Monthly Archives: September 2013

Facing The Fork In The Road

Sometimes I marvel at how a seemingly insignificant past decision ultimately affects my life.   Yet I continue to make spontaneous choices year after year without much thought because, most of the time, I can’t predict if or how it might change my path.  I suspect most of you act as I do – only occasionally stopping to think about a particular decision after an unexpected consequence occurs.19400634_s

But now and then we each face a crossroads – a high stakes decision we know will significantly impact the direction of our life.  We sweat, deliberate, wring our hands, seek advice, and still never reach clarity before pulling the trigger.  It’s a sickening feeling, and I’m facing one right now.

This isn’t the time or place to discuss the circumstances of my present dilemma, but they aren’t relevant to the point of this post anyway.  So what is my point, you ask?

Well, it’s not so much a point as it is a rhetorical question: If you realize the outcome of any decision can greatly alter one’s life, does it make sense to ascribe so much angst to one decision over any other?  In other words, does seeing the fork ahead actually make that choice more fraught with consequence than other less obvious ones?

I’d like to believe most decisions have relatively equal weight in the grand scheme of life, but perhaps I’m merely trying to persuade myself of this logic in order to minimize my own anxiety regarding the fork in my road.  Sadly, it’s not really working.  Maybe my only solace is knowing that, no matter which choice I make, I will never know with certainty whether or not it was the right choice (since I can’t know how the path not taken would have turned out).  So…no regrets…just pull the ripcord and see what happens…

How do you handle “tough” decisions?  I’m all ears!

xo-jamie

The Secret of Aging Gracefully

Getting older beats the alternative ~ Grammy circa 1970s

Okay, so my maternal Grammy didn’t actually coin that phrase (which apparently is attributed to French actor Maurice-Auguste Chevalier), but it was one of many adages she’d toss at us to make her point.  Others included: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” “A bird in the hand beats two in the bush,” “Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face,” and “Don’t $%!# where you eat.”  DSC_0049

Grammy was actually something of a marvel.  At the age of two, she lost her right hand in a train accident.  Growing up with her disability as one of seventeen kids on a Pennsylvanian farm during the depression, she learned about hard work and suffering.  The circumstances of her life left her with little patience for excuses or for petty complaints about physical imperfections.  But despite it all, her general nature was cheerful and optimistic.

As an adult, she painted, played piano (used her blunt arm to pick out the melody, her left hand for chords), raised three kids, and worked as a housekeeper and caretaker for most of her life.  She loved cigarettes, bowling, gambling, and any starch she could get her hands on (which is why she was a round as a barrel, and just as jolly as Santa Claus).  She loved her siblings, many of whom gathered daily on her back porch to listen to polka music and gossip about the nephews, nieces, and grandchildren.  And we grandchildren loved Grammy, especially when our parents left her in charge, because she didn’t care what kind of mess we made…she thought we were little, hilarious, creative geniuses.

Grammy was flighty.  She was simple.  Most importantly, she knew to be grateful for her blessings, and not to waste time yearning for what she didn’t have, or for what might have been.  She pursued her passions and prioritized her relationships with the people she loved.  That’s the wisdom she imparted to the rest of us, and why I’m thinking about her on my forty-seventh birthday.

Hard to believe I was once this little baby.  DSC_0052As I creep closer to the half-century mark, I think about how I wish to live the rest of my life, and how I want to be remembered when I’m gone.  I realize I want to be just like Grammy – living fully in the moment, thankful for the love and relationships in my life, and using my gifts to the best of my ability without comparing myself to others.  I think that is what aging gracefully is all about.

By the way, my own mother now has picked up where Grammy left off, but has added a new adage to the repertoire, “The older I get the smarter my mother becomes.”  I know she’s probably just trying to brainwash me into listening to her advice, but I think she’s on to something (and I’m going to start brainwashing my own daughter, too)!

What does aging gracefully mean to you?

xo-Jamie

What Makes A Hero?

At first blush, it might seem impossible to discover a link between the atrocities of 9/11 and romance writing.  In fact, it may even be deemed inappropriate and distasteful, especially on the anniversary of the tragedy, and for that, I apologize.  I acknowledge a majority of memories and images from that day were gruesome and devastating, and intend no disrespect to the victims and their families by offering this post.  Yet, there were also the awe-inspiring acts of courage and love that day (and thereafter) that showcased the best side of humanity…the heroic side.  Heroes are central to romance writing, and therein is the link.12361343_s

In the “story” of 9/11, the roles of the villains and heroes are easily identified.  The villains include the heinous, cowardly terrorists (and their supporters), who heartlessly destroyed thousands of families’ lives and, in many ways, much of the freedom we valued in America.  The heroes include the first-responders, the brave passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, the family members of the victims who united to turn grief into civic action for peace, and those men and women in the armed forces who battle overseas to defend our nation.

But in everyday life, what makes someone heroic?  This topic is perhaps one of the most significant questions a romance writer must answer.  Unlike 9/11, identifying heroism isn’t always clear-cut, and is often subjective.

Many popular contemporary romance stories encourage us to believe heroes are twenty-something billionaire tycoons with specific sexual proclivities and dominating personalities masquerading as “protectiveness.”  Sweeter romances will offer the everyday man as a hero.  He will fervently love his heroine, and his flaws, if any, will be minimal.  Why?  Because that, apparently, is what sells best, and writing is a business.

But I wonder if writers and editors are cheating the reader out of a more interesting experience.  What if the hero isn’t always swoon-worthy?  Let’s face it, people are multifaceted and, throughout the course of life, make good and bad decisions.  Must fictional heroes be so much more enlightened than real people?  Can a reader can root for a seriously flawed hero?

For example, if a recovering drug addict serves time in prison for killing someone during a drug-deal gone bad, then exits prison and dedicates his life to saving others, including the heroine’s teen son who got mixed up with a bad crowd, might that former addict-murderer be a hero to that mother?  Wouldn’t the complexities of his history and choices make him more interesting and compelling, not less?  Or perhaps a less extreme example would work.  A female doctor regrets cheating on her husband, especially after he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she spends their following years together showering him with affection and fighting for a cure.  Might she be heroic despite her selfish act?  I think both of these tales, if told well, have the potential to be memorable love stories.

Of course, I understand a romance reader wants to be swept off her feet by the hero.  And it is certainly easier to convince your reader to fall in love with a handsome fantasy man than with a flawed realistic one.  But I’d love to believe there is room for both kinds of heroes on the shelves (or on your ereader).

What do you think?  Do you want the fantasy, the flawed, or both?

xo-Jamie

Five Great Fall Date Ideas

Most New Englanders love September and October, thanks to dry, crisp weather and gorgeous foliage.  But even if you live in the Deep South or on the West Coast, there are plenty of fun fall date ideas to help you keep romance alive (or jumpstart a new relationship).

When devising this list of ideas, I tried to find something for everyone, from the hearty outdoorsy couples, to the sports fanatics, to those who prefer something on the quiet side.  So, for better or worse, here is my list of suggestions:

Leaf Peeping:

Whether you take a hike or a bike ride, find a local nature reserve, pack a backpack with a bottle of wine, some good bread and cheeses, and head outdoors.  Nothing stirs the senses more than combining nature’s beauty with exercise.  Wine helps set a mood, too!  Once your blood is pumping, who knows what might happen?

Tailgate:

Football season is upon us.  Instead of watching from the family room with your man (and his messy, loud friends), surprise your guy with a pair of tickets.  Better yet, coordinate with some of your friends and head to a game.  Get there early and set up a tailgate.  I’m not talking about a college tailgate.  I’m thinking upscale.  Steaks and chicken instead of burgers and dogs.  Wine instead of beer.  Let the change of scenery and energy of the crowd rev you up.  If your team wins, go home and celebrate with victory sex.  If it loses, consolation sex.  Either way, your night ends on a high note!

Camping/Bonfire:6213902_s

What inspires snuggling more than sitting beside an outdoor fire on a chilly night?  Whether you buy a fire pit for your backyard, or break out the old camping gear and spend an entire night under a canopy of trees, this outdoor activity is romantic, especially if you are alone (no kids or other couples).  My husband and I camped all over West Virginia and Pennsylvania when we dated.  Some of my fondest memories are from those trips.  Check out ReserveAmerica, a directory and reservation system for campsites across the nation.

A Vineyard Visit:

Maybe you aren’t into the great outdoors, but perhaps you do like a good bottle of wine and a nice meal.  Jump on Google and I’m sure you’ll find a vineyard or winery within an hour of your home.  In fact, here is a directory to help you get started!  Plan a date around a wine tasting event, or just make dinner reservations (some vineyards have restaurants within the facility).  You’ll enjoy time to talk along the way, and probably see some spectacular views once you arrive at the property.  Buy a bottle of your favorite local wine as a memento and open it later in the year to relive the experience.

Fall Fairs:

Like good, old-fashioned fun, like caramel apples, hayrides, and corn mazes?  Check your local paper for the fall fairs in your area, grab a blanket and comfortable shoes, and go remember how it felt to be a kid.  Being young at heart is another way to revive romance.  Give it a try.

Those are my ideas.  Care to share one of your own with us?

xo-Jamie

photo credit: designpics/123RF.com

Sunday Song for Soul Mates

I’m in the midst of writing a new book, so naturally I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how couples progress from new love to happily-ever-after.  Lately I’ve been wondering whether an HEA requires a wedding.  In other words, is marriage necessary for a couple, or is a great love binding on its own?  Sting’s ultra-romantic song, The Secret Wedding, supports an argument for the latter proposition.

Marriage is often an “end goal” in romance novels, and similarly in the hearts of many young women.  In fact, in our country alone, 2.5 million weddings occur each year, and the business of weddings has grown into a $40 billion-dollar-per-year industry.

Of course, once committed, we quickly learn a shared life is a journey, not a destination.  And whether you spent ten or one hundred thousand on your wedding day, the realities of life after that occasion are the same for most couples.  So maybe Sting has a point…abiding love doesn’t require a wedding to justify or prove its existence.

Regardless of your beliefs, I think most women swoon at the lyrics of this song.  To me, it describes a love too deep to be broken or contained, as aptly stated in its refrain:

The secret marriage vow is never spoken
The secret marriage never can be broken

My read on this is the “secret marriage” is a love so strong it simply endures without end.  The sentiment of the song is amplified by the lilting tempo of the delicate piano strokes meting the melody.  Take a listen:

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Sting was smokin’ hot back in the 90s when he released this song.  I love the cover of Nothing Like The Sun.  I’ll just stare at it and pretend he’s serenading me.

What do you think?  Must you marry your soul mate to hold onto lasting love?

xo-Jamie