A New Beginning

still-unwritten

Whenever I finish a manuscript, there is nothing more satisfying than typing the last sentence. While I don’t officially write “The End” on the page, there is a finality to that last period that signifies my journey is done. As a Romance author, my books always have a happily ever after. While the road there is never easy, I love seeing where the characters take me and how they overcome obstacles to wind up where they are meant to be.

Ironically, when I write I typically start with the ending. I have a premise and I know how the story will end–it’s the middle that I need to fill in, and sometimes, the beginning. There’s comfort in knowing how things will turn out. It’s the unknown that is often scary. I entered into the unknown last week. For the past two years, I’ve worked at a startup. It was fast-paced and challenging, but it was an invigorating experience. It’s rare you have the opportunity to help build a company from the ground up. As a marketer, I’m grateful I had the chance to shape brands that touch people’s lives.

About a year ago my company announced a merger–we were being bought out. It was positioned as two complementary companies coming together, but unlike my books, mergers always don’t have happy endings. And with my case, they were looking to scale back the Marketing department to eliminate redundancies. It’s been a long journey and while I anticipated the outcome, it’s still hard when that anticipation becomes reality, especially during these uncertain times.

Less than a week in I’m already on my search for what’s next. I have a new book launching in the next month, I’m trying to help my kids with e-learning, train our new puppy, and find a new job. That’s a lot of new things at once. My plate may be full, but I’m still restless. It’s the unknown. As much as I’m trying to embrace my new beginning, I don’t know how things will turn out and where I’ll land next. For someone who always likes to maintain a sense of control, it’s hard to manage the uncertainty.

So for now I’m taking one day at a time. I’ve always loved the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. We go on countless journeys and often wind up in places we didn’t expect. In some cases we can’t control the ending, but we can control how we deal with the obstacles. We can either let them deter us or figure out a way to move past them. I choose the latter. Starting over is both scary and exhilarating, and it’s a necessary first step. Whenever I write a new chapter it feels as if it’s a clean slate. It’s one small part of the bigger picture. This is but one moment in time, the ending unplanned. It’s still unwritten. I’m moving on to a new chapter in search of my next happily ever after. This time I won’t know the ending beforehand, but I look forward to a new beginning.

Into the Unknown

fear of the known

I hope you and your loved ones are doing well. These past few months have been a roller coaster, to say the least. My heart goes out to every small business, every furloughed worker, and anyone who has been personally affected by COVID. I am so appreciative of all our essential workers who have made sacrifices to keep our communities running. Whenever I think about what’s happening in our world the song “Into the Unknown” always seems to pop in my head. And then I can’t get the tune out, so my apologies because it’s likely stuck in your head now too. At least it’s a good song, IMHO. Anyway, that’s what it feels like to me. We are headed into this vast, new territory without a roadmap. None of us asked to be on this journey, and we don’t have the tools we need, like a compass, for starters. I am so grateful for all those who are working around the clock to find solutions. While there is a lot of dissent and a sea of differing opinions, it is something that unites us. We are working toward the same goal, which everyone wants to reach as quickly as possible.

Until then, I am doing my best to manage our household, keep my family safe, and my sanity intact. Like many others, my company is looking to cut back, so I’m now among the furloughed but am grateful to be doing freelance. Some days are better than others, so I am trying to take things one day at a time. It can be overwhelming thinking about the future and the what if’s, so I find that breaking things down helps me manage each day based on the information available at the time. There will always be uncertainty, but I am trying not to fixate on it and instead focus on the knowns.

For me the facts are often scary, so I like searching out tidbits of good news. And I try to focus on the positives, no matter how small. As we all adjust to this new normal, I’ve been looking for ways that I can give back. I make an effort to support local businesses and donate to food pantries. I’ve come to realize sometimes it’s the small things that help us maintain a sense of normalcy. So I’m participating in the Smashwords Authors Give Back sale, which offers deep discounts on e-books. I’ve always loved reading, in particular because there’s nothing like a good book that can immerse you in a different world and away from the stresses of daily life. Books are one of the small tools we have in our arsenal to offer a brief but much needed escape. That’s why I am offering all of my books at a 60% discount, with the exception of Out in the Open, which is free. In addition to reading, I’ve been doing more writing lately because that’s my personal escape. Whatever yours may be, I hope you can embrace it. As we continue our journey into the unknown, stay safe and be well!

Thankful for the Little Things

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It’s hard to believe the holiday season is upon us. This time of year is always fun yet frenzied, filled with family, parties, and of course, shopping. My inbox is flooded with sales and deals galore. As much as I love saving, to be honest I find it a bit overwhelming. It was nice coming off the Thanksgiving weekend to reflect on all I’m thankful for, which I guess helps with the transition to the chaos.

Of course I’m thankful for the big things like the love of family, support of friends, and being in good health. This time of year reminds me never to take those things for granted. But sometimes it’s hard not to stress when I think about showing everyone I love my gratitude – and the bill at the end of it. So I’m taking time out to make a list of the little things I’m grateful for. Because sometimes the little things make a big difference. 

My List:

Backup cameras and side view mirror indicators – they give me peace of mind during my commute downtown

Siri – the best around for quick fact finding (or entertaining my children). Alexa is up there too. Tell her “see ya later alligator” then repeat her next phrase. It could be hours of endless fun

Google maps – I’d be lost without it. I have a terrible sense of direction!

Magic Eraser – it really does get the stain out of anything

Trader Joe’s chocolate covered pretzel slims – a tasty indulgence. I have a slight obsession

My Zumba instructor – she allows me to keep on eating them

Auto payments – one less thing to worry about. I would love to automate everything

My Target Redcard – who doesn’t love saving 5% every time you shop?

Swell water bottles – let’s face it, they’re swell at reducing plastic in landfills

Artificial plants – I learned this was the way to go after my orchid and succulent didn’t make it

Mentha lip balm – a tingly and minty fresh moisturizer. Having chapped lips is a pet peeve

Sunny days in winter – they are few and far between in Chi town

Falling asleep to a good book – I’m a writer so it comes with the territory

All of you – for taking the time to read my blog

What’s on your list?    

 

Sneak Peek: Finding Forgiveness (Lost & Found Book 2)

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If you haven’t heard the news, I have a new book on the horizon: Finding Forgiveness. It’s the long awaited sequel to In Search of Mr. Anonymous. Like the others, you can expect it to be fun and flirty with a healthy dose of romance. This book picks up six months from the fallout of Lucy and Luke’s choices and tackles topics such as love, loyalty, and our capacity for forgiveness. Here’s a summary of the plot:

Two scorned lovers. One chance at redemption.

Melanie Baxter was betrayed by those closest to her. She wants to believe in love, but everything she held true was an illusion. And if she’s learned anything, it’s putting your trust in someone only leads to heartbreak. Then she meets a man determined to break down the walls she carefully constructed. A man who makes her heart race with just one look. Who understands her and fulfills her deepest desires. A man who challenges her and brings out a passion she didn’t know existed. This man manages to seep into the cracks and chip away at her armor. While he may seem perfect for her, he’s the one man she can’t fall for.

James Larson met the woman he thought he was going to marry. Now he’s a man with a broken heart. A health fanatic and avid runner, he pushes himself to the limit. Anything to keep his mind focused on something other than Lucy. He runs to forget her. He runs to escape the pain. Then James meets Nicole and they bond over their similar pasts. James finally has something he wants to run toward. She is the one woman who understands him and what he’s going through. But when her ex walks back into her life, he realizes she’s the one woman who can also break him.

Both betrayed by the ones they loved, Melanie and James embark on an emotional journey to let go of the past. They soon realize that to move forward they need to look back. Because finding love again starts with finding forgiveness.

Enjoy a sneak peek of chapter 1 below!

Chapter 1

James

 

There’s a famous saying that one can forgive but one should never forget. I’ve been thinking about that sentiment, and I decided whoever said it got it wrong. Because in my case, all I want to do is forget. I guess when you’re hurt or betrayed by the ones you love there’s a desire to numb the pain. People use whatever outlets they need to cope―drugs, alcohol, or lashing out at the ones who least deserve it. Pain can cloud your judgement and take on a life of its own, becoming this living, breathing thing you want to shake but don’t know how. And that often leads to unhealthy habits. That’s the one thing I have going for me: I take my aggression out on my body and I’ve never been in better shape. After Lucy, my ex-girlfriend, broke up with me I hit the gym. Night after night I pushed my body to the limit. I welcomed the pain that burned through my veins because at least I could feel something.

I’m an optimist by nature. But she really tested my faith―in others and myself. I’m trying to get back to the man I once was. A situation like this changes you, and I fear that man doesn’t exist anymore. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I wish I could find the opportunity in my situation. I’m still looking.

Over time her face has haunted me less. Of course the memory is always there, but it has become a shadow instead of the sun. Until this afternoon. After work I had a dental appointment. I was in the waiting room sitting next to a woman flipping through a magazine. I never look through magazines at my dentist’s office because they’re all at least six months old. I was playing on my phone when I happened to glance up as she was turning the page. And there, in the engagement section, was a photo of Lucy and Luke. It was like a punch to the gut. Lucy believes in things being fated, but I disagree. Fate is cruel―as in this situation was a really cruel twist of fate. She chose him over me, and here is the proof in print staring me right in the face.

I don’t remember much after that. The doc could’ve given me a root canal for all I know. Somehow I made it home, and now here I am on my porch drowning my sorrows in an ice cold beer. It feels fitting as the bitter flavor goes down my throat, though I wish I had something stronger to warm my insides. But I have work tomorrow and I need to keep my head in the game. I’ve already let my team down once because of her and I vow not to let it happen again. It’s just all the old feelings I had tried to bury resurfaced with a vengeance. The pain and resentment. The disbelief and shock. The fury and fire. I know I need to channel it into something else. If it weren’t for the late hour I’d take it to the batting cages, my other place of salvation.

Just as I close my eyes I get a text notification.

Wes:    The Drifters are playing at Callahan’s on Sat nite. You in?

I don’t respond. My first inclination is to say no because I’m feeling anything but social. But I know Wes will ride me about it at work tomorrow. Jimmy’s a mutual friend and the lead guitarist with The Drifters. It’s a recent gig so I know I should go out and support him. My fingers hover over the keyboard, unsure of what to type. There’s this vortex of warring emotions swirling through my head. Lucy is the eye of the storm, demanding my attention, and everything else fades into the background. With all my thoughts focused on Lucy, it’s hard to think about anything else. Frustrated, I down the rest of my beer and slam the empty bottle on the table. Sampson, who was asleep at my feet, trembles and lets out a whimper. “Sorry boy,” I say, rubbing him behind the ears.

For so long I’ve tried to forget but, just for tonight, I want to remember. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of seeing her face again. Or maybe I’ve had one beer too many. Whatever the reason, I can’t shake the urge. So my hope is if I indulge in remembering and let the memories I’ve fought to keep down come to the surface, it will help me to forget. I scroll through my albums until I find the photo of Lucy and me from my cousin’s wedding. She’s smiling and her pale eyes hold a sparkle I didn’t imagine. She looks happy. We look happy. I study it, looking for clues that maybe I missed before when I was in a state of ignorant bliss. Whatever I’m looking for I don’t find it.

I absently run my fingers over the lettering on the label of my IPA bottle. That’s when it hits me: Lucy’s letter. I head inside and rummage in my desk until I find it. She mailed it to me shortly after we ended things. I don’t remember much of what it said―I wasn’t in the best frame of mind back then. But for whatever reason I held onto it. I haven’t looked at it since, but I’m overcome with a need to reread her words. I grab my favorite fleece hoodie before heading back outside. The sun is making a slow descent, taking the heat with it.

I settle back into my chair and smooth out the paper, which is neatly folded in thirds. Her script is feminine, beautiful, and seemingly perfect. But upon further inspection, I notice she hasn’t connected all of her letters and they aren’t uniform in height. While things may look perfect at a glance, if you dig deeper you often uncover those imperfections people try to hide. My eyes skim the page, taking in the words as though I’m reading them for the first time.

Dear James,

I’m sorry doesn’t begin to describe the depths of my regret. I know I hurt you deeply and I have to live with that. But you didn’t deserve it―any of it. When we met I was in a dark place. I was burned by Luke and it left me feeling cynical and jaded. You managed to see past all that to what lies beneath. You chipped away at my armor until there was nothing left of the wall that I built. A wall to my heart. I let you in, not because you asked, but because I chose to. You earned that place and that spot in my heart will always be filled by you.

When we were together I realized happiness is possible. Piece by piece, you brought me back to life. Until there was only one piece that remained untouchable. I wish I could’ve given it to you. You deserve more. So much more than what I could give.

Every relationship leaves its mark. We go into the next with all the baggage of our prior relationships. I wish we could have started with a clean slate. If we had, things would have been different. That’s what I want for you. To start with a clean slate. Don’t let my baggage weigh you down. You have so much heart to give. I hope I only took a little piece with me.

As for Melanie, I know you think I lied to protect myself. But I lied to protect her. I wanted her to find happiness, even at the expense of my own. I’m not making my actions out to be noble, but I wanted you to know I was trying to do the right thing by her. I know now that it wasn’t. And it wasn’t right by you either. When you said I was more worried about Melanie finding out than hurting you, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because I owe you everything. You helped put me back together. You were the best kind of medicine. But I never treated the root of the problem. It’s a journey I need to go through on my own. I’ve realized we can’t rely on others to fix us. We first need to fix ourselves. And I’m trying. I’ve been trying.

I want you to take all the qualities I love about you and embrace them. Keep your heart open. Don’t let how things ended between us guide your path. Because it’s not the one you’re meant for.

Thank you for everything. And for the forgiveness I hope you’ll someday find in your heart for me.

Lucy

She included a poem called Sandcastles. Lucy never showed me any of her poetry while we were together. It’s about two friends who meet at the beach. They want to build the biggest sandcastle ever. They dig and dig until a storm rolls in. One wants to give up, the other doesn’t. A few days later the boy, the optimistic one I might add, makes a new friend. She too wants to build a sandcastle. The boy says it’s too much work. But look, she tells him. We can build one right here. She points to the very spot where the old sandcastle stood. She brushes aside the top layer of sand to reveal the deep trench that lies beneath. You see? There’s already a foundation. The boy picks up his shovel and digs.

So that’s her answer? I’m supposed to start digging. The irony is I have dug myself into quite a hole. I haven’t dated anyone since we ended things and it’s as though I’ve wrapped a protective shell around myself that’s hard to climb out of. It’s easy advice for her to give, what with her being the wrecking ball that came in and destroyed what we built. She didn’t stick around to clean up the pieces.

It’s been six long months. I’m so damn tired of carrying around the resentment. It ebbs and flows, but I vow not to let it pull me under. I vow to come out stronger and find a new path. I take another long pull of my beer. Call it liquid courage, but as I stare at Wes’s text I decide a night out is just what I need. I type “I’m in” then hit send. Satisfied, I decide to call it a night. I grab the empty bottles and switch off my porch light. “Come on, buddy. Let’s go inside.” Sampson follows me, tail wagging. Looks like I’m back in the game. Yes, I will try to move on. Look toward the future. But I can’t start with a clean slate. As much as I want to, I can’t forget. Because when I saw my future, I saw Lucy.

Like what you read? Pre-order your copy from Amazon or your favorite e-retailer before July 11th and save.

Never Enough Time

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Lately it feels as if my life is running on fast forward. Between working full time for a startup, the kids’ activities, juggling chores with my husband’s travel schedule, and trying to publish a book it’s hard to fit everything into a 24-hour day. Sometimes I get overwhelmed just thinking about the week ahead. While Prime has become my new best friend, there are days when I’d like to be able to run to the store to buy staples like milk and not have it be 9:00 pm. Summer is here and all those outdoor activities are still on my bucket list. I’m not sure where my free time went because even in the evenings, I’m getting caught up with what I couldn’t accomplish during the day. I have a backlog of emails in my inbox and a list of shows on my DVR with many episodes unseen. So don’t tell me what happened on the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. As the old saying goes, “nothing in this world is free,” and I’ve decided that no time is truly “free” anymore.

I’m sure many of you can relate. In today’s hectic world there’s an expectation that we are connected 24/7 and it can be hard to wind down. Even when I power off my phone at night it takes me a good twenty minutes before I can power off my running to do list. I often wonder: how do people do it? How do they balance everything?

I’ve come to the realization that prioritization is the new balance. There are some days when it’s just not possible to do it all.

So I’ve decided to focus on what’s truly important and I will get to the rest when I get to it. While this philosophy may seem simple, it’s been freeing. I think many of us put pressure on ourselves to do it all – and perfectly. I’ve found when I try to do everything I spread myself thin and this often leads to less than optimal results. Instead I’ve been focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

My new outlook is one day at a time. It’s a simple concept but it’s really helped me manage the anxiety I feel about trying to balance everything. Rather than looking too far ahead I’m focusing on small tasks I need to accomplish. It’s much easier to think about tackling a few things in the short-term, and I feel that much better once they’re done and it’s easier to move on to the next. I consider it a small victory when I get through a day where my son had a baseball game at the same time as my daughter’s softball game and I managed to figure it out and get them both where they needed to be. Or when I was able to rearrange carpool while stuck in traffic on the highway because I wouldn’t be home in time for my shift.

I’m taking back my time by doing the things that need to be done. One of those things is writing. I’ve had the edits back on my manuscript for my latest book, Finding Forgiveness, since December. I was hoping to publish my book in late March in time for spring break. It’s now summer and I’m finally ready to launch. It took longer than anticipated, but I wanted to make sure to devote the time to do it right rather than rush and have something ready for an arbitrary timetable. Launch day is July 11th. Eleven is one of my lucky numbers, so I hope people will find it worth the wait. While there will never be enough time, we have to make the most of the time that we do have. In the infamous words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

What’s On My Bookshelf Tag

Love the shout out from Book Coffee Happy! I’ll take the steamy category 🙂 And be sure to check out what’s on her bookshelf. Winter break is a great time to indulge in some reading.

Book Coffee Happy

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I was tagged by Grace at Delightful Narratives. If you haven’t read her blog, make sure to check it out!  It’s great 🙂

RULES:

  • Link back to me so I can see everyone’s answers! (Book Coffee Happy)
  • Also link back to the person who tagged you!
  • Name one book for each category; try not to repeat books to make this more fun!
  • Tag at least 5 people

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  Click the image below to order the book through my Amazon affiliate link.  When you order through this link, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for your support, Xo

A LIBRARY BOOK

So I’ve checked this book out of the library THREE SEPARATE TIMES now…and I still haven’t read it.  I keep checking it out but other books always seem to come first for me to read and then I return it!  Does this happen…

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Reviews: The Good, The Bad & The Beauty

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Shortly after I launched In Search of Mr. Anonymous, we took the kids on vacation to Niagara Falls. After the kids went to bed I went on Goodreads to see how my Giveaway was going. It was the first time I tried doing a Kindle promotion, which entailed me providing copies to 100 winners, and in return they were supposed to review my book. It probably wasn’t a good idea to check in while we were on a family getaway. Most people didn’t do a review at all. While it’s not mandatory, I was kind of bummed because it’s a good outlet to gauge reader reception. That’s when I saw it: my first one star review. I still remember the hot flush that crept up my neck and the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This girl, who listed herself as a book reviewer, hated my book.

 

I couldn’t believe it. I know it’s a subjective industry and would never expect everyone to love it as much as I do. But for her to have such a strong negative reaction was hard to take. As much as I tried not to let it bother me, it kind of ruined the rest of the trip. All of the endless hours and blood, sweat and tears I had put into writing the story were dismissed in one foul swoop with the hashtag #donotreadthisauthor. I was devastated. Since then I’ve had a lot of people tell me they loved the book. I was so glad they shared my passion for it, but that reviewer’s words were still stuck in my head. And they made me doubt myself. This book also seemed more polarizing than most. People seemed to either love it or hate it.

 

What’s gotten me through it is that I stand behind my work. I love the characters and the storyline. If I could go back I wouldn’t do anything differently. I think part of the issue lies with my jacket copy because it doesn’t tell the whole story, as it shouldn’t. This book is steamy and sexy like my others, and I would say it has the highest heat factor. But unlike my first two novels, it’s not light and fluffy. And I wouldn’t call it a romance. I categorized it as Women’s Fiction because at its core it’s about one woman’s journey to finding love and herself in the process. I tackle topics such as love and loyalty, and how even the best of intentions can lead to devastating consequences. So the only thing I can think is that readers are expecting one thing based on the jacket copy and are thrown when the storyline takes a different direction.

 

About a month ago I saw a post on Facebook from a blogger who was looking for books to review from local authors. I contacted her and we exchanged a few emails to see if my books matched her interests. Once we established we had a fit, she warned me she posts reviews, positive or negative. I took some time to think over the decision as to whether or not to send it. Reviews are a very powerful tool, but it’s scary to be on the receiving end where you have no control over how it could go. And for someone like me who’s still looking to build a reader base, I worried about the damage it could do if she didn’t like the book.

 

If you’ve read my other posts you’ve probably figured out I’m an optimist. So I decided that you’ve got to be in it to win it, it’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all, winners never quit and quitters never win. You get the idea.

 

As an author, you are opening yourself up to many different perspectives and opinions. Especially when you write fiction, which is subjective by nature. I know this so I decided to embrace it – and I’ve been holding my breath ever since. Her review went live today. I am thrilled that she loved the book and connected with all the things I love about it. She took something that had been a negative experience for me and showed me the beauty of the other side. Sometimes you just need a reaffirmation that your work resonates with people and adds a bit of happiness to their day. Because at the end of the day, that’s what I set out to do 🙂

 

Thanks Book Coffee Happy for the love! Check out her review and be sure to enter the giveaway!

 

Xo,

JB

Finding Comfort in the Chaos

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There’s a famous quote that says “your home is your sanctuary.”  I’d like to think that’s the case, but often times my home is far from the peaceful connotation that brings to mind. There are days when it feels like pure chaos. Toys strewn all over the floor, Legos clutter every conceivable surface in my son’s room, and piles of mail that don’t yet have a home fill many counters in my kitchen. I try to keep up with it. I clean up only to have the same mess the next day. Or mere hours later once my kids come home. Sometimes it exasperates me and when I complain to my husband he always says, “It’s called having kids.” I get it. We by no means live in a museum―nor would I want to. But I’m one of those people who can’t function when there’s a mess. I want my sanctuary.

 

Most days I feel at peace about the mess. But there are times when we’re in a rush and it looks like a war zone. One such occasion was on Halloween. I helped out with the class party at school. When we came home we dropped everything and it was a mad dash to get to the neighbors for trick-or-treating. Coats, backpacks, and shoes littered the hallway. Unopened mail and extra snacks were left on the counter. But I didn’t want the kids to miss out on the fun so I could clean. We met up with some friends and I was happy to put the mess behind me. We ended up splitting off in different groups and my husband was with my son and I was with my daughter. He called me at one point to check in and casually mentioned everyone was at our house for a water and bathroom break. Say what? I told him the house was a mess and I was mortified. He played it off and said no one cares. Well I cared.

 

I was not expecting company. Clearly. But I got over it because what else could I do? I tried to tell myself I don’t judge other people when I go to their homes. Though more often than not their homes are spotless because they had planned on entertaining. When I’ve commented about it people joke their homes don’t always look like this. I found it hard to believe because there wasn’t anything out of place. Not even one piece of mail. I wondered what I was doing wrong. And how did they keep up with the school papers, art projects, etc.?

 

Then I came across an article today that resonated with me. It was about a woman looking to declutter. She read Marie Kondo’s book about the Japanese art of decluttering your home. I thought, “I need that!” But as she was going through the decluttering process, she realized she was throwing away valuable memories. The method, which was meant to bring joy, was actually bringing her heartache. I get it. It seems there’s a fine balance. Too much stuff causes stress, but some of these items have an emotional value that can’t be replaced. My fridge is filled with work the kids bring home. Eventually I throw things away and they get replaced by something new. But the fact is there are memories being made, and sometimes the process is messy, just like life. So if our home reflects our lives, it’s not always neat and tidy. While my house can be a hectic and chaotic place at times, I’m trying to find the comfort in the chaos. My house is far from perfect, but I realized it’s filled with the two most valuable things: love and family. If I were to build my ideal sanctuary, that’s all that I’d need.

Believe Women

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I was intrigued when I came across a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. It was a full-bleed yellow background that simply said, “Believe Women.” The only signoff was the bumble logo. This resonated with me and echoed a sentiment that I’ve been voicing since the start of the Kavanaugh trial. Intrigued, I went online to learn more and discovered Bumble is a female-focused dating app who published the ad in support of victims of sexual assault. The timing was key: a day after Christine Blasey Ford testified against Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

 

My husband and I have been talking about the hearing. Regardless of which side you sit on, I told him it’s only fair to seek the truth and I applaud Flake’s request to postpone the confirmation until the FBI can further investigate. And I applaud the two women who had the power to share their story, whose voices were heard and brought about change. While women want to be seen as equal to men, the fact is it’s still an uphill battle. And while as a gender we are strong, in most cases men are physically stronger. If a man is determined to overpower a woman, chances are he will succeed.

The best tool we have at our disposal to fight back is our voice.

It infuriates me that Ford is receiving death threats. She had the courage to speak out, one of the most difficult yet bravest acts because victims are often the ones who are put on trial. With the rise of the Me Too movement, many injustices that have been buried for years are coming to light. I know many people, men in particular, wonder: why now? Why stay silent all these years? Because women were afraid. But the time is up. The time for women to speak out is now. With the solidarity of a sisterhood behind them, women are finding their voices. I hope the ad will shed light on the fact that these women who come forward are strong. And they are to be believed unless proven otherwise. Every claim and case deserves to be taken seriously.

 

Today is blackout day on Facebook, meaning women are replacing their profile picture with a black box. It’s a sisterhood-driven social media movement to show what the world might be like without women. The goal is to bring awareness about domestic abuse and sexual assault against women. There are two sides to this movement: those in favor and those against it. One woman who was opposed said she would not remove herself from Facebook because “it’s what the patriarchy has been trying to do to us for centuries.” I see her point. But I guess I don’t look at it as silencing myself. I see it as making a statement. There’s also women who feel it’s useless because there’s no call to action. I think it sends a message. If thousands of women make this symbolic gesture it’s the start of a conversation. So I stand with the virtual chain of women who are making a point by removing ourselves, even if only temporarily. We want our voices to be heard. It’s time to Believe Women.

 

Why I Decided to Make My Book Free

Out in the Open_web

It’s been four years since I launched my first novel, Out in the Open. I went into the process as an author and came out a publisher. I hadn’t intended for things to work that way, but that’s inevitably where the path led. It was a long journey and I learned a lot along the way, lessons I wish I knew when I started. But of course, hindsight is 20-20. Since then I’ve published two more books and I’m in the process of finalizing the manuscript for my fourth.

 

I love writing.  I don’t love selling. I don’t love website designing or manuscript formatting. But I’ve learned to do them all.

One thing I still haven’t learned: how to break through the clutter among the millions of other books.

Which brings me to the subject of this post: Why I Decided to Make my Book Free. I’ve been doing a lot of research on marketing and promotion. Many experts say you should have a book available for free. This not only helps to drive traffic and create awareness about you as an author, but it gives readers a risk-free reason to give your book a try. And then hopefully they will like it and be willing to invest in your other books. It makes sense, but to be honest when I first came across this suggestion I immediately dismissed it. I’ve spend countless hours writing and publishing my novel. So to just give it away – no thank you.

 

The next piece of advice that seemed to repeatedly surface was about growing your email list. This is one of those painful lessons I wish I learned in the beginning. I knew I needed to start a website and blog, but I figured I didn’t need to collect emails if I had a web presence and social media account. But it really is an important tool and one of the few that authors can maintain on their own without relying on outside algorithms to determine who sees their content. And guess what you need if you want to entice people to sign up for your mailing list? Free stuff.

 

So now I’m really getting the point that people want freebies. And I get it. Who doesn’t love free stuff? But I wondered what could I offer that would be enticing? Suggestions included novellas, deleted scenes, bonus chapters and the like. I toyed with creating a free novella. But then I dismissed it because I’d still need to invest in editing, a cover, and not to mention the time I’d have to put in to write it. So the bonus chapter idea was appealing. When I wrote Out in the Open, it was written in first person from my protagonist, Lexi’s, POV. But I was always cognizant of what her love interest, Jake, was thinking throughout the book. And there were some insights that I never had a chance to share with my readers about his thoughts and some connections with events that happened in the book. So it seemed natural if I wrote bonus chapters related to that book I should offer it as my freebie. But I still wasn’t convinced.

 

I follow a fellow author, Nick Stephenson, who gives wonderful advice (for free, I might add). One of his blog posts said you can’t expect to generate sales simply by launching a new book. There’s a myth out that that if you build it they will come. Maybe if you’re a NYT bestseller. He gave the analogy of pitching to an empty theater. If you don’t have an audience, then when you launch a book you are essentially talking to yourself. Fine, and maybe your friends and family. I’d like to say my theater isn’t empty. But there are still plenty of seats available. So until I get to the point where I’m as hot as Hamilton, his point resonated with me.

 

So I’m giving it a shot. Out in the Open is now available for free on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, etc. After you read it be sure to download the free bonus chapters to hear Jake’s side of the story. I’m interested to see how this goes. My dream is that one day I will have a theater full of people eagerly awaiting my next performance. And perhaps get to the point where people will want to scalp tickets! Until then, I hope they enjoy the freebies. And for all you Hamilton fans, I’m willing to wait for it. 🙂