantic fiction, author Barbara Wallace decided to try her hand at cozy mysteries. And I'm SO happy she did!

THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS is an adorable cozy debut, filled with likable (and bitchy!) characters, a very sexy chief of police, a Boston suburb much like my own, and a lot of coffee from the local cafe.

In fact, this town is so very similar to my own Boston 'burb, I sometimes felt like Barb was in our very own Starbucks.

My town also has the gorgeous blonde mummies in their big black SUVs filling up a French Roast frequently throughout the day.

And I know for a fact they have secrets, too!

Not as exciting as the secrets in Barb's book, however. 

My favorite things about this book?

1. Sadie the heroine

She is a widow who is struggling with a career in real estate and firmly enmeshed in the suburban lifestyle...sort of against her will. She is likable and authentic, and I love her witty and often snarky observations about life in the 'burbs.

2.  Chief of Police Dan Bartlett

Yum! Super yum! The sexy new police chief is a romantic interest for Sadie, and their sexual chemistry is delicious. I love how he gets all protective of her. My favorite kind of fictional hero!

3. The town

I love the juxtaposition of pretty tree-lined streets and Boston 'burb charm with the sometimes sleazy stuff that goes on behind closed doors. Nice contrast. And perfect setting for mysteries!

4. The Bitchy Girls

This is so spot-on it's scary. Tight yoga pants and plenty of mean girl-attitude make for LOTS of possible suspects in a murder mystery. 

5. Sadie's side-kicks: her best buddy Rob and her son Tim

I don't want to spoil all the quirky details in this book, but suffice it to say Rob--who is a flirty British billionaire--has a hilarious secret of his own. And Tim is the son with an interest in prepping survival skills. I hope they get more air-time in the next book. Both have a ton of potential for this series.

6. The fantastic and unexpected twist at the end

IT'S A SECRET I CAN'T TELL YOU.

I loved it.

THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS has all my favorite things in one cozy mystery...an intriguing setting, an adorable heroine, pitch-perfect writing and a nice tight plot, lots of colorful characters, spots of snarky humor that made me laugh out loud, and best of all...for this romance-lover!...a budding romance with a delicious and protective hero. SWOONY!

Grade: A

I cannot wait for the next installment!

Off for my afternoon Starbucks French Roast...

Nina/Penny 

Want to buy a copy?

Find it at Amazon!

 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How I Accidentally Became A Writer Who Doesn't Write, and How It Sort of Saved My life


Folks have all sorts of reasons why they write. Some do it to make a living, some do it as a creative outlet. Some like being part of the community. Some people need it for self-identity.

I do it for the same reason I wrote stories when I was eight-years-old, lugging around my dingy white notebook filled with a first novel about Mandy, the girl who lived in a treehouse.

Because I'm a storyteller.

I actually feel most comfortable with this description of what I do. More so than "author." I get stories in my head and I write them down. Occasionally they win awards or sell a modest amount or make a bit of money. Not a lot. It's never been about the sales/money for me.

I am fortunate enough to have a husband who not only supports our family financially, but he also supports my writing as a creative outlet. 

So how is it that I found myself overwhelmed with deadlines and anxiety and a dread of writing and the publishing world that had turned something I used to love into something soul-crushing?

Well, let's see.

Starting the publishing journey is like rolling down a snowy hill. You start out as an enthusiastic snowflake, gain some momentum, turn into a snowball, roll along gaining more speed, and suddenly this thing that used to be about writing and creativity becomes about promotion and productivity and deadlines and it's not that fun anymore.

And when you have a lot of stress in your life--could be family stuff, other jobs, money, health, whatever--adding more stress because you feel obligated to publish a book every three-six months or get left behind--this becomes the straw that broke the camel's back.

Part of my writing stress is self-imposed. I'm an all-or-nothing writer. Once I dive into a story, I become all-focused. I think about it in the morning when I drive the kids to school, I skip lunch, I skip dinner (families tend to not like that so much), and my brain is pretty much a whirlwind of THE BOOK until it's done. This is just the way my process has always been. I have short intense bursts of creativity--I call it the "punctuated equilibrium" approach to creative writing.
 
What I noticed as I aged was that my ability to deal with stress--my resilience--was starting to crumble. Things that used to roll right off me were causing insomnia and anxiety. My brain was a jumble of stuff to do for the kids, the family, the dog, the house, and the book. 

Guess what wasn't in the jumble?  

Me.

I wasn't in the jumble. 

More specifically, my happiness was not in the jumble.

My days were about to-do lists and I rushed from one thing to the next, not engaged in the moment but focused on getting the next thing done. The next thing to worry about.

We only have so much emotional energy in our lives. If we use up all of it worrying about the kids or family or book, there is nothing left for us.

It's almost impossible to "remove stress" from your life. Being healthy is not really about removing the stress. It's about becoming better at managing the stress.

And so, after pushing myself to finish a holiday romance in time for Christmas (that's a deadline that can't be moved back, by the way), I decided to take a breather and figure out how to manage my stress better.

My initial idea was to take a short break--maybe a month or two--and then slowly work back to a regular writing schedule.

I took a month off. 

I took another month off.

I started to add "WRITE" onto my to-do list. But...interestingly, it didn't happen.

I did this over and over again, feeling guilty each time the day went by and the "WRITING" thing didn't happen. And then...I stopped putting "WRITING" on the to-do list.

The first time I did this, I was giddy! I felt like a kid playing hooky. How could I have a to-do list without writing on it? Impossible!

Actually, it was strangely liberating. I started to figure out stuff that made me happy again.

I made lists that had things like "hike in the forest" "have lunch with the girls" "plant pumpkin patch in the garden."

I told my husband I was stripping my life down to the studs, and then building it back up. I needed to get down to the very basic stuff I need to be happy and healthy, and then add back the extras. Figure out how all these pieces fit.

I spent a lot of time researching simple living and minimalism and Hygge and I came up with a list of things that work for me every day. And my resilience shot up. I became better at managing stress. And believe me, with a 14-year old teenage girl, I have stress that would make your hair turn white. (Yes, my hair is white).

These are the things I do each day to feel centered and happy. After nine months of not writing, I feel...better. Much better. I didn't intend to take nine months off, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Now I'm attempting a new writing process, one that feeds my soul instead of crushing it. I need to find a way to incorporate this into my schedule without it taking over everything else. And I'm ignoring every single thing about publishing and focusing only on writing. Back where I started. Over forty years ago.

This week was the first week back. It felt good to work on my book and to dive back into research and a new writing challenge. But I still managed my walks, cooking dinner for my family, and going out with friends.

It's not uncommon for women to overburden themselves with responsibility and to ignore their own health. I'm talking physical and mental and emotional well-being. We put our kids and family and jobs on the totem pole, but often we don't put ourselves there. Either we're at the bottom of the totem pole, or not on it at all.

I realized this year either I put myself on the damned totem pole, or I'm gonna fail. I needed to replenish my emotional energy.

Most of all, just needed to find my happy.

I found it.

Now I'm ready to write my happy.

Looking forward to a fresh start,

Nina/Penny


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017!


Here's hoping all of you have wonderful things coming up this new year...travel, adventure, exploration, simple pleasures.

WE CAN DO THIS!

Love,
Nina

Monday, December 12, 2016

Doing It All Wrong...And Liking It


This is my wrap-up-the year (2016) post, and what's-ahead (2017) post.

What happened this year?

I turned fifty. I had a mid-life crisis that went on and on for months. I didn't write anything for almost a year.

I continued to feel like an outsider in Romancelandia...not just as an author, but also as a reader.

Politics gave me insomnia and depression.

On the flip side (the positive, happy place)...I am hugely proud of my kids. I am proud of my husband.

I traveled to Iceland, a beautiful and inspiring country.

I finished my Klaus Brothers series.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by incredible friends...people who are loyal and supportive.

I have an exciting game plan for 2017.

I came to a big conclusion about myself and my "writing career"...I am basically doing this all wrong.

All of the stuff I *should* be doing to have "success" (huge sales, make bestseller lists, etc.) are things I don't want to do...


STUFF YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO TO BE A SUCCESS IN ROMANCELANDIA


1. Write a series of full-length books. Be consistent, create a cohesive brand.

Me: I don't want to write a series. I like stand-alone books, and I like shorter stories. I love trying new things. I like challenging myself with every new project. I like switching it up--from women's fiction to fantasy to children's lit to comedy. On the queue for next year is horror and contemporary fiction.

This goes against everything we're taught about making a cohesive, consistent brand for your readers.

Tough.

My readers know every new book from me will be a surprise. Something new, different, unique. I'm good with that, and my small and merry band of readers are good with that, too.

(Thank you to my SMALL AND MERRY BAND OF READERS!)



2. Follow the trends.

Me: No.

I don't want to write NA or sports romance or jerky heroes or whatever the latest band-wagon topic is. I like diving into new ideas. Even if they're not popular. Even if I might fail. That's okay.

My new interest is exploring the relationship between man and nature. My projects for next year are focusing on that topic. I'm blending my background/interest in science with my creative writing. Yippppeeeeeee!



3. Be an aggressive promoter.

Me: No.

I'm not begging for reviews or offering bribes or gaming the system. I'm not interested in street teams or asking my readers to do stuff that is not their responsibility. As a result, I'm not one of the authors with hundreds of 5-star reviews at Amazon or anywhere else.

And I'm good with that.



4. Use social media primarily for sales/promotion.

Me: Do I promote on social media? Sure! Sometimes.

Do I also use social media to socialize? Yes. I like talking about plants and glass and my nature hikes and weight loss and dachshunds and cocktails and books I read and films I watch. Sometimes I talk about politics (on Twitter) and often I post pics of my travels and family (especially on Facebook, where I still have an old-fashioned account not a page).

My favorite thing about social media is socializing. I have friends all over the world, and that makes me really happy.

My main goal for social media continues to be chatting with friends, and occasionally using it to promote my own publications. It might not be the best thing to do from a business standpoint, but it's a good thing to do from a personal standpoint.



5. Crank out books as fast as possible to "feed the beast."

Me: Eye roll.

The treadmill for Romancelandia has gotten completely out-of-hand. Cranking out new material as fast as possible is now the norm. That's just not my thing. I want to take my time next year and create something really special.

I'm jumping onto the old-fashioned idea of "one book a year."

In fact, I'm clinging to a bunch of old-fashioned concepts about publishing that may no longer be popular, but they're working for me.


My take-home message following the mid-life crisis and fiftieth birthday and life-changing trip to Iceland...do what makes you happy.

I'll leave the rules to someone else.

I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Inspiring New Year and Happy Reading and Happy Writing!

Love to all,
Nina

Friday, December 2, 2016

Festive Holiday Reading Recommendations



Happy December!

Time for a few holiday recommendations...

1. The Seven-Course Christmas Killer by Rosie Genova

I just discovered the Italian Kitchen Mystery series by Genova this year, and I inhaled all three books within days. It is an adorable cozy series with a writer heroine, a family restaurant, lots of fun characters found on the New Jersey shore, sexy romantic tension, and plenty of delicious Italian dishes. This series is full of win! This holiday novella is a quick festive read. It has the perfect balance of Christmas cheer, tasty Italian recipes (like Nonna's Wedding Soup and Shrimp Scampi), and suspense. Treat yourself to the whole series! (The novella is only 99 cents!)


2. A Hanukkah Miracle by Julia Barrett

My friend Julia has released a very sweet Hanukkah novella this season. It includes "mature" characters, an interfering Jewish mother, and an unexpected romance. If you're looking for a lovely Hanukkah story, this is it. I loved it! On sale right now for only $1.99.


3. I read two fabulous books by Barbara Wallace recently, Winter Wedding for the Prince and Christmas Baby for the Princess. These are both part of the Royal House of Corinthia Series. Wallace always does a superb job capturing Christmas magic, and these two novels really got me in a festive mood. Both have plenty of romance and wonderful happy endings. Happy sigh.


4. Melting Mr. Frosty's Heart by Liz Fielding

This was my first read by Fielding, and it won't be my last. I was super impressed with her writing. She really packs it into this quickie story--gorgeous writing, characters who pop off the page, and vivid imagery. Now I want to read the rest of the series.


5.  An American Mail-Order Bride Christmas Collection by E. E. Burke

Burke is an author who does not get nearly enough attention...I am always impressed with her books. These stories were perfect for the holidays...charming, sweet, romantic, and filled with great historical tidbits. This is an excellent deal for only 99 cents!


More books to come...

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Love, Penny

Monday, November 28, 2016

Wolf is Here! SWEET DESTINY IS NOW AVAILABLE!




SWEET DESTINY IS HERE!



Purchase Sweet Destiny at...



KOBO
The print edition will be out in a couple of weeks.

HO HO HO!


Happy Holidays To All!

Love,
Penny

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Walk Down Memory Lane...Santa Style


About ten years ago, I got an idea for a romance novel that just wouldn't go away. It was weird and wacky and when I queried an agent she looked at me like I had lost my mind.

Which I probably had.

She gave me half a dozen good reasons why I would never publish this book, and why it would never see the light of day.

I thought my best selling point was originality. NO ONE ELSE HAD THIS IDEA.

Also, I was winning writing contests.

She didn't care. In fact, the originality was working against me. She didn't want original. She wanted this book to fit into a tidy little box.

She kept asking me, WHO ARE YOU LIKE? WHICH AUTHORS ARE SIMILAR TO YOU?

I said, "I thought I was supposed to be one-of-a-kind, unique, original?"

I was a dumb-ass. I didn't understanding marketing.

A published author told me to delete the "Christmas" out of my Christmas story. I could sell it easily if it was just a regular contemporary romance.

A big name author told me I had to shave my hero. Big beards were not popular at that time, and she said this would turn off readers and publishers.

My book was too short. It was seasonal, the kiss of death. Newbie writers didn't get asked to join anthologies. Sex and Santa were a bad combination.

Well, the most effective way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't do it.

I didn't pad my word count. I didn't remove the Christmas from my Christmas story. I didn't shave my hero.

I kept querying publishers.

A year later, a small publisher told me they loved the book. They had a special section for holiday books! They loved the length! They thought it was sweet and whimsical and romantic!

A year after that, SWEET INSPIRATION was published.

Here I am, ten years later, and I am publishing the final book in the series. Is it a NYT-bestseller? No. Do I have an adorable bunch of readers who love the sweetness of this holiday romance series? Yes, absolutely yes. The best readers ever!

I learned a lot of good lessons with this series. I learned that there are two ways to approach this writing/publishing business. Neither one is better or worse, they're just different.

Some folks write to market. They see what sells, they write accordingly.

Some folks write the story percolating in their brain, regardless of market. They understand it might not sell a lot. It might not appeal to a publisher.

The Klaus Brothers have been on a rocky road with me. I learned about rejection with them. I learned how to write with them. I had a heart attack with them. I learned how to self-publish with them. 

I feel like Santa is patting me on the back and pushing me into 2017, a year for new beginnings.

Thanks, Santa!

And HUGE JUMBO GINORMOUS THANK YOU to my readers who have stuck with me on this journey, the bumpy road, the quirky path.

Gearing up for the holidays,
Penny


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Christmas Sale: The Klaus Brothers Series



In preparation for the final Klaus book, I've decided to put books 1-4 on sale!

Catch up with the series before SWEET DESTINY is released.



SWEET INSPIRATION
Book #1
Nicholas

SWEET MAGIK
Book #2
Oskar

SWEET ADVENTURE
Book #3
Sven

SWEET CINDERELLA
Book #4
Gregor


Find the Klaus Brothers Series at...







Almost time for the final chapter...SWEET DESTINY,  coming this December!



Get ready for Wolfgang!

All my best,
Penny


Monday, October 10, 2016

Cover Reveal, Blurb, and Prologue for SWEET DESTINY



1. Cover Reveal!

Huge thanks to Lena Goldfinch for this gorgeous cover. Hey! There's a person on my cover. Where's the fruit?



2. Book Blurb for SWEET DESTINY



-->
Wolfgang Reinhard Klaus, Director of Charitable Donations for the family business, is the last unmarried Klaus brother. While his four siblings have fallen in love and started their unconventional families, Wolfgang has been crushed by his heart-breaking obligations. The once affable Wolf has become a bitter and tormented man. All he has left is a nimble vision of loveliness who haunts his dreams. Is she enough to restore his faith in humanity?



Belinda Kiefer is a one-of-a-kind being, embraced by the winter forest and the woodland animals. Half-human, half-fairy, she flits between two worlds, searching for a place to belong. Her secret crush on Wolfgang is both a blessing and a curse. It will help her to soothe him in his darkest hour, but the outcome may cost her everything.



When Santa is injured before Christmas, the Klaus family is forced to take action. The Day of Reckoning is finally upon them, and one of the siblings must take responsibility for the beloved holiday. Which brother possesses the true heart of the Weihnachtsmann? Who will be the one to fulfill this long-awaited destiny?


3. Here's an (unedited) sneak peek at SWEET DESTINY, Klaus Brothers Series #5, coming in December 2016.

If you'd like to add it to your TBR pile, here's the Goodreads link.


EXCERPT:
-->
Listen to the wind,
It talks.
Listen to the silence,
It speaks.
Listen to your heart,
It knows.


Native American Proverb




  

Prologue



Wolfgang heard two things.
His breath.
And the wind.
His breath was rhythmic and shallow. Like a metronome, steady, keeping him grounded. His fingers grasped the rough granite ledge, and he pulled himself closer to the cliff wall.
The wind was behind him. Below him. Beside him. It started slow like a puff of air, gentle and prodding. And then it grew. The gusts built to a crescendo until it roared in his ears. Rattling leaves became percussion, unique to each tree, shaking violently on the branch.
     And then...silence.
     He focused on his breath and tried to ignore the thoughts banging around his head. Thoughts about hungry children and crying babies and the scent of death. Thoughts about family and obligation. His knee gripped the rock wall, bruising the skin. This moment required his full and undivided attention, as he searched for the next crevice, propelling himself higher. One slip—one bit of distraction—could be deadly.
     Perspiration dripped down the side of his face and into his beard. He licked his lips and glanced at the ledge. So close to the peak. Would it be enough? Would it banish the dark thoughts and bring him peace? He’d spent months searching for tranquility. In the deepest sea, diving into murky waters, finding no clarity. In the jungle, but the noise there was deafening. On back country roads and in bustling cities. And now he searched in the dense Vermont forest, free-climbing a mountain wall into the clouds. Wolfgang knew a million places and a million people. But no matter where he went, he couldn’t escape the realities of his life. Those thoughts haunted his dreams and every waking moment.
     Wolfgang Reinhard Klaus, third son of Alena and Nicholas Klaus, was Director of Charitable Donations for Klaus Enterprises. At first, he’d loved his job—traveling around the world and providing money for needy causes. He’d built schools in third world countries, raised funds for pediatric hospitals, volunteered his time at shelters. At first, he saw smiling faces of grateful children. Tears of joy from appreciative parents. At first, he felt like Klaus Enterprises was making a difference.
     At first.
     But somehow, slowly, over the years, he began to see another side of his job. Communities ravaged by war. Children suffering. Families crushed by drug addiction. And some patients—a little girl dressed in pink who fought to the bitter end—did not have a happy ending. They never left that hospital ward. They died there, and with them, so did Wolfgang’s hope.
     It had taken weeks and months and years, and now his optimism was crushed to dust, blown away by a forceful gale of wind and replaced by bone-deep cynicism. His heart had hardened to protect itself from more disappointment. And unlike his brothers—who had found love and happiness with a partner, joy with their children, a future with their family—Wolf was alone.
     Even though part of him still loved his family deeply, another part—an ugly part—was consumed by jealousy. Why were his brothers so lucky? So deserving? Why were they allowed to find love and he could not?
     He bent his head and watched a stream of sweat pour onto his shirt. He swallowed nervously. He needed to focus and pull himself up to the break. His arms strained with the effort of holding himself in place.
     He tried to clear his head, to block out everything.
     His job.
     His family.
     His destiny.
     He needed to concentrate on this moment. There was no past, no future. No magik. No elves. No Christmas carols belted out in off-key enthusiasm. No gingerbread cookies iced with grandma’s love.
     He peered at the flat rock in front of him. He searched for the next ridge to clasp. But instead, he saw the face of a little girl who haunted his dreams, asleep and awake.
     Drawn, pale, and strangely still hopeful until her last breath. He could not escape her, not even on this craggy wall of granite.
     Wolf shut his eyes. What would it take to forget? There was nowhere left to go.
     And in that moment, as his fingers clutched the minuscule ledge that kept him tethered to the rock and to his life, his hand flexed. His fingers slipped.
     And with an utter sigh of defeat, Wolfgang dropped from the rock and into a pit of darkness.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

A 99 CENT SALE to Celebrate the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award Winner!



I'm thrilled to announce that A TASTE OF HEAVEN won the 
National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award for contemporary single title!

Here's my badge...


And here are some fun ads for the book...





And to celebrate, I'm putting the book on sale for...

99 CENTS!





More sales coming up this fall... 



Happy Fall!

Penny 


Monday, September 5, 2016

What's Going On...Iceland Adventure, Book Sales, and Cocktails!



Happy Labor Day!

Here are some updates from the world of Watsonville...

1. ICELAND ADVENTURE

My family went to Reykjavik in August. Here are some highlights from our trip. The weather wasn't great--cold and gray and raining a lot of the time--but we still had a lovely time. The city is festive and welcoming, the geologic trips were incredible, and I highly approve of Viking beer. Hee!


 Viking Beer...yum yum!


 Hubby enjoying lunch in Reykjavik


 Geysir erupting...wow!


 Gullfoss Waterfall...stunning


 Gorgeous architecture at Harpa Opera House


 Diverging tectonic plates at Thingvellir. Wicked cool!


Puffin!

My kids at Mount Esja


Overall, I would highly recommend this trip. The city was very walkable and filled with interesting cultural spots. More highlights: The Golden Circle (includes Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss), a puffin-watching boat trip, and the Reykjavik Cultural Festival. Excellent!


2. BOOK SALES!

I have some specials coming up...

APPLES SHOULD BE RED is on sale for 99 cents in September, A TASTE OF HEAVEN is 99 cents in October, each Klaus Brothers book will be 99 cents in November, and SWEET DESTINY should be out in December. Still working on it!

All book links are on the book page.

Some more exciting news...A TASTE OF HEAVEN is a finalist in the NERFA contest sponsored by First Coast RWA chapter. Yippppeeeeeee!




3. What am I reading?


Currently reading KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL by Anthony Bourdain. He is a curious mix of asshole, intelligence, talent, and profound observations. I sort of love this guy.


Also, one of my favorite discoveries this year is now out in paperback!


THE INTROVERT'S GUIDE TO DRINKING ALONE by Tasha Brandstatter is now available in paperback...Here's the purchase link.

If you're looking for the perfect gift for a friend, colleague, your mother, old college roommate, check this out! I recommend getting a copy of this adorable and clever book and putting it in a gift basket with a good bottle of vodka, couple of jars of olives, a martini shaker, and maybe a shot glass or two. PERFECTION!

Here are some of Tasha's suggestions for introverts who find themselves at a bar...

1. Do not order a fancy drink...it attracts too much attention.

2. Bring a book, phone, or fake wedding ring to deflect unwanted advances.

3. Do not make eye contact.

All excellent ideas! Order your copy now. Also perfect as a coffee table book.



4. Finally, I'm working on SWEET DESTINY...



And so Belinda drifted between two worlds, like a shadow flitting across the ice. 
A world of magik and snow, and a world of human compassion.



Hope everyone had a great summer.

The Penny Watson

EMBRACE THE QUIRK!





Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Some "Sweet" Summer Recommendations from Watsonville



Here are five recommendations for some super sweet stuff...


1. Sweet Art...



...at the MFA in Boston.

Favorite collections include Asian galleries and modern art. 
If you're in Boston and you're looking for the perfect outing, stop by.
You can browse around in air-conditioned happiness.
There's also a great restaurant and gift shop.



2. Sweet BBQ...



...at Sweet Cheeks in Fenway.

 
If you like Top Chef and incredible food, you can't miss Sweet Cheeks.
This BBQ joint--in the Fenway Triangle in Boston--is Chef Tiffani Faison's exquisite creation.
The biscuits with honey butter are so good, even my Filipino husband--who doesn't like bread--was IN LOVE. Every single thing we tried was superb.




3. Sweet book...



...The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert

Yes, the Big Misunderstanding goes on a bit too long, but this book was so adorable, I didn't mind.
Reichert brings Milwaukee alive through food, quirky characters, and second chances.
This is a lovely beach read...light, sweet, and fun.
And now I want cake.



4. Sweet Abs...



...on Tarzan, King of the Jungle and King of the Hot Body!


Perfect summer movie. Epic music, gorgeous cinematography, beautiful people.
And Alexander Skarsgard's dirty, flexing, sweaty body.

Happy Summer!




5. Sweet antiques...



...at the Quechee Antique Mall in Quechee, Vermont.


If you're looking for a fun summer activity, Quechee Vermont has a lot to offer. Stop at the antique mall for McCoy pottery and antique tins, then watch the glass-blowers at Simon Pearce, and finish off with the best lunch of your life at Simon Pearce Restaurant while overlooking the Ottauquechee River.

It just doesn't get better than this.




Happy Summer!

Love, Penny

Friday, June 24, 2016

Author Self-Care Tips


I often see authors talking about depression, anxiety, and other issues they are struggling with on a daily basis.

Working at home as a writer can be really difficult. It's isolating. It can be lonely, physically exhausting, and emotionally exhausting.

I have a few personal tips that have helped me, and I thought I would discuss them today.


1. Keep the lights on!

As soon as my husband went off to work, and the kids were off to school, I used to turn out all the household lights to save on the electric bill. I only kept on my office lights. But I noticed something. The darkness was oppressive and melancholy--especially during the winter months when there was very little natural light/sunshine entering the house.

I tried a little experiment. I kept on the kitchen and living room lights. It made a huge difference in my mood. When you're trapped in the house all day writing, your space is very important. If it's cluttered, you feel unsettled. If it's dark, you feel down. I noticed right away that my mood improved when I was surrounded by light vs. darkness. That sounds melodramatic, doesn't it? Hee hee. Well, it really worked. Try it!


2. Put the food away.

If you're trying to diet/stay healthy and work from home, it's tough when the kitchen is always five steps away. Also, food can be a distraction when you're trying to get work done. My kids have bags of chips and cookies everywhere. It's way too easy to grab a handful of potato chips when the bag is lying open on the kitchen counter.

I make a point to clean up the main kitchen island. The only thing allowed on there is a bowl of fruit. All cookies, chips, and other snacks must be wrapped up and put away in the pantry. Out of sight, out of mind. No more mindless snacking.

Just because you are working at home does not mean you need to eat constantly. And when you *are* hungry, it's good to have healthy snacks ready to go. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good protein will keep your mood elevated. Having a shelf in the fridge with pre-cut veggies/fruits, cheese sticks, mini yogurts, and other healthy snack foods is a great idea.


3.  Add morning structure.

It can become overwhelming to have eight hours of freedom, especially if you are prone to anxiety. I have a to-do list for the morning to get me started. It includes making my bed, starting the first load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and walking. The two "W"s on my list are walking and writing. I walk for at least 30 minutes--which clears my head and helps me to percolate about my book--and then I come home and write for at least an hour. Usually, that turns into 2 hours, but as long as I can check off "1 HOUR WRITING" on my list, I feel like I've accomplished something.

The to-do list is really critical for folks who have trouble getting organized and staying on top of their anxiety. That structure makes you feel in control and like you are achieving your tasks. Also, by having "A WALK" on my list, I am forced to get dressed, get outside, and not hide like a hermit in my house all day. The walk is incredibly important for both physical and mental well-being. More about that later!
 

4. Take a social break.

Living in isolation is not good for your soul. Sometimes we need quiet time to concentrate and work. And sometimes we need to reach out and connect with people. Social media--in theory--can be a great way to accomplish this. However, more often than not, social media can be rage-inducing or depressing or horrifying. Too many disturbing news stories, animal torture pics, etc.

When you need a pat on the back or some support, make sure you have a way to connect with your friends. A private Facebook page where you can vent is fabulous. A group text where you can discuss the latest Tom Hiddleston news is also wonderful. Private emails are good, too. Just make sure you have a way to be in touch with the folks who know you, love you, support you.

One more thing...never underestimate the power of a pet connection! One hug with my dachshund Lucy can change my whole mood. There's a reason that research shows folks with pets are happier. Unconditional love and affection is everything!


5. Get outside and move.

This is a biggie for me, and probably for a lot of other writers. We all remember those deadline days when you never change out of your pajamas, you forget to eat, and you sit in a chair for ten straight hours finishing your book. That's not healthy for mind or body. And probably not that great for your book either!

I make sure to walk every morning. It makes me feel connected to my environment, my neighborhood, and to a larger world than my little office. It's great for your physical health, and it's vital for me working on my book. I walk and think!

I also try to add some errands into each day that force me to get out of the house. It could be something as simple as heading to the post office or picking up dinner at the grocery store. For folks dealing with anxiety, sometimes getting out of the house can feel daunting. Making--and achieving--little goals is a good thing.


Any other bright ideas to combat depression, anxiety, or help with at-home work?

Hope these tips help!

Penny