Hello 2020

When two worlds Implode at the same Time: A personal and a business story, with one outcome. 

I’m going to tell you a secret. My period was 6 days late, expected on the 25th or 26th of December 2019. So, imagine me…pretty much freaking out the entire week of Christmas. By the 30th, I was imagining not being done with kids. I was imagining a bigger van and diapers… By Monday after Christmas, I’d decided that on Friday, the 3rd, I was going to take a test and just get it over with. I mean…I’m not young, so it could be a tumor, right? However, my new year started a new cycle on January 1st [TMI, I know…oh well. There’s just so much TMI on the internet and this seems tame in comparison].

I might have been freaked out but I wasn’t devastated. If you’d asked me, even two weeks ago, what I’d do if I got pregnant, I probably would have gone pale, laughed in your face, and thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me; so much so that adoption might cross my mind. I mean, I’m finally at a point where my youngest is in kindergarten, and I have time to solidly write during the day, to work out without waking at 5am, to even just sit and have coffee. I’ve been consistently making dinner 3-4 times a week. I mean…life is good. Throw a baby in there and more than half of that would disappear, except the parts where I’m “working”, and I do mean making dinner and doing laundry and cleaning shit. However, I was kind of excited. I mean, I’m in the best shape ever, and I was starting to think…I could do this as an experiment. Like, how fit can I stay during a pregnancy. Plus, babies. <3 <3

Here I am with a seriously new perspective. And yes, I have it because I’m not pregnant. And I know that if I’d been pregnant, the internal workings of my psyche would be different, but I can only tell my story, so…

January 1st, I was given a gift. A message in the form of a [not] baby.

STOP F*CKING AROUND. [oh! haha. literally and figuratively]

As my personal life was sending mixed signals, a part of the business life around me was imploding. That’s the word everyone has used for the coming demise of Romance Writers of America. I’ve watched this organization for years. I joined in 2006[ish], shortly after I began writing. For me, I believed its value was in the relationships I’d gained. But as I look back, even that value is far smaller than I give it credit for… I only have 3 close friends from my association with RWA. Most acquaintances have come and gone as I’ve moved.

If you are really interested in what went on in RWA, just Google RWA 2019 Scandal and Courtney Milan. Something will pop up giving you a hint, but maybe nothing unbiased–this is the way of reporting today–so, just read with caution. My blog post here isn’t about the Scandal of RWA in 2019, though. So I’m not going to go on about it.

Instead, I will share how it affected me.

There’s always been an underlying current of politics and social reform within the members of RWA. Years ago, it was the fight for equality between print and digital. The idea that only B-rated porn was being offered as ebooks came from the fact that…yes, lots of porn on the internet. But it just didn’t remain so and really might never have been an accurate assessment because when new things arise, people fear. Change is hard. But digital publication and self-publication fought hard for respect and earned it. RWA fought against it. They fought and feared this uprising of authors who may or may not be approved. They lost the focus of supporting the writer, any writer, and became an entity who drew lines.

And they continued to draw lines for everyone, influencing not just writers but publishers, editors, and agents alike. And every year or few years, in the last fifteen, have been rife with the latest social uprising, which leads to accusations, debates, sides being taken, and discontent. For example, the contests of RWA have gone from having 4 categories to many, too many. Because heaven forbid someone not be represented. There should be 4 categories–contemporary, suspense, historical, paranormal/sci-fi. That’s it. It shouldn’t matter what kind of suspense you write or what kind of historical. Whether your characters are straight, gay, white, hispanic, Christian or Buddhist; whether the writer is they, black, white, Atheist or JW.

There is ONE type in a writing group, a WRITER. Period.

Writers for Writers: On Writing. <– this should be the name of the organization, the WWW.

Not Writers for Conform, or Writers for Reform, or Writers for Readers, or Writers for Equality!  No!!

We are artists, each with our own mission, passions, and goals, taking the issues that drive us and putting them to words. As soon as we start letting other people tell us what to do, we become robots. We become anti-artists.

I follow God. I pray every day. I ask Him to show me what He wants of me. He asks me to use my gifts for His glory. My gift is writing romance, writing stories about love between two people. The joy within me comes from penning stories of redemption and forgiveness and love, sex included!

And in the last two years, I have failed my passions and my gifts. I have struggled to separate the politics from the art. I have let doubt and uncertainty bind me and trap me in this corner. No more.

My RWA membership will expire this year–for good. I’m pulling myself up out of the pool of social norm and conform–in RWA, online, and in real life. It’s too crowded. Jumping on the bandwagon is the most unindividual effort an artist can make. I teach my children to be independent and have a mind of their own. Don’t follow the crowd! If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?

Sound familiar?

Well, who am I to not follow my own advice?

My advice to you, Writer and Artist. Don’t waste time, it could be gone in an instant. This year, move forward! Get excited! Find joy. Unfollow the people who are killing that joy. Reinvent your support group. Don’t write what is expected, don’t write what other people tell you is romance!

I will not box my creativity in with lines drawn by society and culture. This isn’t the way of the artist.

To me, this is the death of dreams.

So, your entrance might not have been as [melo]dramatic as mine, but WELCOME to 2020!

I wish you freedom of mind and spirit in which to create. I wish you a hope-filled, energetic, and amazing NEW YEAR!

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.

Merry Christmas

Just two days left.

My family went to Grandma’s this year. The funny thing is that we keep moving, and we’ve yet to move ‘away’ from Grandma. Three years ago, to Georgia we went, over the river and through the woods, and 3.5 hours to Grandma’s. When they told us we would be moving last summer, we warned the family… we’re moving. People need to step up and get down to Grandma’s. We won’t be so close anymore.

Wrong.

Over the river and through the woods and 3 hours to Grandma’s in Mississippi. Actually closer than we’d been. We’ll be moving in 2020 [yay, another move]. But don’t worry, we’ll only be 5.5 hours from Grandma!

I have two thoughts behind this.

How lucky we are! They Italians have such rich traditions in food and faith. Our kids will remember being at Grandma’s. They won’t forget so quickly as military families and families who live far from each other often do. They’ll have crazy stories to tell. Experiences to share as they grow older.

Yet, it makes me apprehensive, as if God knows something we don’t. He wants us close to Grandma’s for a while, until…what? Morbid, but it’s life, too.

There’s only one sure thing in life, right? Are you ready?

I’m working on it.

Don’t miss out on my Christmas story, Letters From Home, available from Entangled Publishing!!

An Army doctor, Lena Rodriguez has always been too busy with school or the Army for romance. But the letters she received during deployment have captured her heart. Back home for the holidays, she awaits Christmas morning to meet the man who has turned her life upside down.

When Zack Benson watched his best friend’s sister, Lena, leave for Afghanistan, he knew he had to tell her he loved her. So he sent her anonymous love letters. Now that she’s home, he realizes he’s made a tactical error. Lena has fallen for the man in those letters but still thinks of him as a brother. He has to convince her otherwise because if he succeeds, he’ll get the best Christmas present ever. But if he fails, he could lose her for good.

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.

Stuffed

I began this week, thinking… uh, oh. Diet Sabbatical, here you come. With all the foodie inspiration popping up on Facebook, this holiday week is bound to be filled with every amazing dish known to mankind. And it was true… we had turkey and baked dishes filled with cooked down veggies and creams and sauces. Pies like you just can’t even do more than once a year!

I’m stuffed. My buttons are tight. I’ve run in an effort to balance, but let’s be honest…ain’t no running enough to counteract the Diet Sabbatical!! haha.

You know what else I’m stuffed with?

Good ideas.

I’ve had a great week of pulling back, spending time with family, and just listening. I’m returning home from Florida today, feeling refreshed and ready to go. Excited to end the year on a good note and carry it through to 2019. I hope this Thanksgiving has found you doing the same: eating, enjoying life, relaxing, and filling your soul with the next best selling idea!! Whether that be the burnt fried turkey…the fight Uncle John had with Aunt Maude…Cousin Frankie’s new tattoo…or your sister’s announcement that she is pregnant with number 12 [she does know how that happens, right?].

What’s one thing that happened this week that will definitely end up in a book someday?

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.

Apathy…the death of a book

*waves* Hey everyone! I’m Jus and I’m new to the blog. I’ll be dropping by on the 17th of each month to brighten (or darken—results may vary) your day.

I read and write across the board. Everything from thrillers to young adult. All kinds of stories, all kinds of characters. I do it for the thrill of adventure, to visit new, exotic locations without having to leave behind my toasty fireplace and fuzzy socks. To meet fantastical creatures and solve the most diabolical crimes all while sipping hot chocolate and listening to my dog snore.

I also do it to feel.

Anger, joy, sadness, hate—emotion is a large part of what makes me want to read and write. I want to pick up a book and feel something. I want to fall in love. Be angry when the hero and heroine are thwarted. I want to Snoopy Dance when the bad get gets his due. Who wants to finish a story where you don’t feel anything for the characters? Be it reading or writing, no one is going to stick with a story that’s just meh.

Apathy is the death of a book.

No truer words have ever been spoken. When the reader isn’t emotionally invested in what happens, the whole thing becomes pointless. As writers, it’s our job to create characters that keep people riveted. How many times have you put down a book because you just don’t care? We’ve all done it. As a writer, this is my red flag. If I’m feeling this way about a work in progress, then I know something isn’t working. Something must change. Because if I’m not feeling it, the reader won’t.

It isn’t just about love, either. Hate is just as good. Hell, sometimes it’s more powerful. When you’re emotionally invested in a book, and you come across an uber-baddie, don’t you worry what devious plot he has in store for the hero and heroine?

We read to feel. To connect. As long as readers feeling something, then I’ve done my job. From cheering your favorites on as they pursue their quest, to screaming in frustration when the bad guy gains the upper hand. A handful of tissues, or the urge to yell at the page. If you walk away feeling, then I’m a happy puppy.

What about you guys? Is there a particular book or fictional character out there that’s evoked a strong emotion? Share! I’m always looking for a new read.

About Jus Accardo

JUS ACCARDO spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. But at the last minute, she realized her true path lay with fiction, not food. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.

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.

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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