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

 

The Daily Struggle

I never intended to use this blog for political purposes. Even now, this post is not really intended as political commentary as much as a plea for personal responsibility.

Like so many, I am dismayed by the way current leaders are trampling upon the very freedom that made this nation great, in some twisted attempt to strengthen and protect us. I’m saddened by the lack of compassion I see, and by the way people are pointing fingers, blaming others for the problems in their lives and in our country. Disgusted by the superiority (moral, ethical, and educational) that leaders on both sides of every issue claim. And depressed that anyone is looking to these so-called leaders to save him—to save “us.”

None of us is perfect. None of us has all the answers. Yet, despite all the infighting, I still believe all of us want the same things: opportunity, freedom, and peace. You’d think that, given that truth, it shouldn’t be so hard to make it happen. Of course, it’s immensely complicated, and is made more complicated when divisive language is used to separate us.

So with no answers to the bigger problems our country faces, here is the one and only thing I know: the most important step to making my life, my community, and my country better is taking responsibility for my role.

My future is dependent on every decision I make every day of my life. When I meet with an obstacle, do I point the finger and blame, or do I take action to remove or jump over that obstacle? When I see injustice, do I sit back and watch it, or do I get involved and seek change? Do I let other people tell me what to think, or do I read and become educated and allow myself to be persuaded by cogent arguments? Do I ask for help when I need it? Am I willing to be wrong or say I’m sorry? Am I willing to work hard for what I want? Am I wasteful of my talents and resources? Am I willing to recognize that fear and prejudice aren’t good starting points for forming opinions and making decisions?

When I read through that list, I can claim high marks on some, less so on others. But if I dedicate myself to improving my personal score on all counts, I’m pretty sure my family, my neighborhood, and my community will be better off. And if everyone in those subsystems also focused on personal accountability, we’d see big positive changes in a relatively short span of time.

There’s a reason I write love stories. I believe that good should triumph. I believe in happy endings. And I believe that we all have the power to ensure both of those things come true. So tell me, what one thing might you do differently to make your life (and the country) a better place?

XO-Jamie

Losing Control vs. Letting Go

I confess, I like to control my environment. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing is that I can dictate every single aspect of my characters and their lives. If only my children and husband would give me that same power!

Since my 50th birthday this past fall, however, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t actually dominate anything but my own thoughts and actions, and that attempting to extend that reach is exhausting. I finally see the difference between losing control and letting go. I can’t exactly “lose control” over things I never truly governed in the first place, right? Meanwhile, “letting go” means having faith that, even without my interference, things will eventually work out for those I love.

It’s not easy. I’m not always gracious about it, either. It’s hard to bite my tongue. Sometimes things like “Try it this way” slip out. Why? you ask. Well, in my mind, I’m deeply invested in the people I love, and trying to help is one way of showing my love and commitment. But I understand that my habit can be annoying—or worse, insulting—to others. In other words, it has the opposite effect of my intentions. Thus the newfound attempt to “roll with it.”

A potential bonus of my new attitude is that a more flexible approach should also help me remain happy in my career. The publishing industry is in constant flux, which is difficult for someone with my preference for structure. And unlike my former legal career, where you could rely on hard work to achieve certain results, in publishing, you can work extremely hard and still not get to where you are trying to go. Opportunity, luck, and subjectivity play important roles in this profession, none of which are in my control. So, like the beloved Dory advises, I “just keep swimming.”

I assume some of you are like me (controlling) and others are more relaxed. I invite those who fall into the latter category to offer me some advice on how to chill out!

xo-Jamie

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Goodbye, 2016

By most standards, 2016 has been a turbulent, surprising, somewhat devastating year.

We’ve lost some amazing celebrities, the most notable being singers like George Michael, Prince, and David Bowie, actors like Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, and Carrie Fisher, director Gary Marshall, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, journalists Gwen Ifill and Morley Safer, Janet Reno, Justice Scalia, Arnold Palmer, author Harper Lee, songwriter Leonard Cohen, astronaut John Glenn, pop icon Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Fidel Castro.

We’ve lived through the ugliest political campaign I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, and sadly we’re still seeing a rise in populist sentiment (eg., Brexit and other elections across Europe). Cop killers and killings have sparked protests and resentment nationwide. Nearly 91 people per day are dying of opiod overdoses in the U.S. (according to the CDC). Zika is spreading (not only through mosquitoes, but also through sexual contact), and no one knows how long that virus will last in one’s system or how devastating the ultimate consequences will be. On the somewhat lighter side of bad news, Brangelina split! And Kim Kardashian lost millions in a weird jewelry heist.

Scary, sad times, most say. But as we head into 2017, let’s remember some of the positive things that occurred in 2016.

Need examples? Well, the economy has improved. Stock markets have hit new highs, and unemployment is at its lowest rate in nine years. Harriet Tubman will be on new $20 bills. The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in more than a century. And U.S. carbon emissions are at the lowest levels since 1991. Those are just a few examples of good news that seems to get buried beneath the bad.

It’s so very easy to get caught up in negativity when it’s trumpeted on every major media outlet, and on social media. People love to be heard, and for some reason, most like to spread doom and gloom.

If we want a better world, maybe the place to start is with a resolution to look for, share, and celebrate good news (big and small)! If we collectively contribute positive messages and share “feel good” stories and wins, maybe a groundswell of goodwill will slowly erode fear and hate and lay the foundation for change for the better.

That’s my wish (and goal) for 2017. Are you on board?

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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