Sunday, August 24, 2014

Romance Novels: Why I’m Still Standing

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Life hit me pretty hard in the month of August. Just this past week, I sent my oldest off to college (yes, my first to fly the nest). If that isn't enough to send a mom into a tailspin, then having to do it while holding down a demanding day job that sucks more and more family/personal/writing time would certainly push most people over the edge.

Yes, the day job went from zero to eighty in the month of August. Perfect timing, right? Not so much. By Thursday of this past week, I was at the end of my rope--emotional from leaving the kiddo 2oo miles away, I returned to a job that keeps changing from hour-to-hour. That day, I was pulled off one project to start another. Add to that a vehicle breakdown and another personal family crisis that blew up, and I was holding on to the knot on the end of that rope and felt myself slipping. 
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What did I do? When the dust settled and I got back home and crawled into bed, I did as any good romance reader-writer would do, I pulled out my Kindle and I fell into a romance novel.

The only thing that has kept me sane this month has been my love of reading romance novels. Seriously. It’s why I started reading romance in the first place. When my life is crap, I can escape into someone else’s world. I can push aside everything that’s wrong for just a little while and get a break from the emotions, the stress, the demands that seem to claw at me 24/7. Yeah, I’ve got one of those minds that won’t shut off. I don’t find oblivion in a bottle, I find it in a book.

What I’ve learned is when I hit that wall, or I’m hanging on by just a thread, when my life rockets to out-of-control, I need to take a breather, pull out my Kindle, and read a romance. Only by submersing myself in story--in a romance novel, where a hero and a heroine have problems that they overcome to find their happily-ever-after--can I find rest. Some might say, oh, well, you’re burying your head in the sand. Ignoring your problems. No. I’m finding a spot of peace in a chaotic world that at that moment I can’t handle. It’s my only harbor some days. And I clutch it tightly with both hands. Yes, I’m a romantic. I’m in love with falling in love. I’m an optimist. Life can suck that all out of you if you let it.

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So when life gets me down and pushes me too hard, I turn to my safe harbor, my Zen place, and I read a romance. I know I’m not the only one who does this. I hear it again and again from women who read romance. How they find respite from the hardships of their lives when they read romance novels. I applaud them and I say hell, yeah, go for it. I know, firsthand, how hard life can be and how often I can attribute my ability to push through a tough situation or to remain standing in the midst of a crisis to some great romance novel that has swept me away for an hour or two and given me a break from my own life.

And this is also why I write romance novels. There are women out there just like me who need to find that next demilitarized zone so that they can handle whatever it is that life is throwing at them. There is peace from the chaos. Grab it with both hands--and if it comes through your Kindle by way of your favorite romance author--even better. At the end of the day, all that’s important is that you maintain your sanity and you’re still standing. If you’re still standing when the dust settles, you are stronger than your problems. Plus, when you give your brain a break, you can usually figure out a solution to overcome the slings and arrows of life.
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So, go, find your Zen place today. Pick up a book. Be good to yourself. I’m here cheering you on.

I’d love to hear from you if you've ever experienced the saving grace of reading in times of trouble. We all like to know we’re not alone. ;0) And that’s what romance does for us, it helps us build community. So give me a shout out and comment if you've been there.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Opportunity Costs - Balancing Yes and No

Over the past few days I've been thinking about opportunity costs. Here is a highfalutin' definition that I don't quite understand, but sounds official and deep and all, just in case you're interested in the real deal. My own home grown take:

An opportunity opens itself up to you. What will it cost you to say yes to it? What will it cost you to say no? What will it cost you to make a yes/no decision and then change your mind?

One weekend this spring my day job and my writing life collided in the form of two conferences that fell on the same dates. My options were attend one or the other. I couldn't do both.

"Torta casera argentina con crema chantill√≠ y duraznos" by Carlosdisogra - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

I couldn't have my cake and eat it too, dang it. 

I chose the writing weekend, which worked for me, but the costs included: I had to pay my own way (literal cost), I missed out on time with my work colleagues, I missed out on some professional training (ephemeral, but no less real costs).

In fact, I felt so bereft that I arranged for some of those day-job colleagues to come to town for a weekend getaway - a mini-conference of our own. In saying yes to this gathering, I had to say no to the August session of Lady Jane's Salon Silver Spring, where the Rockville 8's own Mackenzie Lucas was reading from her upcoming release, Courting Cinderella.

It's times like this when I wish I had a clone so I could be in two places at once.  

Now, in the scheme of things, one might say neither of these examples was a high stakes decision. But in each case, I had to do weigh the costs of saying yes or no.

This fall, I will begin a term on a non-profit board that meets on Tuesday nights once a month. Saying yes to this means I miss the opportunity to attend my Tuesday Nights Write group on the night(s) in question. I will lose butt in chair, fingers on keyboard time, but I will trade the time for a chance to expand my knowledge about something important to me and give back to the community.

Saying yes to a night of TV can help relax you after a stressful day, or spark story ideas, or create a situation where you'll overeat, or keep you from writing. Saying yes to a publishing contract can net you a monetary advance and increased distribution/visibility, but it might tie up your rights for longer than you're comfortable with. Saying no to a volunteer position might mean more time to spend on your writing or your family, or it could keep you from expanding your network of contacts and/or being Jill On The Spot when other opportunities arise.

This week I'm plunging into a Fast Draft session. For the next two weeks, I'll devote my "free" time to working exclusively on my book and post my progress on a social media accountability group. Saying yes to this, means I'll have to say no to: TV, pleasure reading, pool time, video games, hanging with friends who aren't writing (and cleaning the house, which is possibly not that big a loss....).

Do you ever wonder about your opportunity costs? Has there ever been a time when it hurt to say yes to one thing because it meant the other opportunity/ies were lost forever? When saying no was the stupidest decision you ever made?

Just how do you balance yes and no?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Five Places to Find Bargain eBooks

by Misha Crews

I love a good bargain, don't you? Regardless of what we're buying, saving a few bucks always makes the find even sweeter.

And as for books... well, books are pretty much the greatest things in the universe, am I right?

So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite sites to find free and bargain eBooks. Hope you enjoy!

Pixel of Ink

A pioneer in the "free books to your inbox" field, Pixel of Ink has been around since the beginning of the eBook revolution. Visit their website, subscribe to their mailing list, and you'll receive a daily email of free and bargain books. And if you're interested in faith-based books, you can also visit their Inspired Reads website.

Free eBooks Daily

This plucky newcomer likes to specialize in indie books, which makes them very near and dear to my heart! Visit their website, or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter to get instant updates on free books.


As a reader, the thing I like most about BookBub is that you can customize what kind of books are emailed to you every day. BookBub has built a reputation for providing subscribers with excellent reads. Visit their website to subscribe to their daily newsletter. 

Book Gorilla

With a name this silly, it's got to be a good service! Sign up for Book Gorillla's daily email newsletter to learn about free and bargain books from new authors as well as bestsellers.

Ereader News Today

Specializing in Kindle books, Ereader News Today offers readers an email newsletter service where we can choose the genres of books we'd like to hear about, and a highly searchable website where free and bargain Kindle books are listed. It's the best of both worlds!

Have you ever tried a bargain book email newsletter or website? What do you think of them?