Friday, May 10, 2013


I've been exploring ways to be and stay healthy—food choices, exercise, sleep, and some quiet time to think and reflect. Over the course of the month, I’ll be sharing things I've discovered. One of the things I have been doing daily, regardless of the season, is getting outside in the sunshine. I've become a bit of a sun-worshiper and I find it has helped me immensely. 

People need sunshine to function optimally. Being outdoors in the sun builds strong bones, a stronger immune system, helps your body regulate calcium, lowers your blood pressure, promotes clearer skin, and a healthier brain. Vitamin sunshine is also known as vitamin D and is one of those vitamins that is made by our bodies by being in the sunshine and in contact with UVB radiation.

According to Scientific American, vitamin D protects our neurons and reduces inflammation in the body. The data from recent studies show that those people with lower vitamin D levels showed slower information processing speed and lower cognitive functions. They went on to say:  "Three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D..." Wow! 

As writers we spend an enormous amount of time indoors and in front of the computer. It’s basically an inactive lifestyle and not at all healthy for us. Aside from losing tone and gaining pounds we don’t get enough vitamin sunshine—or vitamin D.

Vladimir Volegov
How to counter balance that deskbound lifestyle and increase our productivity?

Get outside. Take a walk in the sunshine.

There are three immediate benefits.  It will clear your mind when it’s feeling sluggish, unable to concentrate, or feeling restless and slow. The second benefit is a walk or run will give you needed exercise. The third benefit is the sunlight will provide your body with much needed vitamin D. 

Did you know that your body could produce vitamin D in as little as 10-15 minutes (or up to 30 if you have a darker skin tone) in bright sunlight? You need to be exposing at least 25% of your body. That’s a bit harder to do in the winter. 

How much sun is safe without suncreen?  

Skin pigmentation affects how much radiation your skin absorbs. The darker the skin, the more it's protected against skin cancer but the less able it is to absorb UVB rays. It also depends upon how much skin is exposed and the time of day. If you're fair skinned and sunning yourself outside in a bathing suit at noon, you only need a few minutes without sunscreen. If you're already tan or of Hispanic origin, you need maybe 15 to 20 minutes (approximately twice a week) to produce the amount of vitamin D your body requires.

Do carry your sunblock but allow your skin at least 10-15 without applying it as sunblocks interfere with allowing your skin to absorb the needed UVBs. Rule of thumb: Getting half the amount of exposure that it takes for your skin to turn to pink. If you want a longer walk or run then by all means apply sunscreen.

UV radiation doesn't penetrate glass. Sitting in front of a closed window doesn't make vitamin D. Your best bet is to take a walk in the noonday sunshine—especially in the winter when the sun’s rays are at too much of an angle. This happens during the early and later part of the day and during most of the day during the winter season. Midday gives the best angle to produce vitamin D. Another option is a UVB light or UVB (high density UVA isn't recommended) tanning bed in the winter.

There are other ways to get, or supplement  your vitamin D but that’s another article.

So the next time you hit that writer block, have problems concentrating, or feel sluggish or restless?  Go grab some vitamin sunshine—it really does a body good

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


That's a big leap, isn't it? What I appreciate about my guest, Holly Jacobs, is not only does she tell a good story, rich in family and friendship, but she worked hard to see her dream a reality. It wasn't without rejections. No overnight success, just plain hard work and the love of telling stories. I'll let her tell you all about it.


There’s the world the way you want it—maybe even need it to be. And there’s the world the way it is. It’s hard to rectify the two. Sometimes it feels almost impossible. But in the world the way it is right now, you've got to figure out a way to cope with that."  ~April Showers, Holly Jacobs, 5/13

That’s a quote from this month’s release, April Showers.  It’s the second book in my A Valley Ridge Wedding trilogy and that paragraph was one of the first things I wrote for the story.  That small snippet became the foundation I built the story around. The quote hints at the fact that these characters live in a hard reality.  Granted, their reality is one I created, but they are not living their dream at the beginning of the book…but don’t worry, they are by the end! 

The fact that I get to create stories and characters is my reality, but more than that, it’s my dream.

I’ve always been a reader.  I mean, I can’t remember a time didn't have a book I was reading.  And like most readers, occasionally I’d find myself wishing I’d wrote a particular book. One day, that wishing became something more.  I was wishing I could write a new book…a story I’d created.

More than a decade ago, I finally said the words out loud.  “I’d like to write.”  My husband didn't laugh.  He didn't scoff.  He didn't tell me to get my head of the clouds.  He said, “Sure, do that.”  I played around with my writing at first.  I sold a poem ($4…uh, I decided poetry wasn't for me).  I sold some literary fiction.  I’d always been a science fiction/fantasy reader, and thought my stories might go in that direction, but what I kept noticing is that they skewed towards relationships. I was fascinated by exploring how one person relates to another.  I found myself gravitating toward romance.

I’d found my niche.

Uh, but I hadn't found my publisher.  I focused on Harlequin’s comedy line, Duets.  I’d send Duets a book, they’d reject it.  I’d send another.  They’d reject it.  And yet another…then, you guessed it, they’d reject it.  My dream was getting a bit battered and I thought about facing the reality that my being a writer wasn't going to happen for me.  But luckily, my husband had an entirely different reality in mind.  He kept encouraging me and telling me that he was sure I’d make it.  I’d make noises about earning real money, he ignore them and said, “Write.”

In March of 2000 I got a call from a Harlequin editor (who’s still my editor) and she bought that first book, I Waxed My Legs for This?  My December 2013 book, A Valley Ridge Christmas, will be my 35th for Harlequin and my 50th over all.

Over the years, many of the Harlequin lines I wrote for closed.  Duets, Silhouette Romance, Flipside, Signature, Everlasting Love.  Each time a line closed, I had to reinvent myself a bit and stretch my writing in order to sell to a new line.  I think learning to be flexible in how I tell a story has made my writing stronger.  I still write light romantic humor for Montlake Romance (which bought out Avalon and republished all my old Avalons, along with December’s new, Everything But a Dog) and I’m writing these bigger, more serious dramas for Harlequin’s SuperRomance. 

But mainly, I’m living my dream. I've sold two and a half million books in more than twenty-five countries.  I've written comedy, sweet humor and drama.  This August my first cozy mystery will be released (and my family was just a bit nervous when I talked so happily about someone being murdered). 

I've been so lucky that my family and friends have supported that dream, and that readers around the world have as well!  And I’m very lucky that with a lot of hard work the world the way I wanted it to be has aligned with the world the way it is! That’s a precious gift…and it’s one I pass on to the characters in April Showers!




Rainbows don't come without rain

The world you want isn't always how the world is. Former marine Sebastian Bennington discovers that upon his return to Valley Ridge for a friend's wedding. Even his grandfather's health isn't what he's expecting. Nor is the interference from his grandfather's young business partner, Lily Paul.

Even more aggravating, Lily seems to know everything about Sebastian, thanks to his grandfather. But Sebastian can't get her to open up about anything. Is she using all that merry sunshine to hide something deeper and darker? He's determined to find out, as long as their crazy attraction for each other doesn't get in the way….EXCERPT

-Available in audio book format-

Holly Jacobs' books have made Walden’s Bestseller List and won numerous awards such as the National Readers' Choice Award, the Holt Medallion Award and the Bookseller’s Best. In 2004 Holly won Romantic Times’s prestigious Career Achievement Award for Series Love and Laughter.  Holly is currently writing for Harlequin Superromance.  Find Holly: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  Website, Holly's Blog 

Monday, May 6, 2013


DISTILL: to subject something to or transform it by distillation; to extract the essence 

Have you ever watched an herbalist make essential oils? It’s a fascinating process and one that I will be the first to tell you I know only the basics of the process. I've watched a friend of mine make batches of essential oils.

There is a chamber or pot that holds raw plant material—flowers, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seed, or peels (which is yet another process). The chamber is then placed over or above a pot of water. As the water heats, the steam passes through the raw plant material, and allows for the vapor to flow into a coil where it condenses back into a liquid, which drips into another container. This is what you would call an essential oil. That means it carries the distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant. The oil is then allowed to cool and is poured into storage vials. Later, my friend will bring out her ‘recipe’ book and mix the oils to create certain scents or properties for herbal medicines. It’s a time consuming process and take much more raw plant material than one would assume to create enough oil to fill a little vial. After watching the process I now understand why essential oils can get pricey.

If one is doing peels or fruit to make oil it is first pressed into a paste (that takes some work unless you have a press to do it for you) and then put in the chamber over boiling water and the same process ensues to collect the oil into storage containers. Some fruit/peel/pulp is cold pressed—meaning no heat. The pressure from the weighted press causes the oil droplets to separate from the raw plant material and drip into a container. Olive oil can be made this way.

My mind always jumps to correlations when watching a physical process. I've had a story I wrote on my mind. I know it needs editing. As I watched this process it got me thinking about my rather fat story. I realized that I needed to do some distilling. All those words, scenes, descriptions, and characters (raw material) need a heating chamber so the essence of the story could be condensed into a purer form. Once I had the essential oils of the story distilled I could then mix them to give impact to what I wanted my story to be—much like my friend getting out her recipe book and adding tiny drips and drops oils to make something new and wow. More than a drop can create an overpowering mess.

I’m no different than any other writer. I have attachments to certain phrases and scenes but unless that scene is moving the story forward there is no place for it. I have to detach and let it go. I’m not saying my scene is worthless—it’s not. There was a purpose as I wrote it and that function could have been a necessary ingredient to define a character or back story in my mind so I could find the path to move the story from point A to point B. It was something I needed as a writer but not necessarily something that the reader needs. I want them focusing on the distinctive characters, events and the emotions of the story.

I need to put away the cups and tablespoons and get out my dropper and add some drops of the essential oils to enhance the punch of a scene without losing the story. I want wow in the now.

  • So, how goes your writing this week?