Tag Archives: integrity

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

It’s all in how you choose to view it

November didn’t turn out anything like I’d planned. I thought we’d have our first female President–but I was wrong. I thought I’d conquer National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and get 50,000 new words written in my current work in progress–but I was wrong. I thought I’d start a diet and lose at least five pounds–yep, wrong again.

It’s December now. Time to move on and set new goals. To do that, I need to let go of the guilt and frustration about those mistakes and failures in November. The best way I know how to do that is to look for the silver linings.

img_8595For example, maybe our country’s first female President will end up being someone universally admired instead of someone riddled with suspicion and questionable ethics. That’d be better, right? And while I wasn’t able to dedicate myself to NaNoWriMo and the new book, my editor’s notes on my last submission are making that book much stronger. That’s great, too!  Now, admittedly, it’s tough to see the silver lining in my diet failure, except I did totally enjoy the Bethel Bakery cake my mom got for my daughter over the Thanksgiving break! I rarely get that treat now that we’ve moved from Pittsburgh to Connecticut.

When I was younger, I would dwell on things that troubled me, even things beyond my control. Age has taught me what a monumental waste of time that behavior can be. Now I try to make myself look at things with a fresh perspective. Once I’ve found something positive within each of the otherwise upsetting events, they don’t seem so awful. In fact, most of the time, readjusting my attitude about an outcome opens up new and brighter possibilities.

Do you dwell on your mistakes, or do you move onward and upward?

P.S. I will start that diet…after the holidays.

xo-Jamie

 

 

 

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Democracy Requires Respect

I doubt I’m alone in feeling a great deal of trepidation as we look forward to tomorrow’s election. At fifty, I can’t recall another instance in my lifetime where I’ve seen such contention and divisiveness between candidates and their supporters.

Facebook is no longer a fun space because people bully and belittle each other. No surprise, I suppose, because the candidates trash the other’s supporters, too. Media consultants speak over each other and trade put-downs. In truth, no one has really shown anyone with a different opinion any respect. In that way, everyone has been “deplorable.”47229718_s

The funny thing is that, the great majority of us are probably in the same boat: neither candidate represents our agenda or interests. Maybe you’re a moderate Republican (like me), who believes in small government, lower taxes, but also supports gay rights, is pro-choice, and wants tighter gun control. Or maybe you’re a moderate Democrat, who thinks taxes should go up for some, but spending should be cut, too. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because we are each entitled to our opinions (and hopefully those opinions are based on something more than mere media soundbites).

What we aren’t entitled to is being so hateful toward each other. First of all, it’s just rude. Why does anyone think its okay to demean another person’s opinion or vote? Does a person who disparages another person actually feel better about himself? Picking on someone else as being “stupid” for his or her differing opinion does not persuade anyone that your opinion is correct, does it? It just makes you a bully. Don’t be a bully. Don’t make people feel stupid just because they like something about a candidate that you don’t like or understand.

Secondly, this belittling is dangerous and bad for the country. We are 300 million people and growing. There will never be a time when we are 100% unified on any topic, but we still have to live with and work together. We have to try to find the middle ground so progress can happen. To find middle ground, we have to be able to actually listen to and understand that other side’s grievances. The failure of the parties to work together this past decade has led us to this terrible place (in my opinion). I hope this election is a wake-up call to BOTH sides of the aisle. We need leadership to step toward each other or this democracy will collapse.

Our forefathers gave us power but, by and large, the vast majority (myself included) doesn’t exercise it enough. The bottom line is that, if we the people are unhappy with our choices, it is because most of us have failed to stay informed and involved all along. It is not fair to spew hate and anger if we’ve never read a paper, called a representative, or otherwise participated in the process on a more regular basis.

My biggest wish for tomorrow is that—no matter who wins, or how disappointed we may be—we take a deep breath, we get more involved in politics by staying informed, writing to our representatives, and taking advantage of the right to be proactive in the process, and we refrain from making ugly statements about the winner and his or her supporters.

In other words, it starts with your vote, but it doesn’t end there.

XO-Jamie

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The Advantages of Uncertainty

When nothing is sure, everything is possible ~ Margaret Drabble

I love the positive spin this perspective places on uncertainty, which is a state of being most of us otherwise dread.

This reminder seems especially apt at the end of a rough week in the publishing industry (and for several of my friends). Another small press (Samhain Publishing) is going to be closing its doors soon. Like many publishers, it and its authors are seeing diminishing sales as the tide of new, cheap books swells, making it hard for any book to find an audience.

Technology has been a double-edged sword in publishing (much like in the music industry). On the one hand, it has expanded avenues for many writers, especially those lucky enough to get in at the beginning of the digital book market. Subscription services can be a boon to voracious readers (much like Netflix is for those who like television and movies). But these changes have also destabilized the market, pushing all publishers to scurry around to catch up to the changes (and try, if in vain, to predict them). In many cases, it has shifted the burden of the marketing and promotion of books (traditionally, the publisher’s job) to the author. And with so many books going live every day at rock bottom prices, it may even be devaluing books, which makes the economics of publishing unsustainable for many authors.

Yes, with all of this bad news, it is easy to be pessimistic. To abhor change and the uncertainty it creates.

But I also know that publishing is neither the first, last, nor most important industry to be affected by technology. Every sector of our economy gets hits, periodically, with uncertainty and must adapt and swim with the tide. Adopting a mindset that welcomes uncertainty instead of fearing or lamenting it seems to be a good place for anyone to start.

While I’ve been very blessed so far in my publishing journey, I know that nothing lasts forever. That more changes are sure to come. And that I cannot expect my good fortune to go on indefinitely. That undoubtedly I will hit roadblocks, and some may throw me far off-course.

However, I also cannot allow myself to dwell in a negative space. To fear that inevitable disappointment that is lurking around some corner. To worry about things beyond my control, or yearn for something that is no longer fact.

I can control the quality of my work. I can support other authors by promoting them to my friends and fans. I can have a voice within Romance Writers of America if I choose to vote or to serve. I can speak openly with my agent and publisher about my concerns, my goals, and my support needs in order to garner a “team” mentality in this otherwise very solo journey. Those are the things I can do to exercise a bit of control on these uncharted waters of the ever-changing publishing industry.

And when fear sets in, I need to remember Ms. Drabble’s quote. Change, while scary, can present opportunities. Sometimes the status quo is broken, and innovation opens the floodgates for new and improved ways of doing things. Thus, the best thing I can do is stay positive, informed, and keep working so that I am prepared when those opportunities present themselves.

That’s my plan. Wish me luck! And if you have any advice about how to approach uncertainty, please share!

xo-Jamie

Temptation’s Silver Lining

Another new year, another round of resolutions. I’m not even going to list them because, if history predicts the future, chances are good that I won’t keep them for more than about five months. *sighs* Temptation–to eat that sweet, to nap instead of hitting the gym, to watch TV instead of purging the closets–usually wins out. Although I hate to admit it, I am weak! There, I said it, and I’m not going to skulk away in shame.325872_s

All kidding aside, I do spend a lot of time thinking about temptation. Polite society tends to cast it in a bad light, making it a boogeyman that steers a corrupt person off course. But as a writer, temptation has a purpose: it is a material part of the push-pull of any good character arc. The more direct the conflict between what a character believes is right and what s/he wants, the better the story tension, and the faster a reader should want to turn those pages.

Sometimes I’ll use a story to tease out my position on a personal conflict, other times I’ll borrow from a friend’s or relative’s experience. In all cases, exploring every side of an issue/argument is my favorite part of building any character and any story.

It isn’t always pretty, and my characters aren’t always “heroic.” That’s intentional. Frankly, most of us mere mortals are flawed and make bad choices now and then. We hurt others, we self-preserve, we justify.

What I love about writing is trying to take a flawed character and redeem him or her. I think such a character’s journey to redemption is irresistible to we flawed readers because, if he or she can acknowledge a mistake and do better–can earn forgiveness, love, and respect after a major misstep–than so can we.

When viewed in this way, temptation serves a vital function in fiction and in personal growth.

Do you feel the same, or do you view temptation in black-and-white terms and become unable to root for a character who has crossed that line?

XO-

Jamie