Monday, May 08, 2017

Author Andrea Patten Wants You to Love Your Inner Critic

Please help me welcome an author I met at the Amelia Island Book Fair in February of this year. 

Like many of us, Andrea Patten has been writing books — at least imaginary ones — since she could first hold a crayon. A favorite place to play was her grandmother's desk with its endless supply of scrap paper from Gram's classroom projects. “I’d spend hours on my stories, adding colorful covers and carefully stapling each masterpiece together. I loved writing “by Andrea Patten” in my best version of fancy handwriting on those covers.”

One of the places her writer’s journey frequently took her was to ghostwriting. So much for the byline, huh?

“I worked for several people whose vision was far more inspiring than their ability to share it. I’m not sure how it happened the first time, but it was never uncommon for my immediate supervisor or her boss to stop by my desk and ask me to "have a look" at a speech, an article, a letter, or a memo before sharing with a wider audience."

But those experiences helped her learn to write in different styles and voices: a CEO’s speech to motivate the staff required different writing chops than persuading legislators to provide funds for homeless teens.

"I wrote curricula and reports, financial disclosures and direct mail pieces... Brochures, classified ads, grant applications, staff bios, and company histories. It was excellent training and helped me appreciate the impact good writing can have," says Patten.

Eventually, Andrea started to discover her voice as a writer. It’s honest, straightforward, and often funny.

"I worked in human services for a long time and wanted to continue to help people. I realized that part of that might come from sharing some of the fascinating ideas I’d picked up along the way. What Kids Need to Succeed is a book I wrote for parents, but it includes wisdom from the business world: when setting goals and making plans, start with the desired outcome in mind. Part of that book's purpose was to help parents stop getting discouraged with day-to-day challenges and think about the bigger picture: raising future adults."

Her latest release has similar roots. “Everybody talks about the Inner Critic, but most of the available advice doesn't work. You can try to ignore “that voice” until you’re blue in the face but that's not enough: the name of the game is to get it on your side… to make it an ally. You can learn to use its energy to your advantage.”

And, to anyone who has struggled with an Inner Critic (or Inner Editor or Inner Bully) this is very good news, indeed.

Here's an excerpt from The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten

A few million years ago, when the inner alarm bell sounded, all stress was short-lived: prehistoric primates either responded and escaped or became part of the predator’s buffet. Period. Either way, intense stress did not last long.

Modern stress is different. It’s cumulative — and from the lizard brain’s point of view — relentless. From the jarring sound of the alarm to the gloom and doom news report that accompanies morning coffee, there’s no break. Commuting. Car horns. Caffeine. Kardashians. And that’s even before you get to work.

Most of us don’t pay attention to regular, vanilla stress. It gets stuffed because we think we should be able to handle it. We tamp it down or ignore it and assume we should be able to just power through.

Can you imagine the impact this has on the primitive part of the brain? From that perspective, we’re ignoring death threats which tends to make it cranky. Louder. More insistent. No wonder it wants to take over — you’re not paying attention and giving it relief.

Remember, the survival center’s job is to alert us to potential threats: it is NOT for deep thinking, nuance, delicate wording or high-level negotiation.

Continuing to ignore the needs of our primitive brains can lead to chronic stress, making us unreasonable and sometimes causing arguments. I don’t think that’s what it intends to do — it’s really just the old brain’s way of trying to get your attention.

To help you. When trying to get along with people at work or seeking compromise with a loved one, we need to get that thing tucked in.

Despite the problems it has caused for you, there’s much to respect and appreciate about that old brain. It:
• loves you and wants to keep you safe,
• is part of your hardwired survival mechanism,
• constantly scans your environment for threats, and 
• will not back down until it has been heard.

It takes hard work and a special sort of mindfulness to turn an Inner Critic into an ally, but do you have what it takes to turn it into an advantage? 

I don't know about you, but I'm going to take time to answer Andrea's question. I need to turn my Inner Critic into an ally! Thanks Andrea for sharing with us today. 

Please check out her books at:


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Prince of Glencurragh by Nancy Blanton

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Florida author Nancy Blanton, whose award-winning historical novels are set primarily in 17th century Ireland. her latest book, The Prince of Glencurragh, has won three awards since its July 2016 publication, and is a finalist for two others.

She chose the setting not only because of an Irish heritage, but also because it’s a period not heavily covered in fiction. For Nancy, it’s not just a passion, it’s a strategy. She explains why in the following interview.

First of all, what made you choose to write historical fiction?
It is what I love to read. I like to learn as I read, and I feel my time is well-spent. Recently I posted a blog about my favorite book, the first historical novel I read: Gone with the Wind. I learned so much from that book about America’s Civil War and its aftermath. I was both fascinated and hooked. Many writers avoid historical fiction because it requires so much research, but for me that’s the best part. It’s a treasure hunt to discover details most people have never seen or heard before, that will bring history to life.

Why did you pick 17th century Ireland?
My father emphasized our Irish heritage when I was growing up. We heard the music, sang the songs, wore the green, marched in the parade—all that. Our family toured Ireland when I was 15, and he sent me to Ireland for a summer study during my junior year in college. That I would want to write about it seems only natural. But when I started researching, I realized books about the 16th and 18th centuries were prominent, but not so much the 17th. A study for the Historical Novel Society found that the 17th century ranks 7th among time periods readers are most likely to choose when buying a book. This surprised me because it’s an exciting time of sweeping change, when the Irish clan system is overtaken by the English plantation system, when Cromwell led his bloody march. I saw a niche for myself, and made it my mission to illuminate this period.

Most novels set out to explore a question. What question did you have in mind when writing The Prince of Glencurragh?

In 17th century Ireland, many hopes and dreams were destroyed as the English took control of the island. So I was asking, “Is it possible to reclaim a dream once it is lost to the mists of memory?” The book is about a young Irishman facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles in a quest to realize his father’s dream of a castle and estate called Glencurragh.

The premise is interesting to me on two levels. First, everyone has awakened from a dream so beautiful they want to hold onto it, but the longer they are awake the faster it recedes. And second, many of us have seen the sacrifices our parents made and then tried to live their dream for them, only to realize later in life that it doesn’t satisfy. And dreams are sometimes fulfilled in ways we had not expected.

What is setting for this story?

It takes place in southwest Ireland, primarily County Cork, in 1634. As the English plantation system spreads across the province of Munster, lands that have been in clan ownership for centuries now are given to English soldiers as rewards for service. Even castles, once both the bounty and protection of the strongest clans, now have fallen against the power of the siege and cannon.

Faolán Burke will try almost anything to make his father’s castle a reality, including abducting an heiress to elevate his station and his income. But the heiress has a mind of her own, and they are drawn into the crossfire between the most powerful noblemen in Ireland—each with his own agenda.

What themes does the book address?

In many ways, this book is about friendship, the relationship between best friends from childhood. The story is narrated by Faolan’s best friend Aengus O’Daly. I have some very deep and lasting friendships of this kind, and those relationships informed this story in ways I didn’t even realize until the end. I am deeply grateful to my friends for that.
This story is also about hope. In great difficulty, when you have no power to change a circumstance that gives you pain, hope is what we rely on to get through, and it is the most human part of us.

What will readers find most appealing about this book?

This book captivates readers right away because it is fast-paced and rich with interesting historical detail. The 17th century is rife with conflict, disaster, invention and change.

The story also is relevant because it focuses on issues we still face today, such as oppression of ethnic groups and women, the struggle for survival and the struggle to achieve one’s dream. It is also a very personal struggle that most of us can relate to. Faolán is tested, just as anyone is who aspires to a goal. You want this thing, and it seems the mountain grows suddenly higher, the road more rugged, forcing you to show just how much you’re willing to fight for what you want.

Does the protagonist achieve his father’s vision for the Castle Glencurragh?

Without revealing the ending, I will say that Faolán adapts. The end is hopeful, as should be any story that deals with dreams.

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in e-book, soft cover and hard cover at,, and from other online booksellers.