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Friday, August 12, 2022

Fighting Fibro: A Long Overdue Update

 


My last Fighting Fibro post was back toward the end of May. At that time, I was attempting to wean myself (with my doctor's guidance) off my medication. I was convinced that I'd feel better doing so, that I'd finally get rid of the fatigue plaguing me, and that I could manage with diet and exercise. 

Ha! I should've known better. 

I lasted about 30 days before I dragged my butt back to my doctor. I was in in constant pain, which in and of itself drains energy, so I really wasn't kicking the fatigue--I simply was tired for different reasons. And all the symptoms that come with Fibro--beyond the pain--came back with a vengeance! 


I was a raging bitch on a good day (and there weren't many of them). I was snapping at everyone for everything. If I could have gotten away from myself, I would have! The IBS symptoms returned, too. No matter what I ate or drank, I felt terrible afterwards. Bloating. Cramps. Overall grossness. Don't even get me started on the headaches. Lack of focus. Brain fog. 

I was, once again, a hot mess. 


So, I went back to my doctor, and we discussed other medication options. I wanted to try to go back on Gabapentin, which was what I was on when I was first diagnosed, but that messed with my blood pressure, and my doctor felt that was unsafe. 


I was adamant that I did not want to go back on the same dosage of Cymbalta I'd been on because then I became a zombie, and I couldn't function throughout the day. She suggested some other options, but I was leery about starting an entirely new medication I knew nothing about. We compromised, and I was prescribed the lowest dosage of Cymbalta (20 mg) that I take before bed every other night. 


Fast forward to the end of July when I had my 30 day check-up... While I wasn't suffering from quite as much fatigue, and I didn't feel like a zombie most days, I was still having a lot of consistent pain. Thankfully, the other symptoms (IBS, mood swings, headaches, brain fog, etc.,) had gone away again. Now, I just needed to find a way to manage the constant pain. And yes, I was still consistently working out and eating less sugar / carbs / foods that naturally cause inflammation. But, it wasn't working.

Now, my doctor had left the practice (she's having a baby and moving out of state), so I saw a new doctor. I liked her immediately! She really took the time to listen to me and my concerns, and she agreed that increasing my Cymbalta wouldn't help me. Unfortunately, for Cymbalta to be an effective fibro treatment, you have to take at least 30 mg daily. 


Uh-uh. No way!

She eventually prescribed me a second medication--10 mg of Prozac to be taken daily, first thing in the morning. She swore this would work in conjunction with the Cymbalta, not make me so tired I'm a zombie, but still combat the pain I'm having. 

To say I was skeptical was an understatement. But, I'm not a doctor, so...

At first, I didn't notice much of a difference--until I accidentally missed 3 doses in a row--and then I felt it. Pain. So. Much. Pain! As of today, I've been back on the Prozac in the morning and Cymbalta every other night, and I feel GOOD AGAIN! I have energy. I don't have constant pain anymore. No more headaches, IBS, mood swings... 

Here's hoping things continue to improve. I return to my doctor the end of this month for another check-in. We'll see how that goes :) 



Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Don't Lego

Today, author Rosalie Spielman is here to spill the tea...



Building a writing career is not unlike building with Legos. Everyone builds a little different, some faster than others, some use different methods and are more or less organized than others, and some might have to restart to make their structure work. But everyone has to put the work in, piece by piece, and build it up over time. 

In 2019, I started querying a cozy mystery. During my research, I was introduced to the mystery writers organization, Sisters in Crime (SinC), and joined the national and local chapters. They are a great organization that has provided a plethora of learning and networking opportunities, and joining ended up being my first step toward publication. In the Lego metaphor, it has been a base plate that provides my structure support. 



As a SinC Chesapeake Chapter member, I received an email about anthology submissions. Had I ever written a short story? No, not really. But I had an idea for a story, so I decided to try it. Grabbing this opportunity ended up being my next building block.

I was shocked when I got the email that said my paranormal mystery short story had been accepted for the anthology. Especially since it had come right after a couple agents passing on full manuscript requests. I was in the process of rewriting (aka rebuilding) that manuscript and was thrilled to know I would have something for my writing resume. I was determined to use my new “cred” as best I could and create some opportunities: I contacted the agents who previously or still had my full, let them know about the anthology acceptance as well as changes I was making to the manuscript. I got three re-requests and one of them stuck. So just a little over a month after hearing I was accepted to the anthology, I signed with my agent. That could be considered several blocks built!


The next opportunity was presented shortly after that. My agent posted that a small publisher, Gemma Halliday Publishing, was looking for more writers for their multi-author series, the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries. Though I was doubtful that I’d be accepted, I did my research and decided to give it a shot, throwing my hat into the ring with four story ideas, plus a writing sample, using my short story for the anthology as my sample! The publisher liked one of my pitches and loved the short story, and asked me to write and submit a synopsis and three chapters. My pitch was eventually accepted, and I signed my first contract in November of 2020.  


That Lego building block became my first book, Death Under the Sea, which led to a second Aloha Lagoon book, Death on a Cliff, which is being released today! Shortly after my contract on my second book, another Lego was added to my build when I received an offer from the same publisher for my original manuscript. Welcome Home to Murder, the first in the Hometown Mysteries series, was published last month. 

And that anthology story, my first publication building block? Strangely enough, it won’t be released until the end of this month! So if you’re interested in the story that started it all, check out Chesapeake Crimes: Magic is Murder! and my story “What’s a Little Murder Between Mammals.”

I’m determined to keep building on my structure, grabbing all the building block opportunities I can! No matter what your end goal, keep working away. I’m no expert, I’m just getting started, and not even sure what my Lego creation will look like in the end! But advice – if you’re a mystery writer, join SinC. And regardless of your genre, build up your resume. Try your hand at short stories, flash fiction contests, or whatever other opportunities come your way. Just keep building!



Rosalie Spielman is a mother, veteran, and retired military spouse. She was thrilled to discover that she could make other people laugh with her writing and finds joy in giving people a humorous escape from the real world. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and four creatures—two teens and two fur babies. For more information on her books or to subscribe to her newsletter, go to www.rosalie-spielman-author.com

Welcome Home to Murder, the first in the Hometown Mysteries series, was released in June. Death on a Cliff, Rosalie's second contribution to the multi-author Aloha Lagoon series, will be released today, 9 August. You can find order links on her website




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Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Do's and Don'ts for Being a Professional

Today, author Laurie Wood is spilling the tea...


Today I’m “spilling the tea” on a pet peeve of mine—professional authors who don’t act like professionals! This may be a bit of a rant, so settle in with your coffee and see if you recognize anyone you might know in these examples.



We’re all busy, overwhelmed people with deadlines, marketing to do, families with multiple activities, and pets to look after. However, just because most of us work from home, doesn’t mean we get to behave in our work life as if we’re the only ones who count in our professional lives. And I believe it all comes down to—you guessed it—common courtesy.



Let’s talk about those group writer activities we get invited to take part in, or those we might start ourselves.

Have you ever been part of a Facebook party? Check. A group blog for a few months to a year? Check. A newsletter swap? Check. A group promotion for your publisher? Check. An anthology with multiple authors? Check.

Okay, let’s look at some Do’s and Don’ts of this wonderful world of being a professional author in a professional space:


DO:

1. Be polite, and prompt with emails to the group.

2. Get whatever written material, graphics, and photos to the person in charge ON TIME. 

3. This shouldn’t even need to be said but proofread/edit/spell check your work first!

4. Follow the directions of the other author you’re working with—she has reasons she wants certain things done that way! I once had an author write to me, “I’m too old to learn new technology so I will not use bitly.com.” Ahem. If you’re too old to know how to cut and paste, then I’m assuming you’re still working on an IBM Electric typewriter, and shame on me for not checking out the quality of your books before I agreed to have you as a guest on my blog! It turned out it was a good thing I double-checked her quality because it wasn’t up to the standards I have for my blog. We canceled.

5. DO what you’ve agreed to do. If something goes wrong, and you don’t have time to write the blog, make the graphics, etc. then be up front about it and let the other author know right away. Honesty is always the best policy. 

DON'T:

1. Invite an author to be a guest for your Facebook party, and then ask her to make up graphics for the party. She’s your *guest*. She’s bringing her readers with her to fill out your party attendance. It’s up to the host to make the party graphics. If you need her to make her own graphics for her time slot, that’s a different thing. I’m talking about making Facebook headers, teasers, etc. Just…don’t.

2. Ask for a newsletter swap and want the other author to provide you with a cover jpg, back cover blurb, buy links, and her headshot, and then just put her cover jpg in as a *thumbnail* and say, “I haven’t read this book, but I thought the cover was pretty.” Don’t then assume you’re going to get the coverage you asked for in HER newsletter. Shame on you. Again, common courtesy and integrity apply here.

3. Invite an author to be a guest for your all-day Facebook party and insist that *every* post she does must include a giveaway! Seriously? Not only is she going to spend hours making up graphics and games for her time slot to entertain your guests, she now has to give away and ship prizes on her own dime? That’s just tacky, and enough said about that…

4. Forget what time zone your group blog is in. I’ve been guilty of this myself (lol) BUT I’ve always stayed the course and written my post in real time to get it up so that it hits in the middle of the night on the other side of the world. I’ve never pooched out on my compatriots and left them with a blank spot on the blog, although I know others who have…yes, life comes at us but unless you or one of your kids is in the hospital in surgery you write till you drop.


So often, I see authors who think they only need to be “professional” with their publisher, agent, or editor. But you know what? We need to be professional with *each other* as well, because when we’re between contracts and the pickings are slim, or the words just aren’t coming some days, we need our writing friends to keep us going. 

So, play nice, be a friend, and be professional! Your reputation is all you have in this business and it’s everything.



Laurie Wood has followed her RCAF serving husband across Canada, raising their two special needs children to adulthood while she began her writing career. She's a member of Sisters in Crime International and SinC Canada West, as well as Faith, Hope & Love Christian Writers. Laurie writes both romantic suspense and historical novels and is currently working on her next book. You can learn more about Laurie on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.



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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: The Power of a Like

Today, author Connie Ann Michael is spilling the tea...


“You get followers by doing things people like so you’re popular with the world and not just in high school or your inner circle. You don’t know how many people don’t care about you until you get a like on your phone, and it’s addicting.”

-Students from church


I work with youth at church and have had a front row seat to technology in today's world, and the funny thing is, for the older students, they totally know how they are prisoners to social media--they just can’t stop. It reminds me of the saying, ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it makes a sound?’ If you post something on your Snapchat/Instagram and no one likes it, did it happen?


This generation has never been without technology, and their perspective on the world they are in is very different than the one I grew up in. Appropriate use of technology is foreign to them or maybe there just aren’t any rules. 

During our church services I watch as texts, videos, snaps, whatever…are sent across the room like a wave. They are literally all at the same place, sharing the same experience. 


I live very near Yellowstone National Park and see visitors who miss all the fun animals and thermal features because they need a selfie that will get them likes. Or that a goring by a buffalo will get them a million likes on YouTube. No one steps in to help each other because it will disrupt the video or the shot. There is an entire site available for people to just post pictures and get likes. These pictures have to get more and more inappropriate as they fight for the likes. 


I was on a plane with a group of middle schoolers and listened to a very serious conversation they had on whether or not they had permission to take photos of each other. They didn’t want candids of them going out without a chance to filter them. I was impressed they were taking the initiative but sad they had to. 


Personally, I cannot stand watching people taking selfies, but what really gets me is when people are talking into their phones, listening to videos, anything that brings the world inside their phone to my world. I have unwillingly been a part of conversations I want no part of, but I've been in the same aisle at the grocery store. Custody battles, therapy sessions, divorce conversations, you name it.

When did talking at your phone become a thing?

When did the amount of likes we get value or devalue an activity we do?


My son went in the Army five years ago, and when he was in holding, the lonely place they go before basic, all phones were taken away. The people with him went nuts. A small number even went as far as trying to commit suicide because they couldn’t handle being cut off from this cyber world. They were at a loss at being able to document their every move. It happens again and again when they deploy and all service is shut off. The value of a day has come down to how many likes we get.

I feel it.

I get wanting to know what is going on. I remember rushing home to see if the little light on the answering machine was blinking. BUT! This is getting ridiculous.


On the other side of the coin are those who are addicted to giving the likes. Those who hold the key to validation. I have students who can’t hear the buzz of a phone and not need to see what happened, even if it isn’t their phone. It drives them nuts that I have the ability to not check my phone for an entire day. The minute they walk out the door, they are back on and liking the posts they missed. Even my own mother, who is older, can’t not look if she gets a notification and is quick to send a like or a heart. Kids freak out if I take their phone before they get a chance to take photos to keep a streak going on Snapchat. They get mad if I don’t let them respond to a crazy post--it’s a give and take, and we need both sides to make it work. The glow of the phone is hypnotic, the anticipation of the thumbs up or the like is addicting. The waiting for instant gratification from a returned text can drive them to immediate thoughts of, ‘he’s ignoring me’. 


But we can’t live without them, right?

I have tried to adjust. I have tried to understand. I try not to yell for people within my vicinity to turn down the volume, but I can’t overcome it. I can’t stand the sound. I can’t stand the feeling of needing to be available all the time. I can’t stand feeling I need to filter my photos and post my daily life.

Misophonia, which literally means “hatred of sound,” is a condition that causes strong emotional reactions to specific sounds.

My friend said this is what I have, it’s just directly related to cell phones. I have a strong emotional reaction of wanting to grab a phone and toss it in the road and jump on it. But I think it is so much more. And the problem is, no one knows how to make it better.

So, for all the great things about our world and the technology we now have at our fingertips, we have become an impatient and very self-centered civilization. We spend way too much time looking at ourselves, altering our appearance so we look better than ever, and then trying to get people to like the fake person we are becoming. 


Connie Ann Michael was born and raised in the city of Seattle but after attending Washington State University she turned into a country girl and moved to a small...very small town. She has two teenage boys that provide countless amounts of material for her books. Her boys have left for college, and now she occupies her time playing with her three dogs, mountain biking, kayaking, and anything else she can do outdoors. Learn more about Connie on Facebook and Goodreads.


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Spill the Tea Tuesday: Brand Your Sh*t!

Today, blogger and PA Kris Riley is spilling the tea...


Hey y'all. Today I am spilling the tea on branding for your business and why you as authors, PAs or any business owner should be making sure your business is branded.


What is a brand? A brand is how you get recognized. It is a name, logo, tag line, brand voice and design that makes yourself or your business stand out from all the others. Branding helps create clarity and focus for your readers or clients. The benefits of branding are immense but just a couple that I think are the most prominent are customer recognition and consistency.


1.Customer recognition is huge. When someone sees your logo or hears your tagline they are going to automatically envision your company. 

2. Staying consistent in any business is crucial, as we all know. Changing up a logo happens. It is best to keep the same colors just so that while the logo may be new people will know the tagline. Same for when you change your tagline. 


Branding is one of the easier ways to bring attention to yourself and business.


As a business owner and PA, I make sure to brand all of my clients graphics. Living in the world of the internet and memes we all know how people save whatever snags their attention. Imagine working hard on a new graphic and having it swiped and used in a million places without anyone knowing who created it. Yet, if you have your logo and brand on it, everyone will know where to go to find more. 


Branding is an easy way to help further your career. The best part yet... starting a brand costs very little. There are so many apps that will help you make a logo. Canva and VistaCreate are great places to start. Make sure to choose your color palette to something that will age gracefully in your market. Fonts should be easy to read. A tip for when you download your logo - make sure you download one that is transparent. It makes it easier when you have a different colored background.


Once you have your logo make sure to place it on everything you make. It can be the focus point or it can be small. Which you choose will be based on the graphic you are creating. I hope this bit of tea helps you understand more about how important branding can be to you and your business. 



Kris Riley is the owner of Blissful Services. She started out as a reviewer/blogger and tiptoed into becoming a PA. While Blissful Services is a little over a year old, Kris has been deep in the indie book community since 2015. When Kris is not busy with Blissful Services she is usually found with her nose in a book, taking classes to further her skills as a PA, or playing in her digital planner. Kris has been happily married to the love of her life for 17 years. Together, they have 3 children and a spoiled pit bull. Learn more about Kris and Blissful Services on her website, blog, and Facebook



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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Are readers *really* entitled to their opinions?


I'm back today, spilling the tea about readers and writers and how--or if--they can exist within the same spaces...


To be a good writer, you have to read. A lot! And I do. Rather, I try. I really do, especially when I'm branching out into a new genre and I need to study how other authors do things. As a result, I'm involved in several large and very active groups on Facebook. While these groups are specifically aimed at readers to ask for recommendations, talk about books, share reviews, etc., there are authors in these groups, too. (See above about how authors are readers, too!)


For the most part, these groups are amazing. I've learned about so many new books and authors I probably never would've known about otherwise. I've even had the opportunity to share about my own books and gain some new readers. Overall, it's been a very win-win situation. Until, inevitably, someone posts that dreaded question: What's your bookish pet peeve? Or: What's the one thing you can't stand in a book? 



And, inevitably, the post gets thousands of likes and hundreds of comments with answers like: books written in first person, books written in past / present tense, books with only one point-of-view, romance, love triangles, vampires... you name it, chances are it's something someone hates.


Now, as an author, I get it -- you absolutely will not be able to please everyone. It's impossible. That's a fact authors just need to accept, and I have. I realize that what and how I write isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay. Because for every one reader how hates what I write, there is another reader who absolutely loves it!



But my question is this: Should readers be entitled to share these opinions in a space where they know authors exist, too? Because authors are going to read these posts and comments, and authors are going to question if the book they're writing is going to sell if they're including things readers are openly and loudly stating they hate. 


I'll be the first to admit there are things I see in books that make me cringe, and I will avoid certain books with specific content, but would I blast my opinions in a group where I know fellow authors will see it? Nope. I'll simply scroll on by and not buy that book if I know it's not something I like. But that's me. What about you? As a reader, do you feel this behavior is okay? How do you feel about this as an author?

Born and raised in the small town of Mexico, New York, KARA LEIGH MILLER is an only child who was forced to find ways to entertain herself. Playing make believe with her Barbie dolls and stuffed animals was her first real taste of storytelling before she became old enough to develop a love affair with the written word. In addition to being an author, Kara is a freelance editor and the Editorial Director at Anaiah Press, LLC. ​​Kara now lives in Michigan with her husband, three (of five) kids, five pit bulls, and four cats. When she's not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she's spending time with her family, working out, or binge watching Netflix. And sometimes, she'll even play golf with her husband, even though she totally sucks at it.

You can find Kara on her websiteFacebookTwitterInstagramGoodreads, and Bookbub. For the most up-to-date information, and to receive a FREE ebook, sign up for her newsletter!


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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Spill the Tea Tuesday: Are these really the best years of your life??


Today, author Sharon Rene is spilling the tea...

Hi y’all, my name is Sharon Rene, and I write young adult fiction. Today, I’d like to “spill the tea” about something that used to bug me a lot when I was younger. Perhaps it bugs you, too. 

When I was in high school, and I’d be in a down mood someone would say, “You should be happy. These are the best days of your life.”

Really? Are these really the best years of your life?


I wanted to cry when I heard those words because I can guarantee you that my teen years were not the best days of my life. 

I was awkward, shy, self-conscious, and lonely. I used to pray that the future would be better, so I certainly didn’t want to hear that my days in high school were as good as it was going to get.

Teen years are unique and so important. Change greets you around every corner, and you don’t know how to react. There is a reason parents cringe when they say, “My child will soon be a teen.”

Believe me, I was that teen.


My parents loved me, and I loved them, but I was a real pain to live with during those hormone driven, crazy years. My emotions were up and down like a hot air balloon. The teen years are challenging – a time of growth and exploration. Time to learn about the person you are and the person you hope to become. Some teens shine and seem to have it all together. High school is fun for them, but it is still NOT the best years of their lives.

We’re only in high school for four years. At the time, it seems unending, but four years is a small percentage of a lifetime. The world has so much to offer. 

If you’re struggling through the teen years, please remember that things are going to change.
I hated high school, but I loved college. I’ve lived in several states and worked a variety of jobs. I’ve met interesting people and made great friendships. I’ve grown emotionally and spiritually. I am very different from the shy kid in high school. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you will be chained to your teens forever. You have years ahead of you to change things that you don’t like about yourself and your life. Change will not happen overnight, but the journey is the joy.



Teen and young adults, never fear – these are not the best years of your life. As wonderful as life may be now, it will get better as you follow your dreams. I loved to write as a teen but gave it up as I got older. One day, I started writing again, and now it is my passion. I love to write for a teen and young adult audience because I know the struggle is real. In Hesitant Heroes, I write that God has a unique plan for each one of us. I want young people to realize that they are one of a kind.

Teens, hang in there! 

If you are the parent of a teen encourage them that things will change. Life is not confined to the walls of a high school. Please don’t tell them these are the best years of their lives.


Sharon Rene is a member of ACFW and loves to write young adult and children’s fiction. Her young adult dystopian trilogy has been acquired by Anaiah Press and the first book, Hesitant Heroes, released September 7, 2021. Hesitant Heroes, a finalist in the Selah book award for young adult fiction, is an exciting blend of danger, drama and romance. The next book, Relentless Rebels, released March 8, 2022. It continues Team Seven’s exciting adventures. Defying Destiny, the prequel, is the last book in the trilogy. Her first book, A Mixed Bag of God’s Grace, was published in 2018 by TouchPoint Press. This is a book of short stories and devotions for elementary aged children.

Sharon Rene grew up in Louisiana and now lives in Tennessee with one very spoiled cat who enjoys making Instagram appearances. You can learn more about Sharon on her website and Instagram.



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