Tag Archives: Writing

Inspiration and Creative Expression

People often ask me where I get my story ideas. Some assume they are ripped from the lives of my family and friends, to which I reply, “Of course!” I say this because, in some form, my experiences certainly influence my work. However, I also find inspiration in a good song lyric, a wonderful quote about love or life, interesting documentaries, and art.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Wow! I am awed by the creative genius of so many people, who combine every day things (including trash) to make something that is both visually exciting and often educational.

When I sit down to write, I try to do the same thing with words. I think, however, that as powerful as words are, and as much as they can stimulate the imagination of readers in infinite ways, when words are combined with other art forms (like music or paint or video), their power multiples exponentially.

 

 

     

Perhaps one day I’ll take on the challenge of writing a screenplay so I can create something that combines words, photography, and music. The trifecta! For now, I have to settle for Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists to give my readers a multimedia experience of my stories.

If you’re interested in seeing and listening to my vision, check out my extras page!

XO-Jamie

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Summer Reading Recommendation

I haven’t offered a reading recommendation on my blog in quite some time, but I’m inspired to do so today. I spent the better part of my free time this past weekend reading Elinor Lipman‘s On Turpentine Lane. This author had been highly recommended by many, but I’d never actually read her work until now.

To orient you, here is the book blurb:

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater.

It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall.

When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence…

Ms. Lipman has drawn a wonderful, kooky cast of characters and combined it with great wit, snappy dialogue, and a nice little mystery to keep you guessing. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I resented having to put down throughout the day in order to attend to chores and other matters.

My only quibble with the story is the fact that, at times (especially the first half), Faith could be somewhat dim-witted when dealing with Stuart (although she did wise up before the halfway point in the story). In all other regards, she was quite worthy of affection for the way that she handled her family and co-workers. Her neuroses made her quirky in the best way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story’s secondary characters, all of whom were well-developed and interesting. The Frankel family certainly encountered its fair share of drama–some manufactured, some real, and always portrayed with real warmth and endearing peculiarity. There were several moments when I laughed aloud and recognized some of my own family dynamic being played out on the page.

If you enjoy humorous fiction with a hint of romance and mystery, I highly recommend this book. If you grew up in a big, nosy family, I also recommend this book!

And although it wasn’t a romance, Faith’s friend/crush Nick will make your heart flutter with his humor and thoughtfulness. Without spoiling anything, let me also add that I was extremely glad with how Faith’s mother ultimately handled her marital woes!

Now I’m off to decide which other of Ms. Lipman’s other books I should read next.

xo-Jamie

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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