The Art of Accepting Compliments

My lilacs are at least twenty years old, having grown into enormous, rangy bushes that burst into lovely color every spring, filling the air around my house with their delicate scent. This is a photo taken last spring.The bushes were just starting to bud this year when a late April snow storm nipped them all. The buds all shriveled and died. The bushes themselves were damaged by the heavy, wet snow, with huge pieces breaking off and splintering down almost to the core.

I’ve been telling people this is a metaphor for my life lately. I’m only partly joking. The last 14 months of my life (oddly enough corresponding with the current Presidency, don’t think I haven’t noticed) have been very difficult. The damaged lilacs, just on the verge of blooming, seem very apt these days as a depiction of my life.

But recently I ran across a thread on Twitter that made me pause. It was about self-deprecation with respect to your writing, but this is something I struggle with in general:

 

I shared the tweet, adding my own comment, “Guilty. I’ve been digging that groove deeper every day of my life. The problem is self-praise sounds like bull sh*t to me. Gotta work on both issues.”

This resulted in one of my Twitter friends suggesting looking in a mirror every day and saying something nice to myself. We tweeted back and forth on the subject, but the truth is yesterday was a bad day in so many ways and my ability to believe I was anything other than a horrible human being and a talentless hack was nil. I wasn’t very encouraging or cheerful in response.

I’ve tried doing the positive affirmation thing. I even went so far once as to record a bunch of affirmations so I could listen to them daily in a kind of meditative state. I created a journal, lovingly decorated, where I could record my kick-ass affirmations too.

I make talismans for myself, like the I Know My Value bracelet (because I love the Peggy Carter quote so much) and my Persistence bracelet I got from MyIntent.org.

I do these things because every day I need to reverse the well-worn narrative that’s been playing in my head as long as I can remember–the one that I was taught so well I took over the lessons long after the original input ceased.

There’s a Facebook post that’s been circulating on my feed recently about Jim Carey and his self-belief in his comedic talent, even when he was shot down again and again in the early days. I find that kind of belief and persistence admirable, but I don’t understand how someone can have it. How someone can make themselves believe if the belief isn’t there in the first place.

There’s a great scene in the old Steve Martin movie Roxanne, where Martin’s Cyrano-type character Charlie is accosted in a bar by a jerk who attempts to insult him by calling him “Big Nose”. Charlie comes back with, “Is that all you’ve got?”

In the ensuing scene, Charlie insults himself with 20 better insults than the one he’s just received.

 

 

I confess, I have long identified with Charlie. I’ve always been of the mindset that you can’t say anything to hurt me because I’ve already said worse to myself. But at some point, what is a useful coping mechanism for getting through middle school becomes a chain around your legs that prevents you from getting what you want out of life.

The thing is, I’ve always been better at accepting insults than compliments. I don’t trust compliments. When someone compliments me out of the blue, I have a tendency to squint and think, “What do they want?” On the rare occasions a compliment comes my way, my response is always padded with qualifiers. Thank you, but this isn’t my best work. Thank you, but actually, I’ve gained weight. And so on.

I’m working on a conversation between characters in the current book about this very subject, where the heroine explains how difficult it is for her to believe compliments about her looks after growing up hearing how ugly she was. Because I think this is important. I think we need to stop running ourselves down–our appearance, the decisions we’ve made in life, our abilities, our intelligence–all of it. I was raised to believe self-deprecation was far more appropriate than arrogance, but the laughable thing is arrogance will never be one of my flaws. I’ll be lucky if I stretch up to reach a point of self-confidence.

And yet most days, it’s a struggle not to fall back into the old patterns. Probably because arrogance and ‘putting yourself forward’ were portrayed as something far uglier to me than believing in yourself. But I know the power of the mind. I know the things you tell yourself on a daily basis are the things that come true. Maybe you don’t look at yourself in the mirror and think how ugly/old/fat you are. But perhaps you tell yourself you don’t deserve that raise, or you aren’t that good a writer, or you’ll never get ahead, or bad things always happen to you. On the surface, these don’t seem like terrible things to say to yourself. You probably think they’re true. But are they really true or is it that your belief makes it so?

In the past week two compliments have come my way that I do trust because I trust the people who made them. The first came from a friend I’ve known since college, who is well-aware of my sensitivity toward aging. Out of the blue, she said, “I know you won’t believe me, but honestly, I can’t see any difference in your appearance now than ten years ago. It’s like you’ve stopped aging.”

Hahahahahaha. No seriously. I can see the changes, even if she can’t. But this friend isn’t prone to complimenting lightly just to do so, and I found myself oddly able to accept her kind words.

The second came last night. I’d had a horrible day to cap off an extremely stressful couple of weeks. Tearfully, I expressed to the SO that I wasn’t sure how much more I could take, given the past year. He had me sit down while he made dinner. He went all out–grilling steak kabobs with baked potatoes, and serving them with apple pie, salted caramel ice cream, and a bottle of Merlot. All my favorites.

And then he apologized for not realizing sooner I was struggling. “You just always seem so resilient.”

Resilient. I like that. I like to believe that’s true, and so it is easier for me to accept the compliment without any added ‘buts’. It also makes it easier for me to lift up my chin when the Next Bad Thing comes down the pike and say, “Yeah, I got this. I’m resilient.”

Those are the kinds of words–the ones I can believe in–that make it possible to undo some of the harm of a lifetime of negative self-chatter. 

Remember the lilac bush that isn’t blooming this year? The one that is such a perfect metaphor for my life right now?

I just took this picture just a few minutes ago.

Huh.

Well, what do you know?

 

 

What Happens When You Run Out of Virgins?

Digital Illustration of a Dragon

This post could also be titled: Why Amazon Needs Competition from Other Publishing Markets.

Because it does.

Last week, I posted a question to one of my indie publishing support groups, asking for a show of hands for those who used KU or went wide with their distribution. The vast majority of people went with KU. Certain genres do quite well there, and most authors did have their books enrolled in KU. Many said they would release wide the first week before pulling their books from other platforms and going with KDP select from then on. The vast majority of authors said they just didn’t make enough money on the other platforms to justify not doing KU, and they did make money on KU. Not much, admittedly, but since it was the only game in town…

The other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, pleased at how many companies had pulled their support from the NRA, and seeing the calls for boycotts of companies that hadn’t done so. And then I saw that Amazon not only supported the NRA, but they advertised with Brietbart. 

Well crap.

Because a) Amazon is big enough not to give a rat’s ass about public opinion, even when the tide is turning on the matter of sensible gun control here in the US and b) virtually every author I know would be crippled by an Amazon ban. Myself included.

Just this morning, I was chatting with my critique group about the state of publishing in general and signs that Barnes and Noble is going under. B&N, who gobbled up Borders, and now is falling victim to Amazon. The chain bookstores crushed all the smaller competition, and are now getting killed themselves. When I first moved here, we had a Waldenbooks, a Books A Million, B&N, and a fantastic used bookstore. They are all gone, with the exception of B&N. And now it looks like B&N will be folding soon.

Hopefully it will get bought out by someone else, but that seems less and less likely in today’s market. I like my local B&N store. I don’t go there as often as I used to because I buy mostly digital books now. My first e-reader was a NOOK, but it was heavy and had a pitiful battery life. But the real reason I bought a Kindle and began getting all my ebooks from Amazon was that B&N’s website sucks. OMG. It is so terrible. I get a coupon or a book link, log in, attempt to buy the book, and the site kicks me out multiple times, requesting I log in again or redirecting me off the page where I am trying to redeem my coupon. My experience was so consistently bad, I actually thought ebooks would never catch on. Hah.

The ease of being able to get a book on my cell phone’s Kindle app converted me. The superior functionality of my Kindle Paperwhite gives me so much more than the NOOK that I don’t miss the fact my book covers aren’t in color. B&N is falling victim of its inability to keep up.

Recently I heard Wal-Mart is getting into the e-book game, and along with Kobo, Apple, and Google, are pursuing the ebook market. What this means for indie authors, I don’t know, but I suspect they will not do any publishing. They are more likely to serve as a distribution center. Are they willing to take a loss on book sales the way Amazon is? Amazon is not a publisher. It sells products, including e-readers. If selling books brings people to the website, they are more likely to buy other things too. At the moment, Amazon is content to lose money on book sales. So maybe that’s what Wal-Mart is ultimately hoping for–books driving people to their site (which I didn’t even know existed until now).

Competing distribution sites is all well and good, but I think we need someone else in the field who will allow self-publishing on the scale Amazon has done. I think we as authors need to think carefully about letting Amazon be our sole distributor as well. Because relying solely on KU feels a little bit like sacrificing a virgin to keep the dragon happy for a year–and what’s going to happen when the town runs out of virgins?

Amazon will call all the shots then. And authors, who have never been a priority for them, will be eaten up along with the town.

 

 

Reclaiming Your Time as a Writer

Representative Maxine Waters has made the phrase ‘reclaiming my time’ a viral meme for her refusal to allow Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to squander her floor time with a meandering, meaningless response designed to avoid answering her question about Trump’s ties to Russia in the time allowed. For every woman who has been ignored during a meeting, spoken over, had their own work mansplained to them and endlessly interrupted, this cool invocation of House rules was a delight to behold.

But for writers, there are other time-sinks besides someone deliberately wasting your time. Many of these activities are actually good things, activities we’re encouraged to do. Networking, participating in Facebook groups, interacting on social media, marketing, etc–all things we’re told we must do and must do daily. All part of creating and promoting our brand.

I see friends doing cool hashtag things like #FirstLineFriday or #TeaserTuesday and I think, wow, I should be doing that. I participate in weekly Twitter conversations such as #RWChat  and #TipsyChat and I’ve met new people and been introduced to some new books as well. I’ve joined some busy, organized Facebook groups that cross-promote each other. I’m writing this post now for #MondayBlogs, something I try to do each week.

But frankly, I’m finding it hard to do anything else but keep up with these activities.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy doing most of these things. I get a lot out of participating in the chats or batting ideas around on Facebook. More than just putting myself out there and making my name recognizable–I’m making real connections. Sometimes brainstorming too. There are times putting my thoughts into words crystallize them for me and make my own goals easier for me to understand.

But frequently I find myself spending more and more time in these activities when I could be writing. Sometimes I choose to do the social media thing because it’s easier in a fatigued state to do something like catch up on social media duties than it is to write new material. But I suspect there is a more insidious reason I rotate from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and back again.

I think it’s an addiction.

Most of us have read articles stating sites such as Facebook and Instagram make us dissatisfied with our lives, or that Twitter is a source of outrage. We know that people tend to post about the biggest events in their lives, making our own lives seem paltry and boring in comparison. And yet we check our timelines obsessively, making our own posts, and hoping we’ll get likes and comments. We live for that hit, whether we realize it or not. In some ways, that worries me the most.

I check my social media first thing in the morning and last thing at night, even if doing so starts or ends my day unhappily. I check my feeds during every free moment–when I used to read a book or listen to the radio. I check it at night while sitting on the couch, catching up with my comments and sharing other people’s book releases. To the exclusion of doing anything else. Of paying attention to what’s on TV, or chatting with the family. From interacting with the pets, and yes, writing. I’ve been known to take social media breaks for my mental health before, but this is different. I think we all need to take a step back from our need to be connected, our need to post Instagram-worthy images, our inability to put our phones down.

I’ve been taking a lot of online classes and workshops. I’ve been reading books on marketing and promotion. I read a lot of articles on writing, branding, you name it. I’ve joined a LOT of groups. Due to the changing algorithms on Facebook, I’m thinking about starting my own group. But the truth is, I’m feeling the pressure to keep up.

And I’m starting to question my need to do so.

One of the things that has been pounded into me from classes and workshops is that a lot of what I’m doing now would be to greater purpose if I had a bigger backlist. I’ve been going at it with both barrels when I only have one book out. While making connections and interacting with readers is important, I’m rushing the gun. Most of advice boils down to this: your best advertisement, your best marketing ploy, is writing and releasing the next book.

And it is slowly dawning on me that everything I’m reading is aimed at the writer who hopes to Go Big. That, as far as I can tell, means being prolific on a scale I can’t match at this time.

So I’ve decided to reclaim my time.

I’m going to drop my participation in Facebook groups to the three I think the most useful–one genre group and two author support groups. I’m going to scale back on workshops and classes. No more money on ads or promotion for now. I’m also going to put the phone down. Take long walks. Photograph things for the joy of taking the image and not with an eye as to how it will look on Instagram. Appreciate my animals. Interact with friends and family.

And write. As I sit here watching the Olympics, I find myself comparing daily writing to the work these athletes put in toward reaching their goals. I’m never going to be an Olympic caliber author, so I’d better enjoy the process. I also want to be happy with the end product–even if it takes me a year between books. It’s okay to watch the Olympics, or spend time with your family, or do any of the other things you enjoy.

That means while all the things I’m learning are valuable, I don’t need to do everything all at once or right now. We talk about writing being a marathon vs a sprint–but that holds true for the rest of it too–the networking, the marketing, the branding–all of it. 

So reclaim your time as an author. Or an artist. A crafter. An actor. A singer. A photographer. Put the phone down. Your validation isn’t online. Remember the things that were important to you before social media consumed your life. Take pleasure in the act of creating. You don’t have to do it all every day. Don’t fall victim to the feeling you’re falling behind. The most important thing you can do is write the next story. The best story you know how to tell.

And if that takes you a month, great. If it takes you one, two, or seven years, that’s okay too.

Reclaim your time.

 

To Review or Not to Review: That is the Question

For some time now,  I’ve been torn about whether or not to leave book reviews.

If you’re familiar with the show The Good Place, you know the character Chidi, an ethics scholar who ties himself up in knots every time he has to make a decision about anything, including where to have dinner. I’m not that bad, but when it comes to this particular dilemma, I go back and forth on it.

It’s only since the explosion of social media, and the encouragement of such sites as Amazon and Goodreads that the average person has been able to leave reviews–it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to that, the only way to get reviews was from major literary magazines, and that sort of thing didn’t happen unless you were already a Big Name. Amazon has been one of the great equalizers when it comes to leaving reviews, and their algorithms have shifted the balance of power to the ‘little guy’ reviewer in mass numbers.

Before that, the only time I ‘left a review’ was when I enthusiastically pushed a favorite book onto friends. The only time I knew a favorite author had published a new story was by haunting the bookstores and libraries.

I’m glad I have ways of following favorite artists now, and can keep up with new releases as they occur. But I stumble over the review process.

There are a lot of reasons for this. I’m not in the habit of leaving reviews in general. I intensely dislike the way I now get hounded with automatic emails to leave a review every time I purchase a product or use a service. Come on, I don’t need to leave a review every time I go to the dentist, peeps! Leaving thoughtful, well-written reviews is time-consuming–something that I have in short supply. Then too, if I can’t leave a glowing review, I don’t want to leave anything at all. Partly because I was raised that way, and partly for fear of backlash. I’ve seen fans go after an author who left a less-than-stellar review for another writer’s work.

But then there’s the Big Brother aspect of leaving reviews as well. I know several people who’ve had their reviewing rights revoked at Amazon because of perceived improprieties. They are mostly bloggers and people on ARC lists, so they are getting a complimentary copy of the book in question. Amazon gets snitty about non-verified purchase reviews. Okay, I get that. But sometimes it is mandatory you state how you received the copy and sometimes the review gets pulled if you state you received a free copy. Even if you received that free copy as part of an Amazon-sponsored giveaway! The rules keep changing.

Amazon also doesn’t like authors leaving reviews for other authors, despite the fact almost every author I know is a reader too. They cite conflict of interest, and pull the review. The flip side of this is if you follow an author’s social media, Amazon might deem you a ‘friend’ of the author, and your review is also treated as suspect and pulled. It’s almost like Amazon doesn’t understand how social media works outside its own algorithms. 

Then there are the authors themselves. I’ve heard Big Name Authors state they never leave reviews, and other BNA point out the importance of reviews and ask fans leave one if they enjoyed a story. And face it, we all want reviews. It’s not just about Amazon’s algorithms, either. Getting that little bit of positive feedback is like crack to a writer. We naturally want more. But it can also encourage a writer who feels their current WIP is hopeless, or bring someone back to work on a project they thought no one was interested in. Feedback like this is vital.

Which brings me back to the eternal dilemma. I recently picked the brains of fellow authors as to what they do, and I found many people feel as conflicted about this as I do. Some have stopped leaving reviews, or only leave reviews if they can rate a story with five stars. (I really, really wish the ‘star’ system would go away and people would just leave written feedback. I know Amazon uses it to rank stories, but when people 1-star a story because they misread the blurb or the book was damaged in transit, it makes me want to pull out my hair. Ditto when people low-rate a story they’ve never even read because they don’t like the subject matter…)

Because of the restrictions Amazon places on reviews, many of the authors I spoke with who do leave reviews, do so under their real name on a separate account not connected with their pen names. I’m not sure that is distant enough to satisfy Amazon, but it does solve the ‘verified purchase’ issue for the most part.

Some authors said they didn’t leave reviews at the main sites but instead wrote them on their websites and boosted them on their social media. I like this idea but I’m not sure how much that helps the author in terms of visibility on Amazon.

Then again, perhaps it’s time we stopped letting the ‘Zon dictate everything.

 

Fallen for Shame Book Tour with Anna Edwards

FFS_BT_BANNER

Shifter love is the wildest love…
Find out for yourself with Fallen For Shame, the brand new release from Anna Edwards!

FFS_BookFunnel

GET IT NOW!
AMZ AU: http://amzn.to/2CypRH1
AMZ CA: http://amzn.to/2ATIept
AMZ UK: http://amzn.to/2jcFtbC
AMZ US: http://amzn.to/2kdtxaf

FFS_BT_1

BLURB:

Teagan Holland left her old pack under a cloud of prejudice. Her breed, an Asiatic wild dog, considered nothing but vermin. But as the Glacial Blood Pack are about to find out she is one the kindest people they will ever meet. The accident prone dog also has a strength within her that will be needed to help stave off the now homeless Nuka Lincoln’s attempts at revenge. Will she regret taking this job?

Tyler Quinn has been a fighter for the pack since he was eighteen. He is mysterious, and nobody knows that much about why he joined them. All they do know is that he is a fantastic cook and a bit of a computer geek. Behind the man he portrays is a secret that threatens to send him on a path that he thought he had left behind. Will the white powder be his downfall?

Fallen for Shame is the third book in the highly recommended Glacial Blood Series by the author Anna Edwards. It is set in a paranormal world full of drama, suspense and great love affairs. Plus it features a secret that must never be told for fear of the consequences.

A family isn’t always blood; it’s the people that accept you for who you are.

Although book three in the Glacial Blood Series, Fallen For Shame may be read and enjoyed as a standalone.

FFS_BT_2

ALSO IN THE GLACIAL BLOOD SERIES:
The Touch Of Snow – CURRENTLY #FREE!
AMZ AU: http://amzn.to/2rx2psS
AMZ CA: http://amzn.to/2G55yDH
AMZ UK: http://amzn.to/2rzVpMf
AMZ US: http://amzn.to/2DXdFBz

Fighting The Lies
AMZ AU: http://amzn.to/2DxE5Nu
AMZ CA: http://amzn.to/2DZ91D1
AMZ UK: http://amzn.to/2n20MPi
AMZ US: http://amzn.to/2n1sJWH

FFS Ad - Available

About Anna

Anna hails from the rural countryside near London. She previously worked as an accountant, and while she still does a bit of accountancy on occasion, the majority of her time is now spent writing and looking after her family.

An avid reader herself, Anna turned to writing to combat depression and anxiety after her diagnosis in 2015. She loves travel, hunky heroes with dirty mouths, demure but spunky heroines, and dramatic suspense. You will find all four woven into each of her magical stories.

Follow Anna Online!
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Btjgyk
BookBub: http://bit.ly/2ySXdOx
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2yTKQC4
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2BDeGjE
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2CzwOYj
Website: https://authorannaedwards.com

Fallen For Shame by Anna Edwards Release Day

FFS_RB_BANNER

Teagan and Tyler are officially in for the fight of their lives.
Fallen For Shame, the next installment in The Glacial Blood Series by Anna Edwards, is NOW AVAILABLE!

ONE-CLICK THIS INCREDIBLE STORY:
AU: http://amzn.to/2CypRH1
CA: http://amzn.to/2ATIept
UK: http://amzn.to/2jcFtbC
US: http://amzn.to/2kdtxaf

FFS_RB_1

BLURB:

Teagan Holland left her old pack under a cloud of prejudice. Her breed, an Asiatic wild dog, considered nothing but vermin. But as the Glacial Blood Pack are about to find out she is one the kindest people they will ever meet. The accident prone dog also has a strength within her that will be needed to help stave off the now homeless Nuka Lincoln’s attempts at revenge. Will she regret taking this job?

Tyler Quinn has been a fighter for the pack since he was eighteen. He is mysterious, and nobody knows that much about why he joined them. All they do know is that he is a fantastic cook and a bit of a computer geek. Behind the man he portrays is a secret that threatens to send him on a path that he thought he had left behind. Will the white powder be his downfall?

Fallen for Shame is the third book in the highly recommended Glacial Blood Series by the author Anna Edwards. It is set in a paranormal world full of drama, suspense and great love affairs. Plus it features a secret that must never be told for fear of the consequences.

A family isn’t always blood; it’s the people that accept you for who you are.

Although book three in the Glacial Blood Series, Fallen For Shame may be read and enjoyed as a standalone.

FFS Ad - Available

About Anna

Anna hails from the rural countryside near London. She previously worked as an accountant, and while she still does a bit of accountancy on occasion, the majority of her time is now spent writing and looking after her family.

An avid reader herself, Anna turned to writing to combat depression and anxiety after her diagnosis in 2015. She loves travel, hunky heroes with dirty mouths, demure but spunky heroines, and dramatic suspense. You will find all four woven into each of her magical stories.

Follow Anna Online!
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Btjgyk
BookBub: http://bit.ly/2ySXdOx
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2yTKQC4
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2BDeGjE
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2CzwOYj
Website: https://authorannaedwards.com

The Power of Creating Your Own Talismans

Long before it ever became a thing, I was in the habit of declaring “This would be my year of living ____________.”

One year it was fearlessly. Another was without doubt. Once it was passionately. As with most things, I would start out with good intentions that will fizzle along the way.

I tend to do a bit better if I can put my intentions into a form I can keep in front of me as a frequent reminder.

I also firmly believe in the power of talismans. Even more so if you create them for yourself.

Even as a child, I had a vivid imagination. My parents, imminently practical people, would come into the bedroom once to show me there were no monsters hiding there, but after that, it was up to me to deal with my fears. I used to lie awake quaking with terror over the hump of clothes piled in a chair (which I was sure was a gargoyle, just waiting for the lights to go out) or the shadow in the corner that was probably a burglar.

I finally conquered my fears when I decided I had the power to seal the monsters in my closet. Each night when I was sent to bed, I would round up the imaginary horrors, chase them into my closet, and cast a spell to contain them there. Problem solved. I was able to go to sleep without fear. The funny thing is, to this day, I’m unable to get a good night’s sleep unless my closet door is closed. If it is open even a crack, I have nightmares.

It illustrates the power we have within ourselves to overcome certain kinds of fears and doubts if we put our minds to it. Not everything. But many things. Especially the kinds of restrictions we’ve put on ourselves in the first place that keep us from being all that we can be.

As an adult, I find I still reach for objects I can imbue with strength when I need something to carry with me as a reminder. I love polished stones with words carved into them. As a child, I used to assign words to stones and carry them in my pocket as I needed them. One day I might carry courage. Another, hope. Today I carry joy.

These days, it’s much easier to find stones with words carved into them, but I still have the stones from my youth. I can grant them any word I wish. I love putting my hand in my pocket and coming across the smooth stone, rubbing it as a reminder of the word I wanted to keep near my heart that day. I’m not particularly religious or spiritual. I just find comfort in these small acts.

As an adult, I’ve frequently found strength in fandom, in a favorite character’s courage or behavior. I’ve taken to having iconic quotes made into bracelets or necklaces to remind myself the kind of person I want to be. I seem to need a lot of reminders! I think this is because my negative self-speak is so strong and has been honed over a lifetime of insecurities. So yes, I need to create my own talismans. Not as wards against evil, though sometimes they feel that way, but to offset the self-hate that’s been in place for so long.

For a while I had a ring that said Never Surrender. I bought a bunch of them and wore one until I found someone who needed it more than I did and then I gave it to them. I’ve given them all away.

So imagine my delight when I found out that declaring your intent for a year is a thing now. I noticed people on my timeline talking about what their word for the year might be. And then too, I’ve been seeing people get encouraging phrases stamped on aluminum bands like the one I’ve shown above. I love what I’m seeing. The Etsy store The Broken Circle has all kinds of great phrases on metal bracelets–like “Doubt Not” and “Slayer of Words”. And I recently discovered a website called MyIntent.org that will make a custom bracelet or necklace with the word of your choosing. How cool is that??

So what are you waiting for? You can assign a word of power to ANYTHING. Or you can search for the right phrase that will lift you up every time you see it and create your own talisman–or have someone make one for you. I ordered a bracelet from the My Intent project that said “Persistence.” That’s my word for the year. It’s to remind me of my favorite Calvin Coolidge quotation.

A Little Writing Advice for 2018

I don’t know about you guys, but I was glad to see the backside of 2017. In some ways, it was one of the most difficult years of my life. There was a lot of personal loss, and I finished out the year sick with a respiratory bug that has knocked me flat.

I just saw a tweet from George Wallace that read:

Sorry 2017. It’s not you, it’s me… Okay, fine, it’s you. Asshole.

It made me snort out loud. Yeah, that’s how I feel, 2017. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Yesterday was the first day I woke up without a fever and feeling remotely human in almost a week. Thank goodness I was off for the holidays! I began reflecting, as one does, over the past year. What I’d learned. What I would have done differently. How I intended to move forward into 2018.

I wasn’t yet coherent enough to put together a blog post. I just hammered out some thoughts on Twitter. Later, I thought it would be nice to turn them into a blog post, but I believe storify isn’t an option for Twitter threads any longer, so I decided to screencap them here instead.

I hope you find it useful. Here’s to a better 2018 for us all.

 

My Grown Up Christmas List

Christmas Day is now only a week away. I have all my shopping done–most of it was competed weeks ago. We don’t go crazy at Christmas in our house anymore. We tend to get 1-2 gifts for each family member, gifts that don’t break the bank. We’ve scaled back on the food and festivities too. In part because our families are smaller now but also because no one seems to have the time, energy, or money to go whole hog for the holidays.

Back when I was single, I had to work hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Why decorate when there was only you to enjoy it? (Especially when you were the only one there to put them up and take them down). I baked cookies just to give them away. I watched hours of Christmas movies and specials because they helped me enjoy my most favorite of seasons, as well as feel a little less sorry for myself when work inevitably decided since I was single and without kids, I needed the least time off. For at least a decade, I worked every major holiday so others could have time off.

Now that I have my own family and get a little more time off, somehow it is harder than ever to find that Christmas joy. Especially since I’ve declared a moratorium on baking because I’m trying to lose some damn weight. Especially because this year has been personally tough on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. If I put everything that has happened to me and my family this year in a single story, readers would howl about how unrealistic it was. There is no reason to travel anymore. The kids have their own plans. It’s just us.

Last night, my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I didn’t remind him pointedly that Christmas is now only seven days away and anything he ordered was unlikely to arrive on time. Instead, I sort of panicked and said the first thing that came to mind.

Because I’ve been trying to get in better shape, I started wearing my Fitbit again, but it’s an older model, it only counts steps. What I’d really like is one that also functions as a watch. I’ve worn a watch most of my life. Yes I know they are considered passe, but I love watches, especially pretty ones. Also, fewer places have clocks on the walls anymore. I hate pulling out my phone to see what time it is, and new office policy is we must leave our phones in our cubicles during the workday–an effort to curb relentless internet surfing by some staff members, I’m sure. But that means when I wear my Fitbit, I never know what time it is anymore.

So, placed on the spot (because OMG, what can he get with only a week to go??), I said I’d like a Fitbit with a watch function. It’s true, I would like one. But I’ve been eyeing them for a while now and it’s hard to justify the price.

I woke up this morning wondering why I said what I did. Yes, I want to lose weight and get in better shape. Yes, I need to fix or replace my current watch and I can’t wear both a watch and a Fitbit, so my request makes some sense. But honestly, I’d rather have a watch of my choosing than a digital readout on an expensive piece of tech I don’t really need.

But that isn’t why I tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep for very long.

You want to know what my favorite Christmas song is? It’s Grown Up Christmas List by Amy Grant. It’s a beautiful song originally done by Natalie Cole, but the Amy Grant version is the one I heard first, so naturally, it’s the one that feels familiar and right to me.

When she gets to this part, and the melody soars, tears come to my eyes every time.

So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas list
Not for myself but for a world in need
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, no
This is my grown up Christmas list

The truth of the matter is I don’t want a Fibit with a watch function.

I have a more grown up Christmas List:

I want to stop losing loved ones for a while. Seriously. Between pets and relatives, I’m facing seven deaths in the family this year. Some were expected. All were devastating. But coming one upon the other as they have, I’m starting to go numb at the wrong times and inappropriately emotional at others.

I want to stop waking up in fear of checking the news. Threats of war, riots, out of control fires, destructive hurricanes, climate change, the threat of the next pandemic, rise of Nazism, the loss of net neutrality, a government determined to cut Medicare, social security, and strip health care from millions while filling the coffers of the rich. My mental health suggests just stop checking the news, but then I am part of the problem, the part that does nothing while our government slides into a totalitarian regime.

I want our government to stop sliding into a totalitarian regime. I want to believe that our checks and balances work, that not all our leaders are complicit in the current mess that passes for government at this time. I want to believe if our president decides to start a nuclear war because he’s cornered like a trapped rat, that someone will prevent him from doing so.

I want our regulations for clean air and water to stay in place. I don’t want companies to have more autonomy and greater rights than individual humans. I want to protect our public lands from destructive strip mining and sacred lands from pipelines. I want to not live in dread of a summer that starts sooner each year and lasts longer each time, reaching new heights on temperature charts. I want an open internet, where traffic to all sites is weighted evenly, and internet providers aren’t allowed to block sites or slow down sites owned by competitors. Where marginalized voices can have their say. Where artists and creators can all be visible, regardless if they are famous or working out of their garage.

I want all of us to be able to go to work, to school, to church, the movies, a concert, or any place where people might gather without fear of being mowed down by a single angry man armed with assault weapons that no citizen needs. That’s not crazy or unreasonable. I’m not saying eliminate all guns. I’m saying eliminate those weapons that belong in the hands of trained military personnel in a war zone. When the Bill of Rights was written, a trained military man could load and fire a musket thee, maybe four times within a minute. It had a range of 50 meters. It was not an accurate weapon–you pointed it at the general direction of the enemy and kept shooting until you got close enough to stab him with a bayonet. Also, when the 2nd amendment was written, there was no standing army and no grocery stores.

When Stephen Paddock opened fire on the concert crowd in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of his hotel, he fired more than 1,100 rounds in ten minutes, killing 58 people and injuring 546 over a distance of 550 meters. Repeat after me: these weapons are not the same. No private citizen should own one of these weapons. No one.

I want our news to stop treating politics like a sports game. Stop giving airtime to the white supremacists because it makes people click on your links. Stop biasing the news based on ratings and financial gain. Oh sure, I realize FOX News isn’t actually a news organization–it’s an entertainment site (check the fine print, you’ll see I’m right), and with the Sinclair corporation buying up TV stations and dictating what reporters have to say on air, this is a faint hope indeed. But hey, it’s my Christmas list. I can put anything on it I want.

Along those lines, I want to lose 20, maybe 25 (Okay, let’s be honest, 30–but that’s never going to happen) pounds this year. I want to get fit again. I want to be passionate about life again. I want to write my stories and love my family and find my bliss once more. Of all the things on my Christmas list, these are the only ones under my control. The only things I can get for myself.

And maybe, given the other stresses in my life, I need to look at overall balance. Maybe I need to spend less time online fretting about things I can’t control and more time writing. Less time marketing and more time writing. Less time writing and more time with the dogs and the family.

Christmas is a week away. There are rumors we’ll be in the midst of a Constitutional crisis by then. People talk of taking to the streets and others boast of how well-armed they are. If I’m having a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, forgive me. It kind of feels like our world is going into free-fall. I think our leaders have forgotten the meaning of Christmas. I think a good portion of the far-right would be astonished to discover they have eschewed the basics of Christianity itself and have become the Pharisees.

Maybe a Christmas movie and an afternoon baking cookies isn’t such a bad thing. I can always go for a run afterward.

I suspect I’m getting a Fitbit for Christmas. That’s okay. I know my husband is trying to help me cope with everything we’re going through right now, and like me grabbing onto something I can change, he’s grabbing onto a gift choice to help support that change. It won’t be a surprise. It might not be the most original or romantic gift. It doesn’t have to be those things because it is given with love.

All He Wants for Christmas Release Boost!

11 Holiday Shifter PNR Romances
New & Exclusive Stories


All He Wants for Christmas Box Set
Publish Date: November 1, 2017


All He Wants for Christmas ebook3d cover.jpg
Contributing Authors:
Emma Alisyn, Cecilia Lane, Ariel Marie, Shelique Lize, Ever Coming, Dottie Wilson, Anna Morgan, Paulina Woods, Starla Night, AR DeClerck, Angelique Armae
ALL HE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS, a limited edition paranormal holiday bundle brings you a selection of new and exclusive stories guaranteed to make you blush every time you hear the words Happy Holidays.
A polar bear alpha falls in love with the dark unicorn sorceress he thought he killed in battle twenty years ago. A tiger shifter learns of the surprise he left behind with a curvy waitress…his fated mate. A dragoness fakes a mating with a bad boy to escape an arranged marriage, and discovers true love. These stories and many more are inside this steamy hot compilation.


Werewolves and bear shifters, Jack Frost (like you’ve never read him before) and fiery dragons, we have something for everyone. Each story is a must read fantasy action adventure, certain to keep you up long past your bedtime.


Ready to dive into 11 curated paranormal holiday novels and novellas? Download now because you deserve a bit of me time.


Don’t wait, this box set will only be here for a short time and then it is gone forever.



Purchase Links:
Amazon: US : AU : CA : UK


Polar Enemies by Emma Alisyn


Blurb:
He went mad with grief and murdered his mate. Only she didn’t die, and the dark unicorn sorceress Elsaday has finally returned. Will she wreak vengeance on his clan down to the last cub, or will the Solstice moon bring peace and healing?


Excerpt:


“You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.” She hated that at this moment he was physically stronger than her. That she felt fragile. That she wanted to lean on his chest and let him comfort her.
Theon’s arms tightened. “That’s where you’re wrong, beauty. I know you. I killed you. And, now you’re back from the dead, and all I can think about is tasting your lips.”
“Don’t,” she whispered. “It’s easier if we’re enemies. Don’t make me fall in love with you when we hate each other.”
His lips curved, but there was no humor in his winter eyes. “Too late. For both of us.”
The kiss reawakened her heart, and then shattered it into pieces.


About the Author:
Emma Alisyn writes paranormal romance because being a SAHM isn’t like how it is on television. Her lions, tigers, and bears will most interest readers who like their alphas strong, protective and smokin’ hot; their heroines feisty, brainy and bootylicious; and their stories with lots of chemistry, tension and plenty of tender moments.


Get a FREE book INSTANTLY: Join my mailing list @ smarturl.it/HowlList


Connect with Emma:


***


Her Christmas Wolf by Cecilia Lane


Blurb:
Wolf shifter Tommy Conri has been burned by love, but one woman has his inner wolf sitting up and taking notice every time her brown curls bounce past his window. Can foxy Faith’s dreams of sleigh rides and mistletoe kisses mend the wolf shifter’s heart?


Excerpt:


He approached slowly, almost as if afraid she’d dart away, and stroked fingers across her cheek. Then that smirk returned and he pulled something from behind his back. He dangled the mistletoe above her head. “This is what you do, isn’t it?”
Yes, Faith wanted to scream. She stared wide eyes at the bit of greenery and then dug deep for courage.
He wanted to play? She could tease, too.
She planted her hands on his chest and stood on tiptoe. A tiny press of her lips to his was all she gave.
Only, Tommy didn’t want to play games.


About the Author:


Cecilia Lane grew up in a what most call paradise, but she insists is humid hell. She escaped the heat with weekly journeys to the library, where she learned the basics of slaying dragons, magical abilities, and grand adventures.


When it became apparent she wouldn’t be able to travel the high seas with princes or party with rock star vampires, Cecilia hunkered down to create her own worlds filled with sexy people in complicated situations. She now writes with the support of her own sexy man and many interruptions from her goofy dog.


Connect with Cecilia:


***


A Tiger’s Gift by Ariel Marie


Blurb:
Dixon Blackburn had almost let his mate slip through his fingers. Upon his return, he discovered that he had left more behind than just his mate.


Excerpt:


Deja crept back to her bed as slow as she could. She sent up a prayer that she could make it to the plush mattress, where she could potentially get at least one more hour of sleep. Her eyes were heavy and begged to shut. She took another step and reached her hand out.


Almost there.


The wood floor was usually unforgiving, but tonight, the big guy upstairs was looking out for her. She leapt and landed softly on the bed, then quickly crawled underneath her comforter as she tried to hide from the chilled air. She held her breath and peeked from beneath her cover and stared out across her small bedroom.


Quiet.


She sighed as she rolled over onto her side, and tucked her pillow beneath her head.


“Thank goodness,” she whispered.


Her three-month-old son, Augie, was still asleep. August Dixon Scarlett was her pride and joy. Right now, the little stinker had yet to master the art of sleeping through the night.
If she weren’t so tired she would laugh at herself. Life as a single mother to a three-month-old was certainly not glamorous, but she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.
But she knew that one day it would come. She just had to hold out and continue working with him to finally get her much-needed, sleep-filled nights.


She peeked over at the small crib again and took in his still form. He was her angel, her everything.


She wished she didn’t have to do the single mom thing, but it was what it was. There was no way that she could contact his father and tell him that he had left her a little present.


She sighed.


His father.


There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t think of Dixon. He was her tall, dark, and handsome that she had met a year ago while working as a waitress at the Ski Bar and Grille. The minute their eyes had met, her body reacted to his like no other man before. He and his friends had kept her laughing all night while she served them, but it was him that she had eyes for, and he for her.


Dixon, as all other patrons of the Ski Bar and Grille, had come to Breckenridge for the fun, snow, and skiing. He had come into the bar a total of three times, always requesting to be seated in her section. By the last time, he had won her over with his intense amber eyes. Just remembering his heated look had her squeezing her legs shut.


How could a memory of a single look make her want him all over again?


About the Author:


Ariel Marie is an author who loves the paranormal, action and hot steamy romance. She combines all three in each and every one of her stories. For as long as she can remember, she has loved vampires, shifters and every creature you can think of. This even rolls over into her favorite movies! She loves a good action packed thriller! Throw a touch of the supernatural world in it and she’s hooked!


She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband and three beautiful children.


Connect with Ariel:
Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/clg-H1


***


Demon Beauty by Shelique Lize


Blurb:
As a bastard, Kyra has spent her entire immortal life hiding from the powerful Demon lord her mother betrayed. When she stumbles upon Marek, a Wyvern shifter being attacked by a pack of demons. Can Kyra and Marek put aside their differences, to survive the demons now hunting them both?


About the Author:


Shelique Lize is a mother of two beautiful baby girls, and a wife to the luckiest man on the planet. It took her five years to write Velicious, but once her first daughter was born, she decided to revisit the world that she had created. Falling in love with her characters all over again, she wanted to finish their story. Velicious Part Two was written in half the time.


Shelique loves anything to do with the paranormal world. She’s a proud Canadian but dislikes winter. She prefers watching the snow falling beautifully from inside a warm home.


The movie Grease is her all time favorite movie. She loves all romance movies. She thinks everyone should still watch Disney movies. Sailor Moon is her favorite anime. Currently, she likes to listen to The Weekend and Lana Del Rey, and she’s pretty open to every other genre of music.


Connect with Shelique:


***


A Very Beary Christmas by Ever Coming & Lila Gray


Blurb:
Down in Shotgun Row, far away from Mardi Gras and the French Quarter, a crew of mismatched beasts clash and mangle mingle with their beasts and each other. None of them have found a mate. Their beasts are too fierce. Their manners too gnarly. Their reputations, vengeful and swift. Then Tansy moves into town, taking over her grandmother’s bakery, Etienne knows something is unique about her. One of the motley crew from the infamous Shotgun Row might have just found their his mate.


Excerpt:
I winked at her. “I know, darlin’. I’m doing okay, okay enough to help out someone I care about.”
She sprang to the defense. “I’ll pay you back. This is just a loan. With interest.”
Rolling my eyes, I answered, “You will not. But that was a good try. Go get your son and hurry it up. We’re losing daylight.”
“Oh—okay.” She grabbed her tattered purse and went outside, but of course, not past the back yard. While I sprinted back to my house and started up my truck, I couldn’t help but smile. She was back in my life again—returned like a hurricane to pick up their next victim and I was happy to be caught up in her storm.
I had a chance for her to be mine again. She’d always been mine in my heart and this time I wouldn’t be losing her to anyone.


About the Authors Ever & Lila:


Ever coming and Lila Grey have been friends for years and often spend hours discussing  all things shifters. They have recently began writing as a team, their first series, The Shifters of Shotgun Row which features, among other things, smexy gators.  To follow the duos crazy foray into the bayou, please follow them at Www.shotgunrowshifters.com and sign up for their newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/c89ub9.             


***


School of Ice & Whispers by Jacqueline Sweet & Devon March


***


Dragon Solstice by Anna Morgan


Blurb:
Desrea wants to find her true dragon mate, but her mother thrusts her into an arranged marriage with an older man she’s never met. No offense to Lorren, but Desrea wasn’t built to sit at home while a man provides. To escape the contract, she fakes a mating with bad boy Ryker. However, the powyr of the Solstice has other plans. Desrea’s mate might be Lorren, or it could be Ryker, because there’s no way she’s fated to love both.


***


A Genie’s Sacrifice by Paulina Woods


Blurb:
Being a giver in the genie world is not as glamorous as humans think. For the length of the sentence, their life is not their own. When Persha is gifted to a polar bear shifter named Brandon, she prays that she will be able to guard her heart. But when they find themselves bouncing between worlds, the spark turns into a flame and it will take a sacrifice for them to find happiness.


About the Author:
Some people write because they love it, others because it pays the bills but for Paulina it’s a compulsion. Even before she published her first book she carried around notebooks to write in and could be found lost in thought as she scribbled away. From funny to dark, her thoughts flowed from her fingertips like water from an undying well. When she finally decided to publish it felt natural. This was what all her writing had been about over the years.
Her world may be a little dark and scary. Sometimes it may seem like she has fallen deep into a pool of despair but each character, each moment has been predestined from the beginning of time.


Connect with Paulina:


***


Her Perfect Christmas Dragon by Starla Night


Blurb:
Can this sweet, curvy pet groomer teach a gorgeous, implacable dragon shifter alien the true meaning of Christmas, or are they both about to get burned?


Excerpt:


Peridot shortened the distance, keeping the delectable, sugar-and-cinnamon-scented female at arm’s length. Close enough to rescue from another tumble. Far enough away to keep his unwelcome, nearly unmanageable desires in check.
Karmel hummed along with the holiday music as she wove between shoppers, her curves swinging as she walked. The tag on her threadbare dress curled up above the hem, tickling the back of her neck.
It took all of his will not to reach over and tuck it in.
Because if he did, he might not be able to stop himself from caressing her slender neck. And then tasting her delicate skin.
With his teeth.


About the Author:
Starla Night was born on a hot July at midnight. She hikes, scuba dives, and swims naked in the ocean. She writes about smoking-hot dragon-shifter billionaires and steamy alpha merman-shifters at http://starlanight.com/


Connect with Starla:


***


The Naughty List by AR DeClerck


Blurb:
Christmas was never kind to Merry. Her best friend had disappeared one cold winter’s night, and she had lived her life in solitude ever since. But a chance encounter with a jolly neighbor leaves her with a very surprising gift under the Christmas tree.


Excerpt:


“So you left to find your parents?”
“No. I left because Krampus recruited me.”
She moved away from him to the other end of the couch. “Excuse me?”
He turned to her, his face hard but his eyes beseeching her to believe him. “Krampus recruited me.”
“To do what, exactly?” Her voice was shrill with barely controlled hysteria. The man she’d yearned for these last ten years was certifiably out of his mind.
“To take care of the Naughty List.”


About the Author:
Wife. Mother. USA Today Bestselling Adventure Romance Novelist. Food assassin. Reading ninja. Self-proclaimed nerd. All-around goofball.
AR DeClerck spends her days wrangling a job, family and pets and she spends her nights writing romance novels from the comfort of her couch. She believes that LOVE is the greatest adventure of all, and she never wants her readers to forget the feeling of falling in love.


Connect with AR:


Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepur.com/cecnzL


***


A Touch of Tinsel by Angelique Armae


Blurb:
When she flees a brutal relationship with an evil Fae prince, Irish witch Sloane McKinley falls into the arms of vampire selkie king Roane CuMara. But can she truly escape when the Fae prince threatens to destroy Sloane’s family if she doesn’t turn over Roane’s selkie pelt by Christmas Eve?


Excerpt:


There were two things alchemist Sloane McKinley knew never to do.
One—never misjudge a dark Fae. Those enticing creatures were nothing but empty souls behind their cunning masks. To destroy your magick, they’ll prey on your soul, pull you so far down the abyss, you’ll end up needing to be spoon fed.
Two—never engage a vampire selkie in hopes of earning his aid against said Fae. That mistake will only land you in the fangbearer’s bed—naked—your desires too stoked to be doused by anything less than complete submission to the beast.
Tonight she broke both rules.


About the Author:
National best-selling author Angelique Armae / J. C. Makk is a native New Yorker who loves all things royal, can trace her Irish roots back to the Scottish Highlands, is half Italian, and is owned by a long-haired Tuxedo feline. As a child her favorite toy was Emerald The Witch, a small doll with green eyes, green hair and purple skin. She spends most days writing, unless her cat deems otherwise.


Miss Armae’s books and novellas have garnered numerous awards and nominations, including the Sapphire Award, P.E.A.R.L. Award and Word Weaving Award. Her books have also been featured on Midwest Book Review’s Book Watch TV. Angelique’s first novel, COME THE NIGHT, made Fictionwise’s Best of the Best list, rounding out the top five best selling dark fantasy books of the year. Since the release of COME THE NIGHT, Angelique’s books have made Amazon’s Overall Kindle Bestsellers List (top 30), Barnes and Noble’s NOOK list (top 10), iBooks Bestsellers List (top 50) and Kobo’s Romance Bestsellers List (top 10), as well as various other bestsellers lists.


Aside from writing, Angelique also dabbles in digital art. She is the recipient and two time nominee of the Dream Realm Award for best cover art.


When not working, Miss Armae enjoys traveling, learning about the ancient Celts, exploring history, and learning new languages. After studying design in London, England, Angelique returned to the States and studied history and French literature at Skidmore College.


Tour Sponsored by: