Tag Archives: Writing

Let’s Connect

I’ll admit, at times social media can be painful to me. I’m not a natural born extrovert. Until I’m introduced to someone, I’m very shy, which can often be mistaken as aloofness. I’m not particularly witty, either, although I sure do appreciate those who are. And if given the choice between entering a serious debate or going to a cocktail party, I’d take the debate 9 out of 10 times.34574488 - group of hands holding speech bubble with social issue concepts

However, it’s true that, the more you do something, the more comfortable it becomes. Since I began seriously pursuing a writing career a few years ago, I’ve become active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and this blog. I’ve learned how to link some of these things together, and make sure they also show up on my Goodreads and Amazon author pages. I’ve tried tracking which kinds of posts elicit the most engagement, but that remains a mystery because I still can’t identify a pattern. Well, except for husband tomfoolery posts. Those are always popular and, lucky for me, my husband’s a good sport! IMG_7396

The one thing that keeps me motivated is when others engage with me. Whether it’s a back-and-forth on Facebook, a response to a newsletter, or an “ask an author” question on Goodreads, those little moments of connection make the multiple hours spent curating content seem worthwhile.

So I’m coming directly to the source and asking, what kinds of content are you interested in reading? Fun, flirty, pop-culture topics? Psychological explorations about love and relationships? Reading recommendations and reviews? Something else or all of the above?

Please feel free to drop me a note (or leave a comment) with any suggestion. It will make this a better experience for all if I can hit upon things that you enjoy reading and thinking about.

Hope your summer is going well!

xo-Jamie

 

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Love, Grief, and Characters

We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in. — Ernest Hemingway

I just turned in the final Sterling Canyon book to my editor, which means it’s time to start a new series. Similar to my St. James series, this one will be a set of connected stories (tentatively, the Cabot novels) centering around three siblings in a somewhat dysfunctional yet loving family.

One theme that will be layered throughout the first book will be grief (personal and professional). I know. I’m writing romance, so why veer toward heavy sorrow? Why give both the hero and heroine a material, complex loss to overcome?

Well, because, to me, I’m writing a love story. And not all love stories should be witty, sexy romps filled with banter and white-hot attraction. In real life, some true love stories are borne from the worst circumstances, and are all the more memorable for it. Of course, whether or not I’m up to the challenge of writing that bittersweet yet compelling love story is yet to be determined. I hope so.

I also suspect there are readers mourning things in their lives–not just deaths, but other losses–who might be inspired by characters who overcome grief. In most of my stories, I aim to create realistic and familiar scenarios that readers can relate to and, even better, that challenge their perspective with regard to “the norm.” I love a good debate, after all. In my opinion, nothing teaches us more about ourselves and the world than when we are forced to consider an opposing point of view.9526624_s

Finally, how we handle grief says something about who we are. We can all agree that the basis of grief is a lost attachment. Some people choose to avoid deep attachments in order to prevent grief. Others may have had an unhealthy attachment or unresolved difference with someone from which they might forever struggle to recover. And finally, some may handle grief remarkably well because they focus on their gratitude for the attachment they had the privilege to enjoy for however long it lasted. In all these cases, you have a very different character in play, which gives me a lot of directions I can pursue in terms of character and story development.

Best of all, this kind of theme allows me to really explore the truth of Hemingway’s observation. I love that quote, not only for its simplicity, but also for its optimism. That is the goal–the endpoint–of any character arc, after all. From darkness to light. Hopefully by beginning at the lowest of lows, the high will be more satisfying.

Speaking of characters, if you’d like to help me build the foundations of new ones, share your take on grief. Have you seen someone handle it very well or very poorly? Do you have a process that speeds up your recovery time, or do you go dark and quiet for a while? Do you rely on faith or friends? Do you get angry? Let me know and you might see your note reflected in my new story next year.

xo-Jamie

 

 

The Joy of Celebrating Romance Readers

I confess, I’m in a great mood despite the fact that snow is falling outside. Yes, snow in April. Needless to say, spring weather in New England is unpredictable. But I digress. My point is that I can deal with the snow because I’m still riding the high from the weekend thanks to dozens of readers, librarians, and bloggers (*waves to Heroes and Heartbreakers*).

The Pond House

The Pond House

On Saturday, my Connecticut Romance Writers of America chapter hosted its first annual “Spring into Romance” luncheon, (which was open to librarians, book sellers, and readers) at The Pond House. When we conceived of the idea months ago, we had no idea whether or not it would work. I admit, at first I had that sick feeling you get when you start to plan a party and wonder whether anyone will show up.

 

 

My beta readers

My beta readers

Luckily, we ended up with 97 guests (including some of our chapter’s authors). Those of us on the board were pleased with that turnout considering this was our first attempt to organize such an event. Our president, Jamie Pope, offered some welcoming remarks, and Kristan Higgins gave a lovely keynote address to the crowd. Spirits were high, I tell you. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that we loosened everyone up with a complimentary cocktail.

The Three Jamies!

The Three Jamies!

Those who came enjoyed a great meal, played a fun trivia game (although my table did not fare so well in this), and mingled with other romance novel lovers, all of whom got to take home a goody bag with free books, frames, wine glasses, and more.

 

 

But while all of that is very fine and made for a pleasant afternoon, what stuck with me was the enthusiasm of so many who were interested in meeting some of their favorite authors.

Authors Kristan Higgins, Erika Kelly and guests

Authors Kristan Higgins, Erika Kelly and guests

I really can’t describe how much having a reader tell you, “I love your books” means to me. It is what makes me sit at this desk day after day. It gets me through reading a less flattering review. It helps me quiet the self-doubt that starts screaming midway through any draft.

 

So, this post, like this past weekend, is my little love note to my readers.

Authors Sadie Hartwell, Katy Lee and guests.

Authors Sadie Hartwell, Katy Lee and guests.

I wish more of you lived in Connecticut so that you could participate in some of the activities my chapter organizes. In lieu of that, I appreciate your participation on my Facebook page, and cherish every single reader email I get (including the ones that tell me what should happen next in a series).

Author Gail Chianese and guests

Author Gail Chianese and guests

 

 

I know I speak on behalf of my chapter and all of my writing friends when I say that you, dear readers, are the reason we keep writing. Thank you for spending your time with our stories!

xo-Jamie

Awards–What Do They Mean?

Yesterday was a monumental day in the world of romance authors, for some more than others. The Romance Writers of America announced the finalists is its annual RITA (published authors) and Golden Heart (unpublished authors) contests.

Alas, my books did not make the cut. But in all honestly, I had no expectation that they would. Thousands of books are judged by an equal number of readers, and the scores are largely subjective. To final, a book must not only be of a certain quality, but must also fall into the hands of three judges who love it. Ever read a book a friend highly recommended only to think to yourself, “meh?” Yeah. That happens, as proven by the fact that some of my favorite stories and authors from last year did not make the cut.

Authors’ reactions to losing can range from anger, cynicism, and defeat, to mild disappointment and a commitment to do better next year. Apparently, this disparity in response is universal in any artistic industry in which awards are distributed (music, television, film). In fact, I’ve pulled a bunch of quotes by famous people about awards. What shocked me is to see that Tom Cruise had the most balanced opinion (or, at least, the one that most mirrors my own).

At one end of the spectrum, you have these:

Of course awards matter. Frank Ocean

It’s very validating when you are new in the industry to get awards. It boosts your self-esteem. Sheena Easton

I’ve won many awards and I want more. If you want to call it hunger then I’m hungry for awards. Shah Rukh Khan

At the other end, you hear this:

Awards are meaningless to me, and I have nothing but disdain for anyone who actively campaigns to get one. Bill Murray

Awards are so unnecessary because I think we get so much out of our work just by doing it. The work is a reward in itself. Natalie Portman

Do awards change careers? Well, I haven’t heard of many stories where that’s the case. It’s a fun excuse to meet colleagues and celebrate people who’ve done well that year in certain people’s eyes, and it’s nothing more than that. Benedict Cumberbatch

And then there is the Tom Cruise opinion, which is how I feel (except for the part about having won many, since I’ve yet to win any, LOL!)

Awards are wonderful. I’ve been nominated many times and I’ve won many awards. But my journey is not towards that. If it happens it will be a blast. If it doesn’t, it’s still been a blast. Tom Cruise

While Ms. Portman makes an excellent point, it seems a tad bit disingenuous. Yes, awards are not necessary, but they are fun. And I imagine it feels amazing to win (like Ms. Easton reports). However, I’d also guess that Mr. Cumberbatch is not wrong when he says it doesn’t necessarily change careers. For some it might, but there are certainly prior RITA winners whose names I’ve never heard before.

Basically, today I’m feeling proud of my friends who’ve been nominated and will cheer them on in July. Sure, I have a little envy for the thrill they must’ve experienced when getting the call, yet I am not depressed or jaded or bitter, because I know their accomplishments do not diminish my own.

I’ve released four books in my first fourteen months in the business. That feels amazing. I receive lovely emails from readers who’ve been touched by some of my work. Honestly, nothing could mean more than that to me. And I’m constantly making new friends in the industry, which has been such a gift for this stay-at-home mother of two.

Yes, next year I will ship off my work and cross my fingers, hoping I might get a turn in the spotlight. That nagging voice of self-doubt that says I’m an imposter might finally quiet down if I ever win a big award. But most importantly, I look forward to continuing to engage with my readers. They, after all, are the real prize to be treasured.

XO-Jamie

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