Author Archives: msjamiebeck@gmail.com

A Change of Venue

Who else goes on vacation and wonders why they shouldn’t just up and move to an exotic location? I doubt I’m alone and, if you’d been with my family and me in Turks and Caicos, you might’ve decided to stay there.

Vacations are a wonderful way to rejuvenate the spirit, reconnect with your family and friends, and explore a different part of the world. I love taking my kids to new places so they can learn about and experience different cultures, foods, and ways of life.

The family

Of course, this was just a four-day trip, so we didn’t do much exploration of the island–just a lot of relaxation, and perhaps a little internal exploration.

This is what I learned:

View from plane

  1. The colors of the sea there are the most striking variation of turquoise that I’ve ever seen. Whether seeing it from the plane or the shore, the ocean is simply breathtaking. Better yet, it is crystal clear when you swim.

The beach

2. It’s windy there. Really windy. I’ve never been so cold while basking in the sun. On the upside, it made for excellent sailing and parasailing!

3. Jerk chicken rocks. My son, in particular, ate more than his fill of this Caribbean favorite.

Ford sailing

4. It was a treat to put aside work. During the past two years, I haven’t gone more than 24-hours without writing. That’s right, even when on vacation, and every weekend, I usually do a little work. This trip, I promised my family I wouldn’t pull out the laptop. Instead, I lounged around the beach reading books (if you haven’t read JoJo Moyes’s One by One, do so!), drinking smoothies, and sunbathing. I NEVER do that. By the fourth day, I had really unwound. Now I know I need to do this a little more often.

Parasailing

5. My list of “top places to retire” keeps expanding. I’d always wanted to go west, to a mountainous area like Colorado or the Sierra Nevada range. Now I’m thinking island living might not be too bad. And I’m pretty sure my kids would like to come visit often if we chose someplace like this to live, right?

So how about you? Where have you been lately, and what did you learn while you were there?

xo-Jamie

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April Fool’s Pranks

Happy April Fool’s Day! I’m not much of a prankster these days, but when I was younger, my stepfather and I used to try to sneak up and surprise the other. I’ll admit, he won the best “scare” attack of our ongoing battle.

One school night in the early-mid 80s, my mom and he went to bed about thirty minutes before I did. When I finally got sleepy, I climbed the stairs–arms loaded with school books–without turning on the lights, as was my custom. On the left side of the top of the stairs was a set of double doors that opened to a hallway that led to two bedrooms (including mine, which sat at the far end of that hall). The right wall of that hall had a built-in set of drawers with a marble top for folding things, which unit was flanked by two sizable closets. That particular night, unbeknownst to me, my rather large and clumsy stepfather had crawled up onto that slab and huddled in a ball–hidden by the closet walls–and was quietly waiting for me to appear. If you could see that space and know his size, that feat alone is remarkable. When he heard me come through the double doors and start down the hall, he screamed and flailed his arms about, nearly toppling off his perch. My books flew into the air and I fell to the floor, heart pounding, flopping like a fish on dry land, spitting out the words, “That. Was. The. Best. Scare. Ever!” My mother came rushing through the house, yelling at him for giving me a heart attack. He was laughing so hard, he was bent over, unable to breath. Good times, I tell ‘ya.

Yes, we were a bit twisted, and I probably wouldn’t enjoy that kind of scare today nearly as much as I did back then. But I still smile when I remember that prank.

He died almost fourteen years ago, and I haven’t engaged in any kind of real prank in at least a decade. My kids are teens now, so maybe it’s time I did. It’s not child abuse to torment your kids a little, is it?

To prepare, I did a little web browsing, hoping to poach a clever idea from people with more practice. Some good pranks I discovered include: putting tape over the sensor at the bottom of a mouse or the TV remote, making caramel covered onions and watching that first bite, turning someone’s clock ahead by an hour while they are asleep, putting a donut box with veggie snacks on the table, and texting someone “What’s your ETA?” when you have no plans.

While cute and not too time consuming, none of those ideas strikes the right chord for me and my family. I’m hoping you might have a suggestion. Make it quick, ’cause I’m running out of time!

xo-Jamie

 

When the Dream Doesn’t Come True

If you’re an avid romance reader, you’ve probably heard about the Romance Writers of America’s annual RITA® awards competition. Essentially, thousands of romance novels are submitted and judged by multiple, random members (typically 5-7 judges per book, I believe). If you enter, you must also volunteer to judge, and each book is graded on a 10-point scale.

Needless to say, it’s a massive undertaking. I entered my 2016 releases, Worth the Trouble, Worth the Risk, and Secretly Hers, in the relevant categories for each of those books. I’m proud of all three stories and each has also enjoyed mostly positive feedback. While I didn’t have an expectation of making the finals, I did have hopes.

Today, RWA announced the 2017 finalists. For hours, thousands of romance writers were sitting by their phones, hoping for that call. More than a few were probably frustrated by the stray telemarketer call, too. I tried to put it out of my mind and focus on work, but that wasn’t easy. I kept refreshing the RWA page to see how the categories were shaping up, but as each hour passed, the fact that my dreams for a nod would not come true this year sank in.

It’s never easy to face defeat, especially such a public one. But then I think of all of the wonderful books that were released last year, many of which also did not make the cut, and I realize that I am not alone. I know the loss of that recognition isn’t a wholesale rejection of my work. I think of all the lovely fan mail I received this past year, and how much I adored writing those books. And I remember that I typed “THE END” on yet another manuscript today.

So, I’ll be cheering for my friends who got good news (Michelle Major for Christmas on Crimson Mountain, and Virginia Kantra for her excellent book, Carolina Dreaming), and for one of my favorite books of last year, Duke of Sin, by Elizabeth Hoyt, which also made the list.

I will rally tomorrow (after I finish my little pity-party) and look forward to celebrating the winners in July, when we all gather for the annual conference, where we learn from each other how to write, how to navigate this competitive profession, and how to pick ourselves up and get back in the ring. There’s always next year, after all!

But for right now, I wonder if you’d make some authors happy by sharing one or two or your favorite romance novels from 2016?!

xo-Jamie

Let’s Hear It for the Ladies!

Today is International Women’s Day, which is intended to celebrate women’s contributions and the continued advancement of women’s rights. As a woman and a mother of a teen girl, this is a day worth discussing.

There are long lists of women throughout history who have changed the course of the world—Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Indira Ghandi, Princess Di, and Malala Yousafzai to name a few.

But you don’t need to be among the most courageous of all women to be a role model of femininity and feminism. Plenty of other prominent women—like Nora Ephron, Julia Child, Katherine Hepburn, Toni Morrison, Serena Williams—have followed their passion with conviction and thereby encouraged each of us to harness our own power to break through barriers. Each of them proves being authentic in our words and deeds matters.

I want to embody these ideals so that I leave behind a legacy of truth and power for my daughter and her “someday” daughters (fingers crossed!). I hope my daughter will continue to strive for those things in her life, too.

When I watched my daughter play ice hockey right after singing a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, I was so very proud. Proud that she has the courage to try new and “less traditionally” feminine sports. Proud that she’s shown commitment to her music. Proud that she is willing to pursue opportunities to achieve her goals, whatever they may be.

https://youtu.be/xCfdkwg4u2w

At a young age, she embodies the spirit of feminism. That word, to me, is about women having choices and the freedom to pursue them without judgment. The choice to take on the traditional role of a stay-at-home wife and mother. The choice to be a professional athlete. The choice to lead an organization, spearhead a medical breakthrough, or lead a revolution.

I hope that my female characters, all of whom to date have been fighting for love, friendship, family, and community, embody these ideals as well.

So today, let’s celebrate all of our choices, our diversity, and the way we women soldier on, generation after generation, with love, gratitude, and peace. That deserves some cupcakes!

xo-Jamie

Why Words Matter

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard a little something about “Fake News.” Everybody from the President to your grandmother is talking about it. The problem is that the truth about legitimate journalism is being distorted by this oft-repeated sound bite that is continually misapplied to cover a broad array of concepts. As a writer who respects the power of language, this is deeply troubling. As a citizen who demands a free press, it is frightening.

59121854 – censored freedom grunge concept

Regardless of whom you voted for, today’s barring of several major news organizations from a White House briefing should give you pause.

Words matter. Labels matter. So let’s be clear.

Fake News should be reserved for stories that are completely unfounded in fact and/or rely upon phony sources (which differ from anonymous sources).

Biased Reporting should be used to describe articles that are based on facts but written with a slant toward a particular opinion.

The protection of “Anonymous Sources” is vital to a free press, with few legal exceptions. This concept allows whistleblowers (like Deep Throat) to come forward with legitimate information without fear of reprisal. Using an anonymous source does not constitute “Fake News” absent unethical behavior by the journalist and editor of a particular media outlet. Most long-standing, legitimate news organizations have very strict rules about using such sources. See, for example, NPR’s, the New York Times’s, and Reuters’ rules about using such sources.

The current administration’s attempt to discredit and censor news outlets that heavily scrutinize it just because those outlets occasionally use anonymous sources to get at the truth signals an attempt to control which news we have access to read or hear. It demonstrates a desire to manage information and messaging so that it can do as it pleases while keeping us ignorant. It feels like an attempt to indoctrinate us so that it can broaden its power and reach without being questioned and checked.

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The lack of willingness for transparency is unprecedented. Every single prior administration has dealt with the same reporting and biases (from one side or the other) of long-standing media outlets, yet managed to have faith in the American people to sort fact from fiction and form their own opinions.

For me, when a President attempts to shut down the free press, it sends up a huge red flag. What is he hiding? If he’s so righteous, and his policies and actions above reproach, then why not allow all the press in to see and report it? The irony of Trump enjoying campaign help from the very kinds of leaks and sources he now wants to quash is not lost, either.

We don’t have to agree on policy or be affiliated with the same party in order to agree, at a minimum, on the necessity of a free press to protect a vibrant democracy and exchange of ideas.

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So please, the next time you read or hear the term “Fake News,” stop and question whether it is actually fake or merely biased. Even if you support Trump and his agenda, demand that all legitimate investigative media be invited to the White House, if for no other reason than to preserve democracy. Those of you who support the conservative agenda will want this fairness when Democrats are in control one day (and, as we all know, the pendulum swings back and forth with regularity).

Do not let one small group of men determine where you get your information. Let your voice be heard now or risk being silenced.

xo-Jamie

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