What happens when you outgrow… yourself?

I mean, we’ve all outgrown clothes (#stealingtoomuchHalloweencandy), boyfriends, even homes. I’ve got 2 kids and 2 dogs and 2 cats and a husband. They don’t make a house big enough for my crew.

But… this was something different. I was no longer excited to write. I was no longer excited about my releases (though I will forever and always love my Viva Las Vegas stories because they don’t “fit” anywhere—much like myself). I had a new book come out less than ten days ago and I’m not here to tell you about it.

I needed a do-over, to think outside the box. And that’s when I realized something. This is the book world—people get do-overs all the damn time. Want to write in a different genre? Change your name, change your cover style, change your voice—do whatever you want to be someone else.

Hell, even Nora Roberts did it. J.D. Robb has a very successful career as a novelist (like La Nora needed to get struck by lightning twice).

And, so, here I am, contemplating… who do I want to be next? What do I want to write now? I can throw off the yoke and just be, well, anyone.

So that’s what I did. I’m not here to publicize my new nom de plume. She’s just for me right now. I don’t know what I’ll do with her. I, writing as myself, have a story or two left in me that have to come out while I’m figuring all this out.

And that’s great because once I realized I could be anyone… I could write again. The characters have come alive again. And that means EVERYTHING.

Have a great month of preparing for the holidays you and yours celebrate, spending time with your loved ones, and planning for the future. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Jenn’s Top Ten list of Men with Beards #noshavenovember

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

Well, it’s November already! And you know what that means…

No-Shave November is a month-long journey during which participants forgo shaving and grooming in order to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness.

I admit I LOVE this idea. What a wonderful cause. Although, truth be told, I’m not a big fan of facial hair on men. I do prefer a clean cut kind of guy and most of the heroes I write about in my books don’t have facial hair. Sorry.

However… every once in a while I do catch a glimpse of a celebrity who has recently grown some facial hair and I have to say, he looks good. Sometimes even better.

Thus, I decided to create a top ten list. So here goes:

Jenn’s Top Ten list of Celebrities Who Look Great (if not better) with Beards

  1. Chris Evans– Sexy scruff.
  2. Chris Pine— Oh, my. Even with that tinge of gray it gets a YES from me.
  3. Joe Manganiello—Whoa. Yeah, I think the beard works in this instance.
  4. Prince Harry—MUCH better with a beard.
  5. Drake—So adorable
  6. Bradley Cooper— That’s a lot of beard. But then again, he’s a lot of man so it all balances out.
  7. Ricky Martin—Ooh, a beard makes him look so sophisticated.
  8. George Clooney—Beard or no beard. Who cares? This man can do whatever he wants.
  9. David Beckham—Yes. Yes. Yes.
  10. Chris Hemsworth— I’m sorry. What were we talking about again? 

 

Gee, I feel somewhat inspired to write a character with a beard now.

How about you—do you prefer facial hair or clean cut on a guy? Or does it depend on the guy?

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

When Innovation Runs Rampant

In the 2010s I’ve noticed a lot of trends.

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

First up, the everything old is new again. From Magnum P.I. and McGuyver gettings facelifts to Target’s attempt at acid wash jeans and hi-tops it seems like the 80s have come home to roost. There are some things I’m still hoping make the big come back – come on scrunchies. But I’m okay with the past staying in the past.

Second, the bigger, badder everything. Starbucks has this going with their Witch’s Brew and Unicorn drinks. Then there’s the Chicken as taco shells, and the McDonald’s breakfast all day, every day. Being able to buy Egg McMuffins any time of day makes me an extremely happy.

Now, I bring into the downswing of things. When innovation starts getting a little crazy. Crazy as in, upside down Christmas Trees. It started with the Dress Form Christmas Trees and now it’s moved on. Seems a regular Christmas tree isn’t the thing. Reminds me when Aluminum Christmas Trees were all the craze… wait, that link shows you can still buy them.

Truthfully, trends will always come and go. Some are more appealing than others and some never seem to disappear (Pokemon still going strong). What are some trends you love? Ones you despise? One’s you regret trying?

Next month, plan on the greatest hits of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) paired with pictures from either my Thanksgiving dinner or Black Friday shopping (we’ll see what I pull off).

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Romance and our Middle Grade

I’ve been dipping into other pools lately, and even though I still have no focused direction, I have lots of questions about what kids are reading now a days.

  1. who reads middle grade?
  2. who reads YA?
  3. What do kids want in a story?
  4. What makes a story compelling?

So, One at a time because I like how these questions have answers that also lead me into a deeper understanding of if this is something I want to do. Who would I be writing for? What is my target audience?

1. Who reads Middle Grade?  Word on the street is that 8-13 year olds are reading middle grade. That’s the standard, so to speak. And I imagine they are!! But I also remember reading a lot as a kid. When I pick up a MG book and it is about an 1/8 – 1/4 of an inch thick, I stop imagining it. Avid readers, at this age, are well beyond this story… A 5th grader is 10 or 11, and even my own kids had started in on Harry Potter by then. Okay…

2. Who reads YA?  This one is also broad, because we all know the twenty-something who loves YA. But technically, YAers are 14 – 20[ish]. I think the appeal of YA holds the readers into adulthood. [just an opinion, of course…maybe I need to do a poll!] I’ve never quite gotten into YA, so no matter what I discover about this genre, I can’t imagine writing it. However, is there an overlapping spot between MG and YA that I could squeeze a book into?

Overall, I feel like both of the labels are skewed and depend too much on the markets and namecallers to be valid. What do I mean by that? I mean people–kids, teens, young adults, and adults–are never going to be pigeonholed. So, what do we do? We balance between writing what we want to read and writing for the market. Selling the book is important if we want people to read it. And publishers want to know WHO is going to buy your book!!

3. What do kids want in a story?  This one is tricky. I know what I want in a story. I know what I wanted when I was in 3rd grade and reading trixie belden mysteries, when I was in 6th grade and reading Agatha Christie…and in 10th grade and reading Michael Phillips. Part of me hopes that kids still want a riveting story, characters who bring depth, and emotions that jump out from the page and make us feel. And something fun. I found a blog post answering the question “Can my middle grade book have politics?” Besides the fact that the answer is YES, I would question, why? I’m bored already and I haven’t even read the book. The matter of a book should be so ingrained in it, we don’t see it until we’re done and we step back and go…wow. For me this is where Christian Fiction goes wrong. There are a few good Christian fiction authors who can put a story on the page without slapping me with the dos and don’ts. [hey, Beth…you’re rambling now!] Ooops.

4. What makes a story compelling?  Nothing like asking a question that has a million answers!!! However, I’m going to wrap it up in one word, CONFLICT. Emotional, moral, relationship, external…no matter what you choose to highlight, there better be the idea that something better or worse is out there, waiting to ruin everything.

 

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

When Christmas is the New Fall Goal

Hi, all.  Jennifer here!

I can’t believe it’s fall already. But maybe I’m so surprised the year has been flying because I’ve been so busy with writing projects! Truth be told…I’m getting a little burned out.

Well. I’m trying to not let that happen. So I’ve created a new fall goal. 🙂

See, last December was terrible. Not TERRIBLE terrible, mind you. Just that I really didn’t get to enjoy Christmas like I normally do. I didn’t bake cookies and I watched maybe one Hallmark Christmas movie. (Yeah, I know. Really bad.)

So this year, my new fall goal is make sure I have ALL my writing projects completely done before December 1st. Then I’m going to take the entire month off and just ENJOY the holidays.

Sounds heavenly, yes?

Here are my plans:

  • I will make my normal 8 different kinds of Christmas cookies
  • I will make a gingerbread house (from scratch!)
  • I will host a girls Christmas get-together/cookie swap
  • I will watch EVERY NEW HALLMARK CHRISTMAS movie made
  • I will read Christmas books
  • I will spend most of my days in yoga pants and try not to eat all the cookies I make
  • Oh, and I will research on Pinterest and make really creative food gifts to give away

That there is motivation! (For me)

I can’t wait!

Have you thought about Christmas yet? Have you made any fall goals for yourself?

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

Happy Birthday, ME!

Every time I hit a new decade, I hear the sweet whispers about how awesome this decade is going to be. Well, so far, 40s have been awesome.

The 20s were uncertain and scary, but in a good way! The adventure of becoming an adult, striking out on my own, having sex for the first time, learning my limits and expanding my boundaries. Questioning everything…and not always learning.

I spent my 30s tired. Seriously tired.  Matt was working his tail off to support a growing family. Yet, our 30s were where we came into our own. We started the decade drinking on the weekends and smoking, working to pay the bills, and wondering what the hell we were doing. But as our 30s came to end, we’d made concrete goals for the future, joined the Army, quit smoking and drinking, and had our last kid, too. Our lives had finally melded into one, and even though we were exhausted in those goals, we were happy…and still married! I was writing. He was soldiering. Two dreams made into a reality.

So, here I am at 42 this year.  It has taken me two years to understand what this decade would be about. But this one is mine. All mine. This past year, especially, has made me realize that I need to take care of myself as well as everyone else. My writing is important. My health is important. I’ve lost 30 pounds this year. I’ve written more since 40 than I have in a long time. I’m driven to do so much more. I volunteer for Sunday School classes, am president of the Catholic Military Woman’s group, and also [sorta] help out with the FRG–family readiness group. In my 30s, relationships with other women wasn’t a key that I needed in order to unlock anything important in my life. Now, they are. I crave strong, independent, opinionated women–like myself, like the friends I have here at Passionate Critters and Through Heart-Shaped Glasses. I have eight more years in this decade. And I can’t wait!

Life is like our books. We start with an idea. We develop it and work at it for a long time. And we might even hit that point where we just want to throw it all out the window! But if we keep going, keep searching, keep learning, keeping loving, we reach the other side and suddenly the book makes sense again and we actually like it! Ha!

Share with me: What decade are you in? What is the theme for your life right now?

With Love,

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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