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Close to Heaven: A Colorado High Country Christmas (Colorado High Country #5) —
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About Me

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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A Project: Happiness Update — The Mind

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks since my last blog post. I’ve been working on Skin Deep, but I’ve also been taking time to go to the gym and to stay on top of things around the house. With all the unseasonably warm weather we’re having, I’ve also needed to spend time outside watering my rose bushes, my flower beds and our trees and shrubs. Between all of that, my column for the paper, my work for the Happy Ever After blog, and getting a new endeavor off the ground — you’ll hear about that soon — there hasn’t been much time for blogging.

So it’s time for a Project: Happiness update.

Last time I talked about body, not only my own experience with my physical self, but also that of women in general and the ways that society influences how we live our lives in our bodies. This week I thought I’d talk about the mind.

Way back when — it really does seem ages ago now — I explained how I viewed the human experience as being comprised of three elements: body, mind, and spirit. Mind being in the middle  is kind of appropriate because I think it links the three together. Our spiritual self starts in the mind, and mind has a powerful influence over body, too. The brain, the organ that houses the mind, is a bodily organ.

So what does it mean to have a healthy mind? It’s not about being intelligent or educated. I’ve always been very confident of my intellectual abilities. My brain comes with some unique talents — a facility for foreign languages, for example.

A healthy mind is more about how you think about life. Maybe because of this, most people associate the mind closely with happiness.

Of course, we know that body influences mind. The intense spinal pain I endured from January 2008 through August 2010 proved that to me. I went from optimism to frustration to despair. Chronic pain can have a real impact on how a person thinks. That was true for me.

Physical pain and lost sleep tends to bring out the worst in me in terms of my mental attitude. So doing whatever I can to decrease spinal pain is very important. I had a bad week last week and into this week, and I got a refresher course in how much it sucks not to be able to sleep.

But I really realized I needed to re-vision my life was when my own “inner monologue” became darkly negative. And that had very little to do with pain and everything to do with writing. Writing is a very stressful activity at times, and writing under the conditions I faced toward the end of Defiant resulted in my feeling extremely depressed and negative.

My sister was here at that time, and thanks to her, I caught of glimpse of how my self-talk, if you want to call it that, looked from the outside. It wasn’t good.

I had to be honest and realize that I often get that way while writing. It wasn’t just Defiant. I very often reach a point of self-loathing when I’m writing because I just can’t accomplish on the page what I’m trying to accomplish. What I feel inside about a story so rarely makes it into a book. And the frustration that causes is overwhelming at times.

“You need a new routine,” Benjy told me after Defiant was done.

By that, he meant that there has to be a happier way to write books. Project: Happiness grew out of my desire to create this new routine.

I knew my new approach could not include the positive self-talk modeled by Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!”

Puhleaze!!! I’m too cynical for daily affirmations, even ones that aren’t silly.  A good Buddhist koan or a line of poetry, sure. Affirmations? No.

So what is my new routine?

No more self-hatred. If I start getting into that mode, then it’s time to do something else no matter how much writing I got done.

Get enough sleep. A mind can’t work well without rest. The book deadline isn’t as important as a full night’s rest.

Get exercise. It has been proven to help mental function and mood. The brain and the mind it contains are part of the body, after all.

Accept that nothing I write will be perfect. This is really, really hard, because I am a perfectionist. I want to write something perfect. So even as I try to accept this, I’m still fighting like hell to achieve it.

Do nice things for myself—things that are healthy. A nap, a trip to the theater to see a film, a bit of Angry Birds — try to incorporate fun, not just work, in to every day. All work and no play makes Pamela a bitch. But I think a lot of people do things to be “nice” to themselves that aren’t good for them in the long run. That chocolate bar. Spending too much money on clothes. Sitting in front of the TV too often and for too long. Food has long been the “nice” thing that I do.

So far, the first three and the last one are moving along pretty well. But accepting that I will make mistakes and fail at my goals to one degree or another is very, very hard for me.

I will persevere. 

In other news:  

Skin Deep is moving along. I’m more than 25,000 words into the story. I ran into a really tough scene, which I wrote and now must rewrite. I anticipate two more weeks of writing, a week of editing and then a few days to get it uploaded and see it go live. So probably the end of April. Sorry! It’s that perfectionism problem I mentioned.

I will be certain to make a big announcement about it — you can read more about the story in the blog post below this one — and send out a newsletter so that no one misses the release of the novella. You can also stay in touch by joining my Facebook page.  If you want to sign up for my newsletters, click here. I only send them out when I have news, and I don’t share the info with anyone.

The copy-edited pages of Defiant are on my computer. I need to proofread them one last time and get them back to New York. So advance review copies will be going out probably at the end of the month. I’m putting together a list of events and fun ways to celebrate the release of Connor’s story, so stay tuned for that.

The Defiant discussion group has launched. Today’s chat about Surrender was a lot of fun for me. We continue through July, working our way one by one through the books in the series and ending with Defiant.  Thanks to Jenn LeBlanc for setting this up!

On Tuesday, April 3, I’ll be receiving the Colorado Coalition for Sexual Assault’s Excellence in Media award for my work on the issue of sexual assault. This is an amazing honor, given my own background and the fact that I went into journalism almost entirely because I wanted to be a voice for women. The ceremony will be held on the steps of the state capitol in Denver. I am deeply touched and honored by this.

Also, I’ll have an announcement possibly this week, maybe next, of a new endeavor that I am a part of and very excited about. If you read the article in RT, you might already know what I’m talking about. If not, expect an announcement shortly.

Last but not least, it will soon be planting time on the urban farm. We’ve got most of the prep work done. Depending on the weather, we’ll be planting our crops soon. We try as much as we can to eat food we grow because it doesn’t come with e coli or listeria or pesticides/herbicides. The new studies that showed a strong tie between certain cancers and common pesticides/herbicides really strengthened my resolve to have as much control over our food supply as possible. We rarely eat anything that isn’t organic.

Last year we grew: arugula, kale, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, onions (red and yellow), green beans, broccoli, acorn squash, delicata squash, zucchini, summer squash, radishes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. We lost a lot of the broccoli to some damned egg-laying creature — white flies, I expect. So this year, I may get floating row cover to protect everything.

Growing food is such intensely difficult work requiring a lot of attention and time. But the result — being able to grab dinner out of the garden and know it’s good for you — is wonderful. As much as I think, “Maybe I’ll just join a CSA (community supported agriculture) this year and let someone else do the work,” there’s something about this time of year that calls me back to the dirt.

Have a lovely week, everyone!


Tonya said...

I personally think your books are perfect. I can't think of anything that would make them better unless you could somehow bring those delicious heroes to real life. ;-)

Your health is the most important thing. I'm sure I speak for all of your readers/fans when I say that we want you to take care of yourself first. And if that means waiting a little longer for your next book then that's okay. We know it will be worth the wait.

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