It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Holiday Romance, that is!

I don’t know about you, but I adore holiday-themed stories. I got hooked on them years ago when the big presses would release a Regency or Victorian Christmas anthology every year, and I would indulge in my favorite tropes: the gathering of people for the holidays, brisk walks in cold weather to collect holly and mistletoe, sleight rides and ice skating, the dilemma that threatens to keep the lovers apart, the magic of the season and the miracle of love.Toss in snow and Yule logs on the fire and I am your slave. Better yet if you strand my lovers in a cabin in the woods, an inn in a small town, or on an English estate. MY CATNIP.

Now movies have gotten on board as well, and we have Hallmark, Netflix and more vying to bring us sometimes cheesy, sometimes touching holiday romances, but my first love will always be books. As soon as fall creeps in, etching frost on the windows and blades of grass, bringing blustery days and chill nights, I start reading holiday-themed stories.

I’ve invited some writers to share their holiday stories–past or present–here with us today. And if you have a favorite holiday romance you’d like to tell us about, please tell us in the comments! We’d love to hear about it!

In no particular order, here’s a little something for every taste imaginable! All heat levels, all pairings, contemporaries, historicals, and paranormals so take your pick!

The President’s Daughter by Seelie Kay

When presidential candidate Jamisen Powell meets volunteer Sarah Lee Pearson, he is shocked to discover her eyes mirror his own. But Sarah was raised by two loving parents and has no questions about her heritage. Instead, after their death, she merely longs to find an extended family. She becomes convinced that Powell could be a distant relative. Powell, on the other hand, has spent twenty-five long years haunted by the memory of a daughter kidnapped from her bed. He suspects Sarah could be his long-lost daughter. As both launch separate covert searches for the truth, Sarah is found by the estranged parents of the man who raised her. Suddenly, the truth will no longer set her free. It could destroy the happy memories of her childhood. Hang on to your seat, and more importantly, hang on to your heart, as one woman discovers the true meaning of family.

Buy links:

Publisher:  http://www.extasybooks.com/978-1-4874-2032-1-the-presidents-daughter/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Presidents-Daughter-Seelie-Kay-ebook/dp/B07MNJFV8M/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/914579

Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-president-s-daughter-23

Barnes & Noble:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-presidents-daughter-seelie-kay/1130048641?ean=2940156333790

Model Christmas by Jaime Samms

Here is the Amazon buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082FQ8JZL/?fbclid=IwAR1SeiqPjg8SxtqpL19fmGhOw3YWGUt-Pw0Gml0Iy1hFZTcO-oT1ofhxaug

Blurb: Sebastian’s ideal Christmas looks nothing like his picture-perfect childhood experiences, but neither should it be spent wandering the cold streets alone and homeless.

Cody has no time for the holidays if he wants to eat. He needs a new model for his next commission–and he needs him now.
Seb can’t go home and Cody’s model took his pay and left. Both men are in dire straits, so when they meet over soup-kitchen chili they each see the answer to their problems in the other.
They never expected more than a means to an end, but now, that perfect Christmas might be as simple as seeing what’s right in front of them.

The Gift exchange
by Adriana Kraft

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/ebook/dp/B01NAI0ITB/

 
Blurb:

It’s Christmas Eve—what gifts will Mack, Carol and Tara unwrap together?

What is Carol up to now? Mack has always known his free-spirited wife is bisexual, but it seems she has new adventures on her mind this Christmas season.

Carol has long entertained fantasies of a threesome with herself, her husband, and their attractive nearby neighbor, Tara.  Now that Tara’s troublesome ex is out of the picture, is this the season to make her fantasies come true?

Tara’s felt a little deprived since cutting things off with her ex, and she’ll admit she envies what Mack and her best friend Carol seem to share. If they invite her to join them, will she dare?

Midwinter Masquerade Blurb by Rosemary Gemmell
 

Edinburgh, December 1816, young widow Lady Lenora Fitzallan accepts an invitation to the country estate of Edward Montgomery, the man she once thought to marry seventeen years previously. Until he left without explanation.

Accompanied by her godmother, Lady Pettigrew, Lenora forms a friendship with Edward’s young niece and ward, Annabelle, who has a propensity for getting into scrapes and falling in love with the wrong man.

As the Masquerade Ball approaches at the Winter Solstice, the past unravels, the villain is unmasked and Lenora must decide with whom her future lies.

Links

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B076JGLZZV

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B076JGLZZV

Website: www.rosemarygemmell.co.uk

Blog: http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.com

 

 

 

THE SNOW BRIDE (THE KNIGHT AND THE WITCH 1) by Lindsay Townsend

https://amzn.to/2MZZan0    

UK  https://amzn.to/2H1tYzY

EXCERPT https://bit.ly/2yV95Cb

Brief Blurb – She is Beauty but is he the Beast?

 

 

 

SIR CONRAD AND THE CHRISTMAS TREASURE  by Lindsay Townsend

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KW6K5RL/ 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07KW6K5RL/  

Brief Blurb – What is the true treasure of Christmas?

 

 

 

SIR BALDWIN AND THE CHRISTMAS GHOSTS by Lindsay Townsend

http://amzn.to/2vRkEKS

http://amzn.to/2uRlsLa  

Brief Blurb. Will Baldwin heed Sofia or will the restless dead prevail? 
A sweet medieval Christmas Romance
 

 

 

 

 

A CHRISTMAS SLEEPING BEAUTY by Lindsay Townsend

http://amzn.to/2vyjmBH

http://amzn.to/2wFsCEc

 

Brief Blurb. What can the prince do when the princess won’t wake?

 

 

TWELVE KISSES by Lindsay Townsend

 http://amzn.to/1222vrg

UK: http://amzn.to/1z5OSlZ

 
Brief Blurb. She has Twelve Days to win his heart.
 
 
 
 
 
 

A WITCH’S HOLIDAY WEDDING by Tena Stetler – Paranormal Romance

Blurb:

Elemental witch, Pepper McKay and former Navy SEAL, Lathen Quartz built Lobster Cove Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on enchanted McKay land. Wedding planning goes awry when the couple spends Thanksgiving with family in Colorado, a Maine snowstorm fills the center with injured wildlife, Lathen finds himself drawn into a covert military mission, and Pepper wants to cancel the wedding. Is she having second thoughts? Will the nosy McKay ghosts, Lathen’s werewolf pack, Pepper’s parents, and her best friend help or hinder the wedding and holiday plans?

Available atAmazonKoboThe Wild Rose Press, and Barnes & Noble

Holiday House Swap by Sarah Madison

on Amazon

Reclusive writer Noah Kinley is facing a dilemma: how to confess to the world he’s really the author of a best-selling romance series. For years, his friend Julie has been the face of his brand, but she wants her life back now. Fast running out of ideas for his popular series, Noah wants to break out into other genres. Not that he’s writing much of anything at the moment anyway, thanks to paralyzing writer’s block. With his publisher breathing down his neck for the next installment, he hopes a change of scene will get his writer’s juices flowing again. Desperate enough to try anything, during the holidays Noah swaps his isolated cabin in the woods for a gentrified horse farm.

USAF Major Connor Harrison has chosen forced retirement over facing charges for an unauthorized mission to rescue a buddy from behind enemy lines. No one expects him home for the holidays, and he certainly didn’t anticipate finding a stranger in his house, much less Noah Kinley with his acid tongue and a wry sense of humor that pierces all of Connor’s defenses.

Both men need to figure out what the next chapter in their lives will be—and whether it will include each other.

Christmas Crush by Mickie Sherwood

Blurb:

Although Ashley Wagner feels more like Scrooge than Santa, she keeps her promise and accompanies her sister back home for a Christmas wedding. Her three-day weekend is off to a rocky start, thanks to the unexpected run-in with her womanizing ex-husband, and his very pregnant new wife. She manages to get away with her dignity intact, but later, with old wounds ripped open, the professional crisis manager ends up in the middle of her own life-altering predicament.

Then, sports journalist Craig Johnston, wheels to her rescue.

Will Ashley spend Christmas brooding over bitter memories? Or will Craig, a dynamic paraplegic, present the deserving divorcée with a gift she can’t resist?

Links:

 
Christmas in Meadow Creek by Katie Eeten
 
BUY LINK:
 
BLURB:
Sarah Laughlin left her big-city life and dead-end relationship behind for a fresh start as a fourth-grade teacher in the small, Wisconsin town of Meadow Creek. And it feels like home, too, despite the persistent troublemaker in her class and the lack of familiar faces. But the holidays are going to be lonely this year. Until she meets firefighter Lincoln Thompson. Suddenly, the hope of spending Christmas with someone she cares about is within reach.
 
Lincoln loves his home town of Meadow Creek, but ever since his long-time girlfriend left him for a better life in the city, he wonders if he’ll ever find love in this small town where everyone knows everyone. Then he meets Sarah during her class’s field trip to his firehouse, and a spark is lit. But when they discover that Sarah’s troublemaking student is none other than Lincoln’s beloved nephew, their newfound relationship is put to the test. Can they navigate through the complexities of family dynamics to find a love that will last?
 

Santa Baby, Several Stars Away by Samantha Kougar. 

 
 

Blurb: 

Kaily has been consumed by curiosity ever since Dylan suddenly appears in her small town. Surreptitiously, she watches the mystery man restore a rundown Victorian mansion, all while his charm and sincerity gain him the good will of most everyone. This is especially true when he volunteers to become the annual Santa Claus for the children at the town’s park. 

The problem for Kaily: No one really knows anything about Dylan’s past or where he came from. With her attraction to him growing day by day, she becomes a driven woman. On a desperate whim, she gives herself to him as a Christmas present. Will Dylan be able to resist her waiting naked, but gift-wrapped beneath his tree? 

Perfectly Christmas by Linda O’Connor

On the first day of Christmas, his true love said to him, “Sorry, I have to work.” That’s the life of a surgeon, and Dr. Madison Hayes wouldn’t have it any other way. Dr. Quinn Malone has another priority. In the countdown to Christmas, he needs to convince his old flame that there’s more to life – and love – than the job itself. This time, his heart is in it for the long haul. Really.

Romantic and . . . complicated – it’s Perfectly Christmas!

 

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYW5T7X

Forever Winter by Amber Daulton

 — historical romance — https://books2read.com/u/bwYYKO

Just imagine the perfect wedding… hundreds of candles, the perfect gown, a wonderful man and loving family in attendance. And then imagine everything that could go wrong.
A Christmas Eve snowstorm barreled through the English countryside and wreaked havoc on the residents of Lorican Manor. Susanna Lorican and her fiancé, Viscount Camden Beckinworth, had planned the perfect wedding, but will a series of unfortunate events turn the tide on their happily ever after?

A Hero’s Heart by Amber Daulton

— contemporary romantic-suspense — https://books2read.com/u/mgLLjR

When it comes to revenge, nothing is sacred, not even Christmas.
DEA field agent Jarrett Brandt returned home on his Harley Davidson to visit his brother’s grave, not to reconnect with his first true love.
Now widowed with a son, Marissa Reinn Brandt expected nothing from the one who broke her heart—the twin brother of the man she married—but when her son offered him a place to stay for Christmas, she agreed for her son’s benefit. As they rekindled the flames of love that once bound them together, an enemy from his past and a trusted mentor from his present threatened to destroy everything they held dear.

Mistletoe in the City by Amber Daulton

 — New Adult contemporary romance — https://books2read.com/u/4XKKD1

Krista Hartley never expected the unrequited love of her life, the irresistible Derek Weston, to work as the groundskeeper at the apartment building she just moved into. They barely spoke in high school but now, three years after graduation, they tore at each other’s clothes and jumped into bed together at every opportunity. Then another woman threatened their whirlwind romance.

With just days to Christmas, Derek vowed to win back her heart and trust, and prove his innocence once and for all.
 

Love often means sacrifice—but what if you might have to give up a commitment to be one of Santa’s reindeer and deliver holiday toys to kids to be with the one you love?

Peter McGuire is an EMT with a secret: he’s a reindeer shifter, a Prancer on Santa’s team. His holiday obligations often require him to make excuses for his absences, and even downright lie. That makes it almost impossible to develop a real relationship.

But the secret isn’t his alone, and if he opens up to too many people, he could destroy Christmas.

Jonny Santos is a ski bum distancing himself from being the family caregiver. He knows that his mother’s MS is going to require him to devote himself to her someday, but in the meantime he’s sticking to the slopes and staying single.

Then a pre-Christmas hike goes wrong, and Peter is forced to shift into reindeer form in order to rescue Jonny from a wilderness trail. The sparks between them are real—but are they enough to overcome the obstacles that keep them apart?

Contains Prancers, Vixens and other reindeer, and smoking hot shifter sex! Free in KU; buy link https://amzn.to/2PvUt49 

 

A Saddle Creek Christmas Romance by Lorelei Confer

 

Cold Snow and freezing temperatures come early to the small town of Saddle Creek, Wyoming, wreaking havoc on the Christmas plans of four close childhood friends, now grown men. Though unforeseen perils challenge their joint celebration, with each trial comes triumph as together, they discover the true meaning of Christmas.

 

A Family Christmas

Chase is forced into protective mode, when a ghost from Lauren’s past threatens to destroy, not only their Christmas, but their lives.

 

Christmas Decisions

Samantha and Elliott’s relationship is put to the test when Sam’s newly divorced and heartbroken sister arrives on their door step five days before Christmas, forcing them to rethink their holiday plans. What they need is a Christmas miracle.

 

Christmas Surprises

Avri and Dillon’s Christmas may be ruined when Dillon has one last dangerous mission, but will he keep his promise to return in time…does he return in time for Christmas? And can Avri, once again, forgive him?

 

Amazon:  https://amzn.to/36z9iKM

Goodreads:  http://bit.ly/2qiv8lc

Barnes and Noble:  http://bit.ly/32kwARz

iBooks:   https://apple.co/2pJ80w6

 

Christmas Awakenings by Lorelei Confer

Four Christmas Short Stories in one!

A Star Bright Christmas:   

A young family can’t be late with their mortgage payment again. So, two days before Christmas, at the onset of a blizzard, he heads to the bank leaving his wife and two young sons to endure a blackout on the 24th of December. Will he make it back in time for Christmas? How?

Christmas Promises:  

When a newlywed soldier recently returns from deployment only to work on Christmas day. He’d promised they’d never be apart for Christmas again. But then she discovers the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Salvation:

   A widower and a younger woman get to know each other better but not until after he accepts the concept that ‘life goes by in a flash and you don’t want to miss a thing.’

A Palm Tree for Christmas:  

A young family travels from the northeastern United States to the hot sweltering south for a better way of life. Sunny days, sandy beaches, and summer heat. Their dreams are soon squashed and their surplus of money dwindles to their last pennies. Until Christmas Eve….

www.loreleiconfer.com

Amazon:   https://amzn.to/2qqBe2P

Barnes and Noble:   http://bit.ly/32e41Fk

Smashwords:   http://bit.ly/2pFkDsb

I Didn’t Meet My Goal, and That’s Okay

As we approach the end of the year–and the end of the decade–I’m starting to see a lot of posts where people are assessing what they’ve accomplished over the past year, as well as the last ten years.

I have to confess, I hate the year-end introspection and feeling the need to look back at my year and assess my accomplishments, or lack thereof. I always have. But I guess with the close of the decade, the introspection has started earlier and seems a bit more brutal this time around.

There’s the 2009 vs 2019 meme, where people post photos of themselves ten years apart. Most of the images I see are practically indistinguishable from each other. My 2019 image, however, is as different from my 2009 photo as Old Yoda vs Baby Yoda. In fact, I posted those images instead of my own. The past decade has been a little rough on me, and the mileage is visible on my face.

Then there’s the thing going around Twitter where someone has stated, “There is only one month left in the decade. What have YOU accomplished?” While I’m sure the OP meant for it to be an uplifting experience (judging by the response to their own Tweet), I know many people have found this tweet circulating on their timeline to be very stressful. I’ve seen calls for a different conversation, as well as people reminding others that if surviving the last decade is all you’ve managed by way of achievement, that’s accomplishment enough. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this when I write my own introspective year-end, decade-end post at the end of this month. Suffice to say, however, this particular Twitter discussion has left many people feeling like they don’t have enough to show for the last decade.

Not to mention, November has just ended, and as such, there are lot of people out there talking about their NaNo projects. Some are sharing their shiny “Winner!” buttons. Others are disappointed in themselves for falling short of their target. I’m hearing a lot of people saying they ‘failed NaNo’ and it is for this very reason I no longer officially participate in NaNo myself. Remember that challenge I mentioned hosting by Silence Your Inner Critic? We divided ourselves into Genre Teams and logged in our group word counts each week. I was going gangbusters until I hit a plot snag and I knew I had to work it out before moving forward. Doing so caused me to revise four major scenes, reducing my word count up to that point. I ended up offering only a measly thousand or so words to the final count. Now, was it better than not participating at all? Probably, but I felt as though I’d let my team down. And yet I still clocked in 30 K words this month, a tidy amount for someone who has struggled to write more than 2 K a week for a while now.

Today on Facebook, I ran into more than one post where the OP bewailed the fact they hadn’t met target goals on the number of books to read within the month (or year). And that’s when it hit me: why does everything have to be a competition?

Goals are all fine and well. Nice targets to shoot for, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t hit them. I used to compete my horses, not because I had dreams of being a local champion, but because competing at a horse show gave me some structure and guidelines for the riding I did at home. I wanted to learn how to do more things with my horses, and showing them was a way to do that. But if all I’d wanted to do was putz around the farm at a walk, that would have been okay, too. What matters is why you set the goal and what you learned from aiming at it.

We’ve gotten in a bad habit of thinking that if we don’t come in first place, our efforts are meaningless. Believe me, if I’d made it to the Olympics with my mare, I wouldn’t have hung my head in shame because we came in 33rd or something. But it’s only the winners that get the endorsement contracts, it’s only the winners whose names we remember. And sadly, at least in this country, there seems to be a tendency to belittle anyone who doesn’t win gold.

The thing is, everyone at the Olympics worked their asses off to be there. They gave it their best to be there. That’s not something to be ashamed of.

So I’m celebrating the fact I wrote 30 K in November, even though I didn’t hit the NaNo 50 K mark. I don’t care if you read one book in 2019 or 1,000 books, at least you read something. And maybe I don’t have the cute adorableness of a Baby Yoda anymore, but Old Yoda was pretty kick-ass too. As for the decade, and 2019, we survived it, baby.

Don’t let anyone make you feel as though you aren’t a winner because you didn’t hit the bullseye.

As long as you’re a survivor, you can take another crack at that target again.

If I Stop Riding, am I still a Horsewoman?

I’m at one of those crossroads most people come to at a certain point in their lives. Especially if you’re an athlete and do some kind of sport. There comes a time when you look at this activity you’ve done your whole life and wonder if it’s time to quit.

I have friends who were competitive ice dancers when I met them twelve years ago. They’ve found another passion now and have hung up their skates. They’re happy and still enjoying their new-found hobby, one that doesn’t entail getting up before dawn and driving hours to the only available ice rink for a grueling session in the bitter cold. One that is less brutal to their bodies. Their knees thank them too.

I had a friend who has been a runner as long as I can remember tell me recently that she’s giving it up. Between the plantar fasciitis and torn Achilles tendon, she no longer feels that this is the something she can continue doing. She’s giving yoga at try, and hoping she can make peace with her injuries.

Even my husband, who lives, eats, and breathes soccer has decided in the past year to get certified as a referee. The role of the ref is still an active one, but not as punishing as playing the game itself. He’s still playing as well, but repeated injuries have taken their toll and I think this is how he is planning to transition.

As for me, I’m facing a tough choice in the next couple of months. I need to consider retiring my mare. While we gave up competition years ago, her arthritis is reaching a point where I question whether it makes sense for me to continue riding her. Truth is, we’re both at a certain level of gimpyness that it’s not out of the question that I may be projecting my own issues onto her. But the bottom line is I’m rapidly approaching a point in my life when I may no longer ride horses. It’s not just that my mare deserves to live out the rest of her days in peace eating grass like the horses in the final scene of Black Beauty. Riding is taking its toll on me physically, too.

Oh, I could find another horse to ride if I wanted. Buying a horse doesn’t make a ton of sense: it’s a huge investment and I’m no spring chicken. But there are lots of horses for lease out there, horses that perhaps can no longer compete but can certainly putter around the farm the way I’ve been doing. Horses that someone would gladly loan me simply to get some help paying for their care.

But retiring one horse and picking up with another isn’t like replacing a worn out bicycle with a newer model. Horses are as individual as dogs or children. My mare and I are so attuned, all I have to do is think what I want her to do, and she does it. A subtle shift in weight will make her down transition. Pick up the reins and she’ll start trotting. If I started over with another horse, I’d have to learn the idiosyncrasies of that creature, and no horse, no matter how bombproof, no matter how well-trained, is 100% safe.

The realization that I could get hurt–seriously hurt–has been a creeping concern over the last few years, cracks in the foundation letting water seep into my confidence. I’m no longer the teenager who biked five miles a day after school and mucked stalls just so I could ride the green-broke horses at the only riding stable near me. I’m not the girl in her twenties who would ride any horse any time the opportunity arose, no matter how rank, no matter how evil. I’m not the woman in her thirties who bred her ideal competition horse, raised her from a foal, and competed in the sport for crazy people known as eventing.

Somewhere along the way, as I’ve developed increasing medical issues, my loss of faith in my own body has translated itself into a fear of getting hurt when I ride. There are days when I’m my old confident self, and I ride through a buck without blinking an eye. There are other days when I anticipate trouble during the entire ride–and my horse feels like a lit powder keg beneath me. There are other days when I have a good ride, but can barely move a few hours later. I’ve lived with chronic pain for years. Riding has hurt ever since that bad car accident. I didn’t let it stop me twenty years ago, even when my doctors thought I should quit. But I have to tell you, everything hurts these days, and riding makes it much, much worse. Also, I don’t want my decision to stop riding be as a result of breaking my collarbone–or worse.

From the moment I read Black Beauty as a six-year-old, I sold my soul to have horses in my life. My parents used to joke that they didn’t need an alarm clock, they only needed to put a pony in the backyard and I’d be up at the crack of dawn every day. They kept promising me that pony, along with the mystical farm they’d one day own and the dogs they’d breed. I find it ironic how these were dreams they had for themselves that never materialized, but I went out and got them for my own. All of it. Farm, horses, dogs. (Cats too, since I was forbidden to have any growing up.)

It came with a price though. I made a conscious decision to have horses instead of a life that would let me travel, or live in a major city where I could earn more money. I bought my first horse off a slaughter truck for $800 and spent the equivalent of a SUV payment each month to keep him. I took jobs in rural places so I could keep my horses. The ‘dream’ farm takes more of my time and money than I’d care to admit. Was it worth it? I like to think so. My dad never got his farm, even though he made more than enough money to have that dream life. During the years I spent as his caretaker, the horses were the only things that kept me going at times. The reason for leaving the house, for getting outside, for connecting with nature. It fed my soul.

When I was twelve, I went to my mother and showed her the shabbiness of my riding gear. “I need a new hard hat and boots. I’ve outgrown my riding habit.”

“I’d like to know when you’re going to outgrow this horse habit,” my mother snapped. “It’s terribly expensive.”

“Gee, Mom.” I spoke with Shirley Temple’s innocence. “I don’t think it’s any more expensive than a cocaine habit.”

She put me in the car and took me straight to the tack store.

Yes, I was a bit of a smart-ass, but I suspect my love of horses kept me out of trouble as a teenager. It kept me moving when depression made me want to fold up and lie in a dark room. It kept me physical when my job demanded all my time and energy. I am a horsewoman. It’s part of my identity. To consider giving that up feels like closing a door, not only on a major portion of my life, but who I am as a person as well.

As recently as April 2019, Queen Elizabeth was photographed riding a horse at Windsor Castle, just weeks away from her 93rd birthday. I remind myself that for most of her life, she was able to ride almost daily if she liked, and that she has a whole team of people keep her horses trained and exercised to be as quiet as possible. But it goes to show that my question of whether or not I should keep riding is entirely up to me.

Even if I choose not to ride any longer, nothing will change my lifelong love of these magnificent creatures. Regardless of whether I hang up my bridle or not, I am, and always will be a horsewoman.

 

To NaNo or Not NaNo: Either Way, It’s Okay

Before I began writing this post, I checked my blog for previous mentions of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Turns out, I have a lot to say on the subject–every November since I started this blog! Most of my posts lean toward why NaNo isn’t a good fit for me. That hasn’t changed, but I’m becoming more comfortable with my decision NOT to do NaNo. 

Most writers are introverts, loving the time we spend alone with our creations, but even the most introverted creator is likely to feel the tug of wanting to participate when there is SO MUCH chatter about NaNoWriMo. People discussing their progress, posting their word counts, sharing their journey and expertise… November abounds with excellent writing information and it’s hard not to feel left out if you decide not to participate in NaNo.

I’m here to tell you not participating is okay.

So is participating and meeting the goal of 50 K words in 30 days.

So is participating and then failing to meet your goals.

It’s all okay.

Because writing is hard work, and the process isn’t the same for everyone, and you shouldn’t force yourself to meet an arbitrary goal if the process doesn’t work for you or if life gets in the way.

Chuck Wendig recently wrote a fabulous post, For National Novel Writing Month, Two Vital Reminders, which reminded me why participation isn’t a good fit for me, yet inspired others to go for it.

For me, it boils down to two things: the NaNo format is inherently contradictory to how I write and the pressure of meeting a specific daily word count is paralyzing to me.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to take advantage of all the workshops, advice, and information flowing out there.

Here’s an excellent Twitter thread by C.L. Polk, the author of Witchmark (2019 finalist for a Nebula, Aurora, and Lambda Award) on where you should be at certain points in your story. It’s terrific NaNo advice but applicable to any story regardless of how quickly you’re writing it.

That’s the kind of thing I enjoy finding during NaNo time.

This year, I’ve decided to join in the Future, Fantasy, and Paranormal’s Silence Your Inner Critic challenge. This is a low-key challenge in which we’re divided into teams based on what kind of story we’re working on and each week we post our word counts to the team. I figure this will keep me working toward my goals without putting too much pressure on me to write. As any participation in the challenge is better than no participation, it’s a win-win for everyone!

I’m Team Shifter! 

What are you doing for November? NaNo? Nothing? Or some different challenge, even one of your own making? I want to know!

The Panther’s Lost Princess: Now Available on KU #MFRWHooks

When I wrote The Panther’s Lost Princess back in 2017, I was new to indie publishing and new to marketing as well. One of the things I struggled with was ‘elevator pitches’ and short, pithy hooks I could post on Twitter. Mostly because I’m a wordy person,and distilling a story down to a short catch phrase doesn’t come naturally to me.

 

But once I penned this phrase, I knew it was perfect for The Panther’s Lost Princess:

She’s a waitress looking to change her future. What he knows about her past changes everything.

The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security Book 1) is now available on KU! Be sure to check it out! 

Want a sneak peek? Here’s an awesome book trailer!

 

 

 

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The Difficulty–and Importance–of Resurrecting Good Habits

A few years ago, I used to take a 30-40 minute walk on a near-daily basis. It was rare for me to miss a day, even when it was bitterly cold. The thing most likely to deter me was extreme heat and humidity (which we get more often than not now). Even then, I made it out there most days.

It wasn’t easy. I work long hours, and in the short time between getting home and going to bed, I have to feed all the livestock, cook and eat dinner, do the routine chores, and hopefully get a little writing done. A daily walk wasn’t virtuous on my part–it was necessary. I had a big high-drive dog who needed the daily exercise to keep him sane enough to wait until my day off to take him for a longer hike. The only way I’d get it done was to walk in the door and go straight to his leash–if I didn’t do it right away on getting home, the chances were much slimmer I’d take him out for the length of time he needed. Especially, after dinner, when exhaustion would kick in. But I made it work because it was necessary.

Fast forward two years: my beloved but difficult dog Sampson succumbed to cancer, and Remington, my current big dog, though young is made of less intense stuff. Remy is also even more heat intolerant than I am, which is saying something. Then back in January, I injured my foot, which exacerbated an old knee problem, and the next thing I knew, I was no longer walking every day. By the time the foot/knee problem improved, I’d gotten out of the habit. I’d gained weight and my fitness was down as well. Now it was the hottest part of the summer and it was just easier to throw the ball for the dog in the shaded yard where he could jump in and out of the water trough at will than it was to force myself to do that daily walk again.

Likewise minding my food choices. See, I have a mild form of acne rosacea, which has gotten progressively worse with age. In my case, while stress is a player, food is definitely a trigger for me. Which means many of the foods I could get away with eating when I was younger are no longer an option. And yet, sometimes I forget that. No, scratch that. Sometimes I choose to ignore the truth. It’s especially hard for me around the holiday season. For me, the worse triggers are cinnamon (sob), cheese (double sob), and wine (bawling now), but also tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes (anything from the nightshade family), vinegar, and citrus. I recently discovered that people with acne rosacea frequently have hypertension too (which makes sense, as rosacea is a vascular problem), which means I’ve had to take wine off the list permanently. Along with caffeine, it sends my blood pressure into the stratosphere. I also seem to be sensitive to gluten and peanut butter, staples of my diet for most of my life. No cheese, no snickerdoodles or apple pie, no wine, no coffee, no chocolate (yep, there’s caffeine there) no bread, no pasta, no peanut butter? Is there really anything left? Anything left I want to eat that is?

Recently on a trip with friends, I choose to ignore my ‘rules’. After all, I’d broken them over and over again without major penalties, right? Only the combined effect of abusing so many rules at once was two days of feeling like crap while I had a major rosacea and hypertensive flare, which left me unable to enjoy my time with my friends. In response, I made a strict effort to eat according to the rules as I knew them, limiting myself largely to roasted chicken and massive salads (no dressing, limited tomatoes) for the rest of my trip.

What I discovered was not only did I calm my current BP and rosacea flare, but I felt better than I’d felt for a while. It made me realize that all that “cheating”, while it hadn’t erupted into an outright flare, was keeping me from feeling my best. From wanting to take the dogs on evening walks. From wanting to do anything more than flop on the couch when I got home from work. Even from writing. Because let me tell you, when you feel like crap, it’s much much harder to be creative.

You know what else is hard? Picking back up your good habits when you’ve fallen off the “habit” wagon. Just like exercise (or writing), practicing a good habit is a muscle that gets stronger with use and weaker with disuse. And when you’re already tired and not feeling well, finding the fortitude to stick to the changes that will make you feel better again isn’t easy. I come back to this point again and again in life: the realization that my current (minor) health issues now must dictate my eating choices, something I’ve resisted mightily ever since I was diagnosed. I drum my heels and wail in protest like a two year old, and yet the only one I’m hurting in all this is me.

I also know without a doubt that if I don’t start, I’ll lose even more ground than I already have. With fitness, with my health, with my writing… and even though I don’t feel as though I have the time to chip away at making these habits part of my life again (seriously, by the time you walk the dogs, and go shopping to keep fresh food in the house, or food prep in advance, and don’t forget that yoga/meditation/prayer–30 minutes here and there adds up to hours you must carve out of your daily schedule), if I want to see change in my life, I have to be the one to make changes.

I used to believe it took 21 days to create a new habit, good or bad, and honestly, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It’s not even a month. Anyone can manage 21 days. But the truth of the matter is this is a misleading conception: It takes a minimum of 21 days to effectively instill a habit. It can take up to 90 days of regular (ie daily) engagement to make a habit stick.

At first glance, that seems discouraging, I know. After all, I’ve been telling myself I need to get my act in gear for years now. I’ll try for a few weeks–sometimes, depending on how hectic my life is only a few days. Invariably, I slide. But really, the only difference is time. We’ve been taught by too many advertising campaigns to Expect Results in 2 Weeks or Less! It’s just not true, whether we’re trying to institute new habits or return to old ones. No matter what we want to do, whether it’s to change our eating habits or get back into some form of regular activity, or learn a new craft, or improve your current skills–the key is regular practice of the thing in question. So really, the long time course to creating a habit is a good thing. It means I can keep trying and not give up.

I took this photo today and it made me so happy. 🙂

November will soon be upon us, and I know many will dive into NaNoWriMo as a result. Not me, I know that particular pressure isn’t one I need in my life right now. However, I fully intend to take advantage of all the great articles and conversations surrounding NaNo, and hope to make daily writing another one of those habits I pick back up again.

Today, I started with throwing out some of the trigger foods I know are problematic for me. Others, like the unopened jars of peanut butter, I’ll donate to food banks. I also took the dogs for a nice long walk in the woods, and though I’m a little stiff tonight, I managed without the pain I feared the activity would trigger. I ate a relatively healthy dinner too. Now I’m going to sit down with the WIP.

You don’t have to run a half marathon, go on a radical diet, or force 10 K words out of yourself in a single afternoon to call it progress. Slow, steady, and regular wins the habit-making race.

A Good Story vs Good Writing

I learned to love books at a very young age. My mother and grandmother both read to me, and the time spent in their laps, following the words on the page, soon taught me how to interpret those words on my own. Growing up in a house full of books, I was never at a loss for something to read. By the time I was six, I was reading books on the sixth grade level. From loving books, it was only a short step to wanting to tell my own stories.

And I did. I wrote stories similar to those I’d read about things I loved, illustrating them with laboriously colored drawings as well. Well into my teens, going to a library was an exciting event. The Scholastic Book Fair was the best day of the school year. To this day, my idea of a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon is to go to a bookstore.

But somewhere along the line, I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer as something impossible for the average storyteller to achieve. By the time I left college, I was focused first on my career, and later juggling a family with being a professional. I wrote short stories for fun every now and then, but they were few and far between.

Then one day, I discovered online fanfiction archives. Suddenly I realized there were thousands of people just like me who loved to tell stories about their favorite characters. I became obsessed with fandom, cranking out story after story. After a lifetime of suppressing my creativity, the stories poured out of me in a flood. I wrote for the sheer joy of it and the fun of interacting with like-minded fans. For years I read nothing but fanfic, completely immersed in the delights of finding stories that were tailor made for me.

I never let the fact I was a neophyte storyteller stop me. I wasn’t swayed by the fact there were far better writers in my fandoms. I was in love with my characters, and that joy carried me through any confidence of crisis.

The confidence I learned in fandom gave me the courage to try my hand at original fiction after a lifetime of doubting it was possible to become a writer. It just so happened that this was about the same time when e-readers suddenly made publishing within the reach of a lot of people, and small presses were eager to take a chance on new authors. When I made the transition to writing original stories, I continued writing fanfiction at first, but gradually I began leaving fandom behind. My shows went off the air, and I had trouble finding other shows I wanted to write in. More importantly, however, I became invested in my original characters. I only had so much time to write and it seemed stupid to “waste” good ideas on fanfic when they lent themselves to the original stories bubbling inside of me.

But as I’ve said before, when you’re learning a skill set, every time you move up a level, the work gets harder. There’s less fun, especially when you know things should be done in a specific way and what you did before no longer passes muster. These days I’m working with critique partners and tough editors who push me to write cleaner prose and with more efficient style. Don’t get me wrong; I love the input from these sources. I’m a better writer now than when I started ten years ago.

But those same critical voices, the ones that tell me to eliminate adverbs and cut out unnecessary verbiage, and strive for active constructions in my writing are the same voices that often leave me staring at a blinking cursor for hours at a time, struggling to create a sentence that won’t embarrass me. I find myself massaging the same text over and over again because my natural style is wordy and breezy and it needs a fair amount of editing to be presentable to the public at large.

It’s a bit like taking a pony out for a gallop across an open field once you know all the pitfalls and dangers of doing so. When you know about the rabbit holes, and you think about how breaking an arm will mess up your life, it makes it a bit harder to simply clap your heels against your pony’s flanks and let her take the bit in her teeth and run.

Back when I was learning to ride in group lessons at a barn, once a year when we trooped into the arena, we were told it was Broom Polo Day. Instead of trotting sedately around the ring, following one another in line as we popped over a little cross rail or practiced our equitation, we were handed brooms and directed to chase down a large rubber ball, smacking it between goal posts that had been arranged at either end of the arena.

It was insane. We became fiends as we clung to our ponies necks, throwing ourselves into a vicious melee, bouncing our ponies off each other as we crowded in for a hit. We chased the ball from one end of the arena to the other, howling like demons. The ponies got into it too, running flat out at our direction, spinning on a dime to make a course change, letting us hang off their sides as we swung down for a stinging hit. I suspect never in a million years would we be allowed to play Broom Polo these days, but back then we loved it. And the best part was we never knew when Broom Polo Day would appear. One day we were practicing our positions, remembering to keep our heels down and shoulders back, and the next, for one glorious hour a year, we rode like we were Centaurs–at one with the horse. It was a sneaky way of teaching us riding wasn’t always about looking pretty.

This past weekend, instead of struggling with the barely started WIP that already needed to have a plot hole fixed, I accepted the plea of a friend to pinch hit in a fandom fest. Though rusty as hell and not convinced I could even portray the characters I loved so that a fan would recognize them, I sat down at the laptop to pound out the required word count for the fest, only to end up with twelve times as many words as I needed. I won’t say it was effortless, but it might as well have been compared to the difficulty I’ve had writing lately.

What was the difference?

I was having fun. It was Broom Polo Day, but for writing.

And it taught me something very important. Sometimes it’s okay just to play. To throw off the restrictions of rules and “this is what you should do” and just let ‘er rip. And no, I’m not going to go back to reading and writing fanfic the way I did at the height of my obsession. But I will remember sometimes you need to focus on telling the story first before you worry about how well you’re telling that story. That the first draft is galloping toward the ball and smacking it with glee across the arena. It’s the second, third, and fourth drafts that let us look pretty while sending that ball through the goal posts.

So my advice to myself in these coming weeks? It’s okay to bang the story out sometimes without paying as much attention to the rules. Sometimes it’s the best way to get back in the groove when you’ve lost your mojo. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun and ride like a demon. You can always go back to sitting up and pretty when the time comes.

Praise for Ghost of a Chance and Bishop Takes Knight! #MFRWHooks

 

Well, it happened again–I’m pleased to announce Ghost of a Chance (Redclaw Security, Book 2) is a finalist in the 2019 Independent Author Network Awards!

It was also a finalist in the 2019 Bookseller’s Best Awards, and Redclaw Security came in third for Best Shifter/Vampire series in the 2018 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice Awards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And The Romance Reviews gave Bishop Takes Knight (Redclaw Origins, Book 1) a five star review, naming it as one of their Top Picks!

The Romance Review
 

October 18th is also the last day to enter my Bishop Takes Knight Rafflecopter Giveaway–be sure to check it out! There’s still time to enter!

 

 

 

 

In the meantime, The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security, Book 1) is now available on KU again!

 

Looking for other great reads? Follow this Book Hooks link for more romances right up your alley!

My Imaginary Friends are Speaking to Me Again

Autumn is the season of change.

I saw a similar saying on Instagram the other day and had to laugh–with the above modifications, that’s exactly what happened here: a 40 degree drop in temperature that had everyone scrambling to pull their jackets out of the closet.

For me, it’s a welcome change, a sigh of relief. I’m not heat-tolerant, and this summer’s brain-melting temps seemed like they would never end.

I adore autumn. I love mornings with the air so crisp it’s like biting into a juicy apple. Waking to frost on the grass. The sound of dead leaves skittering across the sidewalk. The joyful way the dogs bound through the woods… I love how the spectrum of light shifts from white to gold as the sun slants through red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. The smell of wood smoke in the air. The way the night sky blazes with stars as if someone scattered a fistful of diamonds. Hot chocolate and hearty stews. Homemade bread. Sweaters and boots. And OMG, pumpkin pie! I start eating pie in October and don’t stop until after Thanksgiving.

I love everything about autumn. Just. Love.

We’ve been in a drought this summer, with scarcely a drop of rain since June. The leaves are going straight to brown with hardly any color change and I’ve got one tree I don’t think is going to make it through the winter. The lawn is burnt to a crisp and starting to blow away. We’ve had day after day of temperatures in the 90s, and I feared it would continue well into my beloved October, but finally, finally, the temperatures have broken.

Because October is my favorite time of year, I usually take off a week sometime that month. I’m about to begin my vacation soon, and let me tell you, I need it. I view my upcoming time off like a miser with a pile of money–I want it ALL. I want to ride my horse across fields where the grass is stiff with frost and take the dogs for long, rambling walks in the woods where rain drips off leaves and mushrooms peep out of the undergrowth. I want to sit on the couch with a book and a blanket and animals piled around me while soup simmers on the stove. I want to finish putting everything away from the remodeling–put up shelves and pictures, organize the books, pull out that rock painting kit I’ve had for over a year and dab some paint on stones. I want to make a daily habit of exercise now that the heat isn’t trying to kill me, and do some meal-planning.

But most of all, I want to write.

For the first time in a long while, the stories are whispering to me again. For most of my life, my stories have been my companions, my company, my entertainment. Ever since  I was a small child with asthma, who spent a lot of time alone with books, I’ve been a storyteller. I wrote my own stories when I didn’t like the endings of the books I read. I wrote more stories when I wanted to continue the adventures with the characters I loved. I daydreamed during long car rides, and could be counted on to occupy myself quietly no matter what. I loved being sent to my room because I could indulge in my flights of fancy at will.

As an adult, I never minded being alone because I wasn’t. I could call up whatever long-running story I’d been playing in my mind whenever I wanted. There was no such thing as boredom. I never had trouble falling asleep. I could conjure my friends and bam! Off on an adventure we’d go–the more ridiculous and outrageous, the better.

As a writer, I drew on these wild escapades, eventually taming them down and taking out the more outrageous (and Mary Sue-like) elements. The stories had already been honed from years of constant replay. While I had to learn the mechanics of writing, the ideas were always there, ready to be implemented.

But somewhere along the way in the last few years, my imaginary friends stopped speaking to me. I didn’t notice at first. I was dealing with Major Bad Stuff. I had a series of life-altering events occur and that sent me into a tailspin of depression. I struggled to go to work, to interact with my family, to take pleasure in all the things that brought me joy. Stress skyrocketed, and with it, anxiety. When I would try reaching out to my imaginary friends, I was met with silence.

I’d lost the key to my Secret Garden.

That’s not to say I didn’t keep writing. I did. In fact, I think I did some of my best work. But the words came in dribbles and drips from a rusty faucet. They had to be filtered again and again, and it took a year to get enough water to drink. I’d lost the ability to daydream, to plan my scenes in advance, to play with my characters so that I knew them inside and out before I put a single word on the page.

At the time, I thought perhaps it was part of the writing process, a maturing of my skills, so to speak. I thought becoming a better writer might mean the elimination of the childish play I’d indulged in my entire life.

In retrospect, I can see that the depression and anxiety had such a hold on me that any attempt to play in my imaginary worlds brushed my characters with the taint of unhappiness. When actually sitting at the keyboard, I could grind out the words because I was “writing”, not mucking about telling silly stories I would never use about my characters. But telling silly stories to myself is part of my writing process, and I didn’t realize how important it was until it came back.

It came back.

Slowly at first. A scene here or there as I was falling asleep or walking the dogs. If I let myself roll with it, if I didn’t shrug it off and pick up the phone to occupy my time instead, the scenes began occurring more often in greater detail. Scene after scene connected into a chapter. Scenes skipped ahead, leaving breadcrumbs along the path, showing me the way toward the rest of the story. Scenes that made me stuff a fist into my mouth to stop me from bursting into laughter. Sentences that gave me that eureka! feeling and had me rushing to write them down before I forgot them.

Until this morning, when I lay smiling in bed as the rough outline for the WIP rolled out like a red carpet leading the way back to my Secret Garden. I opened the door and saw my characters sitting together on a park bench eating sandwiches. I laughed at the vacuum cleaner joke and narrowed my eyes in satisfaction at the unfolding of the plot. I could see it all there before me, the vague outlines of the flower beds, the plants lying dormant but ready to bloom in the spring. I was back in the Garden.

I don’t know what changed in the last few weeks to bring me to this point again. Was it the successful release of another story? A coming to terms with depression and chronic pain? Starting a meditation program? Reading more? Or autumn itself, with the sweeping out of the old and the advent of all the things I love?

I don’t know. Maybe it was all of those things, including the pair of fabulous boots that jumped off the shelf into my shopping cart yesterday when I had no intention of buying another pair of boots.

All I know is I’m not questioning it. I’m embracing it. Because my imaginary friends are speaking to me again.

Walking the Fine Line of Burnout

Let me start off by saying first of all, this is not meant to be a whiny post about how I wish I could quit my Evil Day Job and spend all my time writing books (although I do). Nor is it a contest to see whose job sucks the most. Since I’m writing this post, chances are I’ll think it’s mine, no matter what you say. 🙂

It’s a post about walking that fine line between being able to do your job to the best of your ability and burnout–and what to do about it.

See, I think most of us are closer to burnout than we think. It’s almost a given these days. Who hasn’t heard of the newly minted lawyer or the medical resident who is worked to the bone as some sort of rite of passage, putting in over a hundred hours a week into a job that demands nothing less because they think that’s how it’s done. That’s how you advance, become partner, a senior staffer, move up in management. That one day you’ll have the corner office and the healthy paycheck and you’ll be able to catch up on sleep or your kid’s recitals or afford that really awesome vacation.

Only it’s never enough, is it? Because (at least in the US), our workplaces demand more and more from us every year, expecting us to get more done with less support staff, improve the bottom line with fewer rewards. Accept a “promotion” that is largely a title for doing the work we’re already performing. Forcing senior, experienced employees out because they can hire two new graduates for what they have to pay the veteran employee. I recently overheard employees at my local grocery discussing how everyone’s hours have been slashed to just under full time so the national chain can avoid paying benefits like health insurance. At the same time, the company is replacing cashiers with automated systems for checkout, and eating the cost of shoplifting instead of keeping the live people on staff.

And we accept it because we’re scared we’ll be the next on the chopping block.

I live in a rural area where work is hard to come by. I have a mortgage and bills to pay, which as I age, increasingly includes medical bills. I’m lucky to have a FT job which contributes significantly to the household economy. I know this. And at the same time, I resent the degree to which the job owns me.

I resent putting in 10 hour days and having that never be enough. I resent the advent of mobile technology making you accessible to your employer 24/7 with demands you fix something or take care of something on what should be your down time. Twenty years ago, my employer would have paid my health insurance in full as a perk of the job. Now I’m expected to contribute $400/month out of my paycheck every month to retain coverage.

I resent coming home at the end of a long day irritable and fried, unable to interact pleasantly with those I love. By the time I get to the house, I’m too tired to make reasonable decisions about what to have for dinner, let alone find the energy to work on the current story. I don’t like the person I am right now. And yet I scarcely know how to change.

It’s a little thing, but one of the dictates of my workplace is that management gives me the next day’s assignments before I’m finished the current day’s work so I can review them in advance. They take this one step further in that I receive the workload for the day after my day off as well. The end result is my inbox is never empty. I never get to check off the day’s assignments as complete because there is always more sitting in my inbox.

Small wonder I dream about work as though I’ve never left, nightmares in which I look out the office window to see long lines of people waiting to be seen, like the lines outside Best Buy before a Black Friday sale. I never get to say I’m done for the day.

For a while now, I’ve been saying I’m on the edge of burnout, because in my head, “burned out” is a state of non-functionality, where you are incapable of doing your job, one step away from a nervous breakdown. Not willing to declare myself a charred cinder, I admit to being close just the same. And I have to admit there are days when the idea of a nervous breakdown sounds good if it means weeks spent in an asylum with nothing better to do than stare at the ceiling.

But I’m starting to think the gradient toward burnout is more subtle than you’d suspect. Whatever it is, I think I’m nearly there.

But if I am, then what? I still have bills to pay. I can’t just lie on the couch and read books all day, though I’d dearly love to give that a shot for a few weeks.

Which was why I was glad to stumble across Burnout:The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. Various people on my social media feeds had been talking about it, and though I didn’t want to admit to actual burnout, I felt I was close enough to consider reading it.

I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but I’m already of the opinion almost every woman I know could benefit from reading it. Not just those suffering from near burnout, either from work or their family lives, but also women struggling with PTSD, or relentless perfectionism, or just the demands that society seems to place on most of us. Men, too, with their struggle to meet society’s needs as well as those of their families, all while holding their emotions tightly in check.

According to the book, the biggest factors in burnout stem from never completing the cycle: as cavemen, if we were attacked by a saber-toothed tiger, we either survived the attack or we died. If we died, our stress was over. If we survived, there was a huge sense of relief and a celebration among our other cave-dwellers as  we shared our story of our exciting near-miss. The adrenaline spiked, our muscles expended the energy in our survival, and then it was over.

In modern society, it is never over. The saber-toothed tigers are always with us, snapping at our heels, demanding we run faster, jump higher to escape–only we never do. We nap fitfully on the ledge outside our caves, always ready to leap up and run again.

Small wonder we struggle with weight issues here in the US. Our adrenal glands are on maximum overload all the time. And how do we handle stress? We eat. It’s a physiologic drive for survival because we always feel under threat.

Frankly, I’m not sure how I can change things given I have so little say so in how management tells me to do my job. But change I must. I can’t keep dozing on the edge of my ledge, longing for the day when I’ll be able to rest knowing I am in a saber-toothed tiger-free zone.

So while I take most self-help books with a grain of salt, this one is resonating with me.