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5 Things To Do With Your Friends

Being a woman can be hard. A lot is expected of us. Not only do we hold jobs, raise kids, and keep a household running, but we’re expected to do it all with a smile (and to look fit and pretty, too!). It can be daunting at times, which is why it’s so important to keep connected to our friends.

Sure, your mom and sisters can be a source of support, as can your partner. But there’s something special about friends–the people who choose you to be a part of their life journey–that nourishes the soul and rejuvenates the spirit. Here are a few of mine on a recent girls’ trip we took to Arizona, where I laughed more in five days than I have in the past month. I can’t tell you how much that hit the reset button on my stress level.

But you don’t need to spend a ton of money to enjoy the benefits of friendship. Here are five inexpensive things you can do to keep connected with your friends:

  1. Start a book club (or another club involving a mutual hobby or interest, like knitting, hiking, or music). Naturally, talking about books is a favorite pastime of mine, but book club evenings eventually evolve into sharing stories and laughs over wine. What’s nicer than that?
  2. Host a potluck. This sounds old-school, but it’s a nice way to host a party without doing all the work and spending all the money. The host can prepare the main dish, but assign others the salad, sides, and dessert (dessert to be given to your most-trusted friend, as it is the most important part of the meal!).
  3. Take an exercise class (or meet for a long walk). The long walk allows for lots of catching up, but then again, going to Pilates with a friend makes that endeavor less painful.
  4. Watch a series togetherliterally. When I was young and single, I did this with a friend (Melrose Place, anyone?). More recently, a friend and I did this for LOST and American Horror Story. We’d take turns going to the other’s home to watch, leaving the hubby and kids to fend for themselves for an evening each week. It turned TV watching into a social endeavor, and it was fun to snack away while discussing the episode (my husband hates when I ask questions during a show–and during LOST I had a lot of questions).
  5. Plan an “at home” spa day. Drug stores sell a ton of inexpensive face masks and nail products. Pick up some collagen masks, Emory boards, and brightly colored polish and call your friends. You might want to send your partner and kids out to the movies so you have the place to yourself, but it can be fun to engage in these girly activities no matter your age, and you end up feeling fresh and pretty when it’s over.

Those are a few of my ideas, but I’m sure there are plenty more. If you have a good idea, please share!

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

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