I have never been a fan of New Years Resolutions, so, I don't make them. I do, however, strive to be a better version of me. I LOVE that saying because we can't change other people, only ourselves. At 52, I find myself reaching into the past, remembering the young girl I once was, the young woman I became, and the 'of age' woman I am now. I have not lived an interesting life, but I have lived a life. A good one too, no matter the ups and downs. I strive to ride out the downhill slope of older years much the same way I climbed the hill to middle age...striving for something.
In 2019, I will strive to exorcise more. That means more than walking and riding my bike.
In 2019, I will strive to be a better writer. That means taking workshops on craft, reading books on craft, and stretching my writing.
In 2019, I will strive to take better care of myself emotionally. That means staying away from situations that cause me a great deal of anxiety and stress.
In 2019, I will strive to be kinder and more forgiving.
In 2019, I will strive to learn new things and go on new adventures.
In 2019, I will strive to be a better friend. Over the last few years, I have developed some fantastic friendships, that need a little attention from me.
In 2019, I will strive to be more social.
In 2019, I will strive to NOT make the same mistakes I made in 2018.
Wow. I remember growing up as a kid in the 70's and 80's, thinking 1999 was so far away and now I'm typing 2019. Weird.
What will you strive for in 2019?
They say time heals all wounds. I’m honestly not so sure I believe in that sentiment wholeheartedly.
I sound like a pessimist, don’t I?
My entire life I’ve waffled between the belief that anything is possible, tomorrow will be a new day, that there is hope, and we can get through all things in life. But I’ve also straddled the pragmatic side…as in we have two choices
- We can sit idle and do nothing
- We can move forward, always looking to the future, but living in the present
I’m a pretty paratactical girl who likes to daydream.
I had an interesting childhood, filled with love, drama, heartache, pain…you name it. But really, isn’t that life?
A friend of mine lost her husband to cancer a little over 4 years ago. He battled to the very end. As a couple, they were positive through the entire thing. Even when it was time to break down and cry, everything they said had a twist toward the positive. To them, life and love, no matter how short or long, was a gift. Something to cherish and when life took a bad turn, that was the time to remember to live life true to yourself.
You do you kind of thing.
When I was asked to write in the Love, Christmas Anthology, which had to be based on a holiday movie, I chose The Christmas Getaway from Hallmark. Why? I liked the premise. Two people forced to share the same space in a cabin over the holidays because of a mix up in reservations. I thought that would be cute. I honestly thought I’d write a romantic comedy. I had visions of my heroine baking cookies, dumping flour over the hero. I had images of her falling down on the slopes, taking him out with her. That’s all fine and dandy, but I had no backstory.
So, I started with my heroine. She’s a widow. Lost her husband before her son was born. He was a pilot in the Navy…oh, me thinks this won’t be a comedy. Then I got to thinking about my dear friend, who is the strongest woman I’ve ever met, and her children, and how they’ve tried to keep up the traditions, while moving forward with life. Because as my friend always said, life goes on. So, I made my heroine a kick ass woman who can make it all on her own.
Cool. Now what about him? Well, crap. I like to torture my hero…so, he lost his wife and son the year before and he came to that mountain to ski fast during the day, and drown his sorrows at night.
Only, he’s stuck with this woman and her son…reminding him of everything he lost. But it also showed him that he’d never stop missing his wife and son, he could live his life and find love again.
The journey that these two take is about learning to start over. It doesn’t mean you forget, it means you put one foot in front of the other with your chin held high and do your best to do you.
I hope you’ll check out the anthology and all the novellas inside!
Favorite Holiday Recipes is a collection of recipes from the New York Times, USA Today and Award-winning, International, Bestselling authors of LOVE, CHRISTMAS - MOVIES YOU LOVE (THE HOLIDAY SERIES BOOK 2)
Read the small excerpts that preface each recipe as each author tells you why her recipe is important to her story.
Full of pictures, these mouth-watering recipes are sure to inspire your culinary (or eating) desires. Included are appetizers (mulled wine, pineapple punch, millionaire's bacon), main dishes (lasagne, lobster mac and cheese, crock pot venison stew, traditional smoked salmon) and baked goods and desserts (fry bread, almond apricot coffee cake, double chocolate chip cookies, shortbread, cinnamon rolls) - in all, twenty-six recipes by the authors from all around the world.
These yummies are some of the authors’ favorites and a gift to our readers from us. We hope you enjoy these treats as much as we do.
Olivia Tate wants one thing for her son: to feel connected to the father he’s never known. Every Christmas, she and Noah head north to the lake where her late husband grew up. Equipped with a list of his family traditions, she does her best to follow each one to the letter, right down to baking his grandmother’s famous Christmas cookies. Now eight-years-old, Noah tells her he wants to try something new and learn how to snow ski. So, she makes a deal with her son. She’ll take him to the mountains in Vermont as long as they continue with the rest of the traditions.
What she hadn’t anticipated was the handsome stranger she’d be forced to share a cabin with and the effect he has on her heart, awaking desires she had long buried in the snow.
While deployed eleven months earlier, Navy SEAL Ryder Jameson lost his wife and son in a mass shooting. Needing to escape his family, and hers, he rents a cabin three days before Christmas. Armed with a few bottles Jack, all he wants to do is drink away the painful void left from losing the two people who matter most.
Just as he cracks open his first bottle of whiskey, a woman and her son walk into his cabin. One phone call reveals a mistake in the reservation and no more availability at the resort. To make matters worse, a major snow storm makes it impossible for either one of them to trek to another hotel, leaving him to deal with a boy filled with questions and woman who makes him believe he could risk his heart and love again.
It's been a little while since everyone who didn't final in the RITA's received their scores. Every year this happens, I think a few different things.
- Why give scores out at all?
- If giving out scores, why not ask for judges comments, and especially reasoning when giving out bad scores?
- Are the RITA's worth entering?
- And why do I enter anyway?
Now, I'm going to start this off with this qualifier: THIS IS NOT A SOUR GRAPES post. I've been judged harshly before. I've gotten bad reviews before. Not everyone is going to like my work. It is not for everyone and not just people who don't read romances. I'm sure some lovers of romance won't find my brand as wonderful as another author. When I got a 1-star review from a woman who didn't like the fact there was sex in the book, obviously she picked the wrong book and well, not everyone likes chocolate, but as one reviewer commented: does that mean you should bash chocolate?
Interesting question. In that case, I think the review sold me some books. But mostly, I'd say, if you don't like chocolate to begin with, don't write a bad review. But if you are a lover this type of book and you thought everything went wrong with book, then by all means, leave that 1 star review loud and proud.
I'm being very honest here. This is because, in order to crack that barrier from known to unknown, authors need to have both lovers and haters. As a brand, we don't exist if no one hates us. The most powerful form of marketing for authors is readers talking to other readers and not just if they love the book, but hating it too. As many people LOVED 50 Shades, many others HATED. That debate sold a lot of books!
Why is this important? Because I know, if I'm going to cross from the level I'm at right now, to the next level, I do need those discussions between readers. I can promote my books all I want. My lovers can promote my books and they will sell a few more copies that way, but what makes people stop, look, and listen?
Controversy. So if readers are vehemently hating and judging publicly, well, I say, that author has done something RIGHT.
So, I honestly don't mind someone giving me a bad review AND telling me why. I've a few readers tell me my heroine was too winey. I hear that enough, I'm going to take a good look at my writing. I mean, the readers and their opinions are important to me. I don't take criticism personally, especially when a reader gives me a reason why.
What fascinates me is that many people don't bother to write a review for a book that was 'okay'. Even at times if they thought it was the best book ever, they might not take the time to write that review. But if a reader is that disappointed, they are all over that! And, as it should be, but again, the reason really helps me out. I can either look at it from the idea that the reader is the reader for my type of books, or maybe it's something I really need to look at, or maybe the book is fine, but the reader and I have a difference of opinion. It happens.
I have judged a lot of contests and I have given low scores before. Usually we have a bunch of questions that we rate, so I can usually find one area that the author excels in and I can say something TRUE and POSITIVE. Not because I feel the need to be politically correct. Nope. that's not me. Nor am I just being nice. That said, much of writing is a craft that is learned and takes many years to master. We all started somewhere. Someone's grammar may such, but their descriptions could be stupendous. Their characters may suck, but the plot interesting. They may have impeccable grammar, but the characters don't pop off the page.
I remember feeling really bad about giving a low score in the RITA's last year. I went through all my notes thought about the different elements and while I didn't feel as though the writing was as good as it could have been and I found a few flaws in the plot. I also took issue with one of the characters and how they behaved in one scene. I gave it a 5. That score says a lot and I felt it was an accurate score. The book, in my opinion, was mediocre. But I really wish I could have explained my score to the author. They may not agree, but how can we improve if we don't get to know how people feel about the words on the page?
But you all say, Jen, this is a published contest, why should we give you feedback, you already know what you're doing?
To which I respond with: Then why the fuck did someone give me a 1?
If a 10=perfection. A perfect storm of words, characters, plot, and all that goes into a book without one single thing that didn't work.
Then a 5=well, I won't remember it tomorrow and I might not ever read that author again, but I didn't want to cut my eyeballs out.
Well a 1=YOU FUCKING SUCK. YOU CAN'T WRITE, YOU CAN'T DEVELOP CHARACTERS OR PLOT, AND REALLY PACK IT UP AND GO HOME.
Did I take the 1 I got on my recent RITA score that way? Nope. I did not. Do I think it was fair? Hell no. And not because I think I'm all that. I don't. That said, a 1 is not a representation of my work. Granted, I get that there is always a level of subjectiveness to judging and what I think is a knock out, someone will think it's mediocre. HOWEVER, we are judging the writing. And we are all professionals in the same industry. We read as authors, not as readers. So, you can hate my work as a fellow author, but judge it on its writing merits.
Now, I could be way off base, because I have no idea why this person gave me a 1, but I'd really like to know. I might not like the reason, but I'd have an understanding. If I didn't, than that's on me, not the judge.
Unless it was just a mean move. Again, not suggesting it is (though others have), but I'd be lying if it didn't feel like it had that mean twist to it. I mean, this is a really small business and its not like I haven't 'done' a few things in my day.
I've kind of always worried that the RITA's have become a popularity contest. I don't know. I've been lucky, most of the books I've judged have been by authors I've never heard of, so I had no preconceived notions. I have read authors that I'd heard of, but hadn't ever read.
There is no answer to fixing the contest to make it fair for everyone. Right now, if you enter, you have to judge. We don't have enough judges. But peers judging peers isn't always a good thing.
I don't know if I will enter again or not. I do have a book I published this year that I think is the best work I've done to date. We shall see....