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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

Chocolate, Wine & Sign–Valentine’s Day with Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! I know this is a day people love or hate, and that mood may depend upon your relationship status in any given year. For romance authors, this is sort of like Christmas or Thanksgiving, or a combination of both.

Christi Caldwell, Jamie Beck, Erika Kelly, Katy Regnery

But if you happen to find yourself without a significant other this year, don’t despair. Love will find you one of these days. Until then, why not use Valentine’s Day to express love to friends and family, or to your community?

That’s what I did last night with fellow romance authors Erika Kelly, Christi Caldwell, and Katy Regnery.

We held an author event and fundraiser to benefit Filling In the Blanks at the Norwalk Public Library.

Tina Kramer, Founder, Filling in the Blanks

Despite it being a cold February night in New England, roughly forty readers showed up to celebrate. Together we raised several hundred dollars, which will be used to help feed hundreds of school children that otherwise go without food on the weekends. Not a bad way to spend an evening, even if Cupid didn’t make an appearance.

 

I loved sipping wine with new-to-me readers, listening to my friends read from their books, and raising money for a great cause. I honestly can’t think of anything better I could’ve done to celebrate love. And ultimately, that is what this holiday is about, right?

Speaking of love, I have lots of it for all the authors that couldn’t be with us but sent books and swag to our event to help make it a success. Who are these amazing ladies? Well, let me share their names along with a giant thank you to each of them:

Wine, chocolate, and coffee!That reminds me, I need to thank a whole bunch of authors who donated books to help make the event a success:

Regina Kyle, Kim Law, Sharon Struth Author Page, Author Tamra Baumann, Shelly Alexander, Susannah Hardy-Sadie Hartwell, Jamie Pope Author Jamie K. Schmidt Gail Chianese Megan Ryder, Author Abigail Strom Nancy Naigle Author Asa Maria Bradley Michelle Major Books Sandra Owens Author Miranda Liasson Amy Liz Talley Cindy Kirk Carolyn Brown Nancy Herkness, Author Author Susan Stoker Darcy Burke Sarah Stanton Andre Amy Patrick

Goody bags and auction baskets

Now, if you’re looking for an activity to bring a little extra romance into your day, how about falling in love with a new book boyfriend? All of the authors mentioned here have written a wide variety of stories for you to check out, so I hope you’ll do so. And I’ve got a new release next week that I hope you’ll give a try, too.

But if you aren’t going to any romance events or reading a good love story, how are you spending your day?

xo-Jamie

 

Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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Audiobooks…Yay or Nay?

My mother drives up to visit my family roughly every six weeks. It’s an 8-hour trip, but she passes the time by listening to audiobooks. She swears that she becomes so engrossed by her story, the trip passes quickly. Granted, she’s listening to mystery/thrillers (loves those spy stories), so I can imagine that the pacing and plots would pull her along.

I’ll admit, I’ve never listened to an entire audiobook. I think I might enjoy a non-fiction one because it would be like listening to a lecture (which I enjoy). But fiction? I don’t think so. fullsizerender34I’ve tried listening to my own books, but can’t get beyond the second or third page because the narrator does not use the pace, tone, or emphasis that I had imagined when writing the story. It’s strange, actually, to hear the way someone else is interpreting my words and meaning with their own tone and twist. I can’t imagine how a screenwriter or playwright handles seeing their work come alive in sight and sound!

When it comes to reading, I prefer attaching the voices and inflections that I think match with the characters. I wouldn’t want to hear them through someone else’s lens (especially if it is a woman pretending to be a man, or visa versa). Maybe I’m just old-school, but it seems I’m destined to continue using my eyes instead of my ears when it comes to “reading.”

That said, it seems audiobooks are growing in popularity. So I’m curious, what’s your take? Do you like them, or not?

XO–Jamie