Thursday, April 24, 2014

Demystifying Dementia: Eating Right can help



After PHS editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles’s mother in law was taken into care with late stage dementia, Michelle had a crash course in dealing with dementia.
Basically researchers know that diet plays an important part in slowing dementia down. The right nutrition ensures the brain gets what it needs to function properly. It is also known that the long term consequences of anorexia includes dementia.  Some people theorise that the lack of proper nutrients at a young age can cause dementia later in life. For example the severe rationing during WW2 might be a cause of the marked increase of dementia of older people but this is impossible to say for definite.
What is clear that a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables can help delay dementia and slow its progress down. And it seems that eating healthfully before you hit about 50 can help.  
My mother in law before she was taken into care refused to eat. She would say that she wasn’t hungry or had been picking at food. This meant most of her diet consisted of toast and biscuits. A great aunt on my mother’s side had the same thing – her diet consisted mainly of Vanilla wafers and weak tea. She too ended up in care with dementia. 
Poor nutrition is known to effect brain function, hence why the big push for children to eat proper breakfasts. But it is easy to forget that the elderly can have trouble eating for a wide variety of reasons and that the narrowing of their diet can lead to other complications. In the later stages, patients forget how to chew and even how to swallow. They also forget how to use cutlery.
Getting people with dementia to eat, remember to eat and to eat a wide variety of food can be a challenge. At my mother in law’s care home, all the residents eat together and outside visitors are not allowed. This is to allow the patients to concentrate on the food and to ensure that they don’t say they had just eaten. When she was first in the home, my mother in law tried her old tricks of saying that she had already eaten etc. She was rapidly rumbled.
Vitamin B plays a role as does folic acid in improving brain function. Some people who suffer from dementia have found that if they take vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements, their brain function improves.  It is though high homocysteine might impair brain function. It is worth being tested for high homocysteine as some researchers believe that this plays a part. My mother in law however refused to take any sort of vitamin or pill. So sometimes these things are easier to say than actually to do.
Omega 3 Fat also is supposed to help protect. So think about cold water fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring etc. Seeds such as flaxseed and pumpkin seed are also considered to be useful. Ground flaxseed is very easy to add to smoothies or sprinkle on salads/soups but keep it in the fridge as it does go off easily.
Increasing your Vitamin C and vitamin E intake through eating a wide range of colourful vegetables can also assist. Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, watercress and kale can be useful. Berries like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are possibly better options than bananas.
Avoiding processed food because of its inherently high rate of sugar and salt can also help.
The bottom line really is that eating real food, mostly plant-based provides some protection from dementia later in life. It also helps you to look good now.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide variety of time periods. You can learn more about her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Destination Life: Going Home Again : : Anne McAllister

lifes journey biggerAnne is back in Montana – and loving every minute of it!

A dozen years ago – though believe me it doesn’t seem nearly that long in some respects – I wrote my last cowboy.  He was Deke Malone, new single father of a two year old son, making peace with his own father after years of estrangement, and discovering that the love of his life had, a long time before, been right under his nose.  The book was called The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle, and it was very much a book of my heart.

I got to “go back” to Elmer, Montana briefly in my Presents, One-Night Love Child, a few years later when the heroine of that book, Sara McMaster, had her life thrown into chaos by the sudden unexpected appearance of her six year old son’s father.  Flynn wasn’t a cowboy, most of the book took place in Ireland, but it still made me happy because I got to touch base with that world.

Second Chance BrideSince then, I’ve been writing other books set in other places – exotic places like Santorini and Fiji and the Cote d’Azur and intensely urban bustling places like New York City.  I did sneak back to Montana a couple of times (once in the Santorini book and once in the Fiji book), but my heroes had never been cowboys – and to be honest, I’ve missed them.

Now, thanks to Tule Publishing’s Montana Born imprint, I get to go back.  Later this spring (or very early summer, depending on how you define these things, which in Iowa, this year, could still be winter) my new book, my COWBOY book, Last Year’s Bride, will be coming out.  And I can’t believe how much fun I’ve had writing it (well, I still am. The fun continues even as I write). 

I’ve loved going back to Montana. I’ve loved battling the snowstorms and the ornery bulls and the gumbo in the country roads Almost a Brideand my hard-edged, soft-hearted, closed-mouthed hero.  It’s been a treat.

You know what else has been a treat?  Working with all the wonderful women I’ve been privileged to work with in the brides’ series in Tule’s Montana Born books.  Mine is either the last or the second to the last in the series. I haven’t figured that out yet.

But I’ve been absolutely loving reading the ones that have already appeared.  Trish Morey and Sarah Mayberry wrote these spectacular twins – Scarlett and Tara Buck – and I adored both of their stories (Trish’s Second Chance Bride and Sarah’s Almost a Bride), especially how seamlessly their heroines moved from Trish’s book to Sarah’s. 

 

I loved Jane Porter’s Sheenan guys.  I read Troy’s story(Beauty’s Kiss)  first because I’ve got a scene in his hotel.  But then I went back and found Brock’s (Christmas at Copper Mountain) and now I just want her to stop with all this publishing stuff and just write and write and write.  (No, Jane, I don’t. I just want you to have more hours in a day – 48 at least – so you can do both!)

What a Bride Wantsread Kelly Hunter’s What A Bride Wants and so loved Ella and Sawyer that I wanted the story to go on and on.  I’m caught up on Brides at the moment (though I think there’s a new one this week), but fortunately I have several Copper Mountain books  to go back and catch up on.  It’s so much fun. 

I think the fun is in reading these women whose books I have always enjoyed, writing something a little different.  They are branching out, having fun with the lack of “line” to write to, writing instead the stories they want to read (well, I don’t know, maybe they always want to read their other stories, too. I shouldn’t put words in their mouths). All I can say is, I’m really liking being able to see them do new stuff, fun stuff, deeply emotional stuff, laugh-out-loud stuff. 

Beauty's KissAnd I’ve so enjoyed doing it with them – loaning a character for a newspaper interview for Kathleen O’Brien’s book, borrowing a character to have a bit part in the back story of my own book.  Using the world of Marietta to bring a greater life to my own book has been such a delightful experience.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve loved all the earlier books I’ve written. I’ve been happy creating Elmer, Montana and Day’s Harbor, Maine and various other worlds for my own characters to inhabit. But sharing a world with other writers is something I’ve rarely had a chance to do.  It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating. It makes the journey even more enjoyable than the destination.

LastYearsBride-us,jpgDo you like reading about worlds written by several authors?  Which ones have been your favorites?

 

 

Watch for all the  Montana Born Brides. There will be new books coming out from Katherine Garbera, Joanne Walsh, Megan Crane and me. 

Keep an eye out, down the road a ways, for my very own Last Year’s Bride

Friday, April 18, 2014

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: 20 Feet From Stardom

Harlequin KISS/Modern Tempted author Heidi Rice gets behind a great little documentary with a big-hearted message.

A few weeks ago I was in Dublin for a night out with my best mate and we were trying to decide what film to go and see, when we noticed a little music documentary about background singers from the 60s-70s-80s-90s and noughties. We're both soul rebels at heart so the promise of some great voices was enough for us, what we didn't realise is that this is a movie about much, much more than just music.

It's about women with amazing voices but also amazing stories to tell. Stories of hard work, perseverence, constant disappointment, huge talent and cruel setbacks, but the determination to remain strong. It's a story about life really and all those little (and large) things it sticks in your way to stop you achieving your dreams, but most of all (and here's the big inspirational message) it's about how you can still make those dreams count... Even if you may never win the big prize, because sometimes the journey (and the enjoyment in the journey) is enough! Especially if you can sing like an angel.

There's sanguine and justifiably awed commentary from the likes of Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Stevie Wonder - all paying tribute to astonishing singers such as Darlene Love, Tata Vega, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer. And about time too, because when you hear these women sing, you'll realise what a huge part they've played in making  these men look good on stage (and on their hit records). But ultimately the big draw of this movie is hearing the women themselves, and finding out how they've stayed true to the music even when what they do has been consistently undervalued - or deliberately erased.



Darlene Love's story is perhaps the most agonising and yet the most uplifting. The 'actual' voice behind the Crystals hit Christmas Baby Please Come Home, Love ended up cleaning houses to make ends meet... Until she heard the hit on the radio one afternoon while cleaning a woman's toilet and knew that she had to get back to what she loved. Now in her seventies, she's finally getting all the attention she deserves (and should have had long ago)... And then there's Merry Clayton and her awe-inspiring, send-shivers-down-your-spine singing on The Stones Gimme Shelter. Clayton's short-lived career as a solo singer faltered because... Why? Who knows? You'll be hard-pressed to figure it out when you hear her sing, and think of all those auto-tuned, talent-show micro-celebrities that rack up hit records these days thanks to some nifty packaging by the likes of Simon Cowell... Or Lisa Fischer who had her moment in the spotlight in the eighties, and somehow lost it, by not being tough enough or ambitious enough (or fast enough producing her second album) but can still blow an audience away and is happy in herself with what she has achieved... A lifelong career in a business that happily sucks people up and spits them out without pausing for breath.



Go see this movie, the music is awesome, but the stories are more so. It's an education, not just in life (and the music industry), but in holding on to your dreams.

Heidi is currently working on her 2nd Cosmo Red Hot Read. Her latest Harlequin KISS/Modern Tempted Beach Bar Baby is out now in the US & the UK. come have a natter on her blog, her website, FB or Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Harmony Evans: Spring Cleaning Writing Expectations



Is it spring in your part of the world? You're lucky! Here in Cleveland, we're still waiting, but ever-hopeful that the weather will turn into something that makes us smile, rather than cringe. In the meantime, I'm starting to get ready for brighter, sunnier and warmer days by giving my home some extra-special attention. I'm washing the baseboards (gasp!), scouring the floor on my hands and knees (ouch!) and actually replacing the filter in my window air conditioning units (finally!).

All this hard work is inspiring me to "spring clean" my expectations around my writing.

YES. I am still committed to writing every day and doing my very best.
YES. I am still committed to my writing career and continuing to move it forward.
YES. I am still committed to my readers and potential readers.

But here's what's changing....my expectations around the WHO, WHAT, WHY and WHEN of my writing journey.

WHO: I currently write for Harlequin and I love it, but I am also open to writing for other publishers, and even self-publishing some day. I know that there are many roads to publication, but I didn't really internalize this until recently. The sky is the limit for writers and authors today -- and the opportunities to reach readers are endless -- and that's a good thing! I've "spring cleaned" my tunnel vision and my goals are wider now.

WHAT: I currently write romance, but I'd love to write other genres too. I am just in awe of authors who can do this! I love reading articles about authors who have transitioned into other genres and who still write in their original genre. I've "spring cleaned" my expectation that I always have to write romance.

WHY: When I'm fighting to stay awake at night or I just don't think a scene is working, it's easy to start doubting myself. I've "spring cleaned" my expectation that my writing should always go smoothly, and now I try to consciously write to the joy...and not focus on anything else.

WHEN: I struggle with this one. When will I feel like I'm a success? When will this book ever be finished? Time is something that we never have enough of, and I'm working to "spring clean" my expectation that time is all I need to accomplish my writing goals. Time is important, but I also need strength and stamina and the ability to see past the deadline -- and finish my writing projects.

What about you? Does spring cleaning your home or apartment inspire you to change your thinking about your writing or other career? Comments welcome below!

Until next month -- stay blessed!
Harmony


Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance, the leading publisher of African-American romance. She received the 2013 Romance Slam Jam Emma Award for "Debut Author of the Year". In addition, she was a 2012 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards Double-Finalist ("First Series Romance" and "Kimani Romance").  

Her third novel, LOVING LANEY, will be released in June and is the third and final book in the "The Browards of Montana" series.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RIDING THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER #4: WRITERS BLOCK

There you are, cruising along on your manuscript when suddenly, wham! You hit a wall. Or you’re finally going to start the new project you’ve been dreaming about for months only to find yourself stalled on page 2. You’ve got writer’s block.

Only you don’t.  Not really.  How do I know this?  Simple. 

Say we were in a workshop and I asked you to write a paragraph following up this sentence: “The princess looked to the door and gasped.” Chances are you would be able to write several paragraphs. You might even come up with an entire story idea based on what you wrote.

That’s because there’s no such thing as writer’s block.

There are, however, circumstances that can block your ability to work on a particular project.  In my experience, these circumstances fall into one of four categories:
  1. 1.      Story problems
  2. 2.      Physical issues
  3. 3.      Live Events
  4. 4.      Emotional and psychological hurdles.
Story problems.  These are the most obvious – and fortunately – the easiest types of blocks to fix.  Your story stalls because you took a wrong turn plot wise or your characters aren’t fleshed out as deeply as they should be.  These are the kinds of blocks that are solved by stepping back for an hour or two to look at the story from a different angle.  Most of the time we already intuitively know the answer out of block, and simply need a push to do so. 

Physical issues.  Take it from a chronic headache sufferer, if you feel lousy, your creativity will suffer.  If you didn’t get enough sleep, or if you have a nasty head cold, the words will seize up.

I’m going to take a moment to bring up another physical issue that often gets short shrift, and that’s PMS.  Do not underestimate the draining power of hormones!  I know for a fact there are days when I simply cannot focus to save my life.  I’m distracted, I’m moody and I have difficulty finishing sentences.  Interestingly, these days occur every 14 days in my cycle.  (Frequently they come with headaches or some other physical ailment as well.)  If you are a female writer, I strongly suggest you take a good look at your own monthly patterns to see if hormones are an issue for you as well.

Life events. We are not robots. Ailing parents, sick children, family crises – all of these happenings can zap our creativity.  Granted, like everyone else in the world dealing with problems, we often have to work regardless.  But there are times when life’s hassles become so overwhelming, we simply can’t write. 

Mental and Psychological issues.  Ahh, I saved the toughest issues for last. Writers are magnets for self-doubt and insecurity. A bad review or rejection can send us into an emotional tailspin.  Even good things like a RITA final or a request for a full manuscript can freeze the words in our head. I’ve become blocked after signing a new contract. 

Internal monsters are tenacious buggers.  They dig their claws into our brains and they don’t let go.  I wish I could tell you there’s a magic bullet to defeat these demons, but the truth is, there isn’t.  Self-doubt and insecurity never go away, no matter where we are in our career.  And in a way, we don’t want them to disappear completely.  After all, as nasty as our inner critics can be, they also drive you he can sound, they also drives us to create our best work.  It’s our inner critic that isn’t satisfied with “good enough”.  Without the inner critic, we’d never grow as a writers.  The best we can do therefore, is learn to quiet them for a short time  or learn to co-exist with them in order to get the work done.

So now that we know the causes of block, how do we beat it away so words reappear on the page?

First, we determine what is causing our block in the first place.  If it’s a physical issue or a life event overwhelming you, cut yourself some slack.  Like I said, writers aren’t word producing robots, no matter how much we’d like to be.  If you’re sick, take a sick day.  If you didn’t get enough sleep, take a nap.  If you’re drowning in stress, take a mental health day.  The solution is to give yourself the same advice you might give a non-writing friend in similar circumstances.  

If your block is a story problem, ask yourself how you might rewrite the scene differently.  Or if you are being stubborn.  Are you forcing the action on the page or are you letting your characters tell their story their way? 

Be careful of over-thinking, however!  Make sure you actually have a story problem and aren’t really battling a mental demon.  Remember the other month when I said you needed to understand your writing process?  This is where self-knowledge becomes invaluable.  I know that on page 90 of every manuscript, I will decide the story isn’t working.  Because I make that decision on page 90 of every book I’ve ever written, I ignore my impulse to chuck everything and start again.  Middle-book syndrome isn’t always caused by the book, if you get my drift.

If, after ruling out story, life and body problems, you are still blocked, then the problem lies inside your head.  Now there are a zillion tricks to get the words flowing short term.  For example:

  • Find a buddy and together, do timed writing springs where you are forced to produce something. 

  • Bribe yourself.  If you produce X number of words, you can watch Game of Thrones on DVR.
  • Post motivational signs.  I used to have one that read “You’re Only Writing a Draft” to remind myself the page doesn’t have to be perfect.  Right now, I have one that says "Keep Calm and Trust the Process" to remind myself of the page 90 freak out.
  • Give yourself a mental pep talk.  Argue with your demon.  Write a list of positives about your writing to deflect the inner critic.
  • Take a day off.  Granted, you don’t want to walk away too long because that can’t lead to inertia, but a day away to gain fresh perspective can help quell the demons.
  • Reduce your goals. Instead of demanding your muse produce 1000 words, tell her to produce 500. I know some people who do something called “100 words for 100 days.”  The idea is to take the pressure off your muse so she isn’t so stressed, thus eliminating the power your demon has over her.
  • Change media. Change location. Change your play list. Trick your demons by mixing up the brain signals.

In short, do whatever you need to do to put words on paper. Surviving the roller coaster means strapping yourself into that car no matter what.  In the end, by the way, you’ll find you feel better simply because you produced.  And happiness means you’ll be that much more confident about the writing the next day, and the day after that. Until the first draft is finished.

Do you have a tip for busting through your blocked periods?  Please share below.  The more tools we can share, the better!


Barb Wallace struggles with writer’s block of all sorts on a daily basis.  If not for word sprints and ledge buddies, she’d never have finished her last manuscript.  Her latest story, LOVE IN THE SHADOWS, is out this month from Entangled Indulgence. 

"A delicious hero and an emotional read," NY Times bestseller, Jennifer Probst.  For purchase information, visit Entangled Publishing. 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Male on Monday: Sexy Celebrity Dads!

Kimani Romance author Pamela Yaye explains the thrill of the celebrity dad.




USHER                                    MARK WAHLBERG       MARIO LOPEZ      NICK LACHEY
Usher
Mark Walberg
Mario Lopez
Nick Lachey
        

I like dreamy eyes, juicy lips, and a washboard stomach as much
as the next girl, but to me there’s nothing sexier than a loving, sensitive
father. Every time I see a man dotting on his child I melt. Every. Single. Time.
Fathers often get a bad rap for not taking care of their children, but there
are tons of hot, sexy dads out there who step up to the plate every day. I see them
playing tag with their kids at the park, reading books to their daughters at the
public library, and cheering at little league soccer games. Men who love children  
make me swoon, and all of my girlfriends agree: Fathers are the hottest men on the
planet. (And, I think celebrity dads are especially hot!!!! Check out the pictures
throughout this post. I think you’ll agree.)

A few weeks ago, while shopping in the mall, a short, gregarious guy struck up a conversation
with me in the food court. I spoke to him for a few minutes, then found a quiet place to eat
my lunch. I spotted, “Mr. Gregarious” across the aisle, and did a double take. He was sitting
at a table, cradling a bright-eyed toddler in his arms. He was feeding her apple slices, and tenderly
stroking her curly hair. What a sight! I felt guilty staring at him, but I couldn’t help myself. He was
SO dreamy! And I wasn’t the only one making eyes at him. Other women were checking him out too,
and for good reason. A man who puts his child’s needs first is drop-dead gorgeous in my book, and
that will never, ever change.
David Beckham

Matthew McConaughey
Patrick Demsey

LL Cool J (Todd Smith)
                     
 DAVID BECKHAM MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY   PATRICK DEMPSEY            LL COOL J (TODD SMITH)

Pamela Yaye has a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education, and her love of African-American fiction inspired her



to pursue a career in writing romance. Her fourteenth Harlequin Kimani Romance novel, Designed by Desire, was released



in October 2013. When Pamela’s not writing about strong, feisty heroines and the alpha males who love them, this busy



wife, mother, and teacher is watching sports, experimenting in the kitchen, or planning her next family vacation. Pamela



lives in Alberta, Canada with her real-life hero, and adorable, but mischievous son and daughter. To learn more about,



Pamela, and her steamy romance novels visit: www.pamelayaye.com









Saturday, April 12, 2014

Writing Inspiration: Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance



PHS editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles revisits Kate Walker’s classic text on writing series romance.
Last week, Kate Walker finally published her updated 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance as an ebook. It is quite simply a masterclass in how to write series romance. A number of category authors do point to it as being instrumental in giving them the tools they needed before they sold.
Kate covers the basics as well as  advanced skills. She talks about creating emotional punch which resonates with the reader as well as dealing with sensuality and sex. She includes several worksheets and has various exercises that are designed to get you asking why.
I will always remember reading – why does the hero fall in love with  the heroine? Think beyond the obvious. The same thing goes for the heroine – why does she fall for the hero? It has to be more than he is rich and good looking.
When the book was released as a kindle book last week, it shot to the number one slot in writing craft books.  If  you are serious about writing series romance, you should have this ebook in your library.

You can learn more about Kate Walker, her books and her writing courses on her website : 

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods for Harlequin Historical. Her next book Return of the Viking Warrior is published in May 2014. You can learn more about Michelle and her over 20 books on www.michellestyles.co.uk