Shelving Self-Help (Temporarily)

trainingThe minute I feel a twinge of discomfort, I enroll in a class, delve into a new topic (the Battle of Actium, circa 31 BC) or buy a self-help book. A few weeks ago, I felt exceedingly middle-aged, so I signed up for a few personal training sessions. As I went through painful exercises–painful, in that they took me away from my couch–I knew that the sessions were a temporary fix, that I will never be Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 70s. And yet, I can’t fault that impulse to improve.

This is why I love self-help! My stack of self-improvement books takes up most of my bookshelf, lines the walls and makes for a healing tower on my bedstand. I’ve become obsessed with audiobooks for my walks home, especially ones about mindfulness, habit-changing, and meditation. On Facebook, I subscribe to key self-helpful authors and devour, write down, and try to remember their bullet points of advice and wisdom. Several times a day, I scroll down for a nugget and write it in my mostly empty “gratitude journal” (even though I’m very, very grateful for all I have). I’m addicted to that five-second boost, and vow to use the guidance in all future behavior or interaction with others. The skip in my step might last for a day, maybe a week. But then I’m back to who I’ll always be, which ain’t half bad.

Though I adore an engaging read that will educate me, I wonder if I really need another pep talk…or long list of steps to achieve wellness, cure insomnia, ease anxiety? It’s time to have more fun with that twinge of discomfort, develop a sense of humor about it, don’t think I can fix it by wearing a clown nose around the house and recite my self-love in front of a mirror (though that wouldn’t hurt).

For right now, I want to see what it would be like not to listen to experts on how to improve myself. As I try to resist Oprah’s Soul Sunday, Elizabeth Gilbert’s motivational Facebook page, or Eckhart Tolle’s distinct voice in my ear–it won’t be for long–I will try to lift weights to ensure better health and try to be where I am as much as possible. I might also listen to other stories. With current events such as they are, fiction is starting to sound much better. For now, in my spare time, I’m back to thrillers, even more romance, and okay, maybe one book on self-coaching…But to all these affirmations, I maintain this.

(Ps. If you have a great self-help recommendation, let me know!)

 

Romance Is My Day Job Giveaway Results!

IMG_2508Last Friday, my book giveaway ended with eleven winners of an autographed copy of Romance Is My Day Job. I’m so excited to get these to the recipients. This was such fun for me, I might have to do it again. Who knew that giving away free stuff could be this enjoyable? Here are the winners:

Ready to go in the mail, if not sent already:

Emily

John

Mia

Tammy

Margaret

Paula

Christine

These four should send me a snail mail address (send to addictedtoaltoids@yahoo.com) to receive the autographed copy:

The Turtle Writer

Real Housewife of Detroit

Deborah B.

Debra

 

Thanks, everyone, for your participation! Happy Monday to you.

 

A Romance Is My Day Job Giveaway!

coverhuhHey, don’t you want to start tax week right? Here’s how: I’m giving away 10 autographed paperback copies of my book, Romance Is My Day Job. Not just 3 or 7, but 10–and I may even sign them with sparkly pen. Recipients will be chosen at random and it is open internationally. All you have to do is post a comment from now until 5pm ET on 4/17/15 and you may be chosen to receive one of these copies. Please bear in mind that all comments must be approved so they may not appear immediately.

I look forward to hearing from you and sharing this true love story with readers!

To Emote or Not to Emote

I tend to read a lot of artist/writer blogs, the juicier the better. Because I’m not physically in high school anymore–or even in my twenties or thirties–I get a vicarious rush reading about an individual’s personal and professional trials: deadline pressures, the angst of parenting, difficulties (physical and mental), irritating moments that ruin one’s day, pep talks, who hates Jonathan Franzen today, or good old-fashioned frivolity (Housewife chat?). I’m both impressed and a little horrified at how a person can put so much out there for anyone to see. What did we do before blogs and social media? It’s so tempting to read everyone’s thoughts and then I want to emote myself. There is a lot I have to say! Fair warning, some of it is superficial. You caught me in a moment. Yesterday, I was agonizing about events in Rome, circa 31 B.C–don’t get me started. Here goes:

I’ve switched from Cheetos to White Cheddar popcorn as an evil snack. Sam loves it, too, so we get two bags. We feel like giant hogs afterwards.

Ranting on FB (about life, politics, Israel/Iran/Palestine, climate change, Obama) annoys and fascinates me. I have an appreciation for the need to connect, preach, and spread information. I’m doing that right now, see? Hey, I wouldn’t be married without Facebook. Sadly, I don’t recognize some of the people I thought I knew and I now know people who have mostly been strangers (it’s all good-ish).

No one has noticed this but I’ve been weening myself off television and reading more. I read for my day job, but currently feeling that reading day and night means stronger eye muscles…or blindness. Right now, am flying through The Sun Also Rises by The Hemingway He kinda writes like a five-year-old, Andy Cohen’s memoir (awesome), The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (you must read), The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (who knew Harry S. and Ike could get along!), and Come Dancing by Leslie Wells (addictive, especially if you love the 80s)…11051892_1555249804734476_5339737004723344042_noh, and a biography on Charles Manson (I don’t know why…).

Because I drove with my husband to Rochester, New York, last weekend for his business, I rewarded myself before the trip with an iPhone and three secret cookies from Fika. With my gadget I was able to take cool selfies. Furthermore, if I get to see Duran Duran in concert, I can finally take a good picture of my boys! I hear the iPhone is also used for calling, but I am not good at using phones. The Candy Crush is too small for me to see.

Starting to feel that editing on paper is inconvenient and yet I don’t want to do the first edit on screen. Will I make the transition? This could be exciting news for trees.

I struggled with depression in the second half of last year. It made me a little too quiet, but I know how things shift from light to dark, dark to light–and even shades of grey (see how I got that in there?). The world is lovely again in all its forms. When I go outside, I don’t feel terror, just an appreciation of sunshine, the taste of coffee, people hanging out in my local Pain Quotidien. Notice how this gets sandwiched between lighter stuff.

I put hot rollers in my hair now, which makes me feel 100 years old, but the outcome can be splendid and slightly Mad Men if I brush vigorously like Betty–or it could be senility setting in. Am now looking around at women and wondering who secretly uses hot rollers. Fess up!

Trying very hard to accept that “awhile” and “fairytale” might be one word. This seems wrong to me.

After 30 years, I’ve stopped running. Now I walk or do the elliptical, which begs the question: Will I join a walking club and wear fussy gym clothes from Athleta? Am I someone now worried about joints and my back? Will I start doing yoga?

At 46, I should be all 1962853_664713946900219_800430870_neasy breezy about how I look, but last night, I had second thoughts about my purple pants from J Crew. Nah, they are awesome.

I recently had 10 minutes where I had no work deadlines. Now I’m swamped again. I’m not complaining at all, just observing the tides of my industry. The busier, the better.

My love/hate for CNN grows strong in both directions. I love my Anderson Cooper (very much), but hate the editorializing of most of the other anchors. Just deliver the news, please, without the moral outrage and incredulity. Sometimes, this compels me to a more conservative station. I like my headlines dry and without emotion!

Yesterday, someone sent me a fan email for Romance Is My Day Job. It put a huge smile on my face.

My After Happily Ever After: Vol. I

1504209_1388883841371074_78845019_oA friend told me that I haven’t been married long enough to write about being married. He’s probably right. But a few lessons have been valuable for me on this bridal path. I blame serial dating for twenty-five years, my “little sister” complex, and an inner princess for needing my own way at all times. What a novelty that in a relationship, you have to cooperate with another person. Here are some of my marital takeaways:

  • Being kind and respectful always wins–even when he’s irritating.
  • I’m generally nice to others but very self oriented. Now, I think about little things Sam might like. On my excursions, I’ll pick him up a snack or his favorite newspaper. It goes a long way.
  • I hold grudges, but Sam caves within minutes. He never gives up on people unless they’re truly reprehensible. This shows me how silly it is to stew in self-righteous indignation. We bicker now and then, sometimes really fight, but I’m better at saying I’m sorry.
  • Five years later, everything he does still charms me–how he walks, how his hair sticks up, his obsession with his expensive toothbrush, how fussy he is in the kitchen, even the cadence of his snoring (it changes depending on what he eats and drinks). Someday, I may take this for granted. For now, I stare as much as I can.
  • You have to do things you don’t want to do. I try to gauge what’s important to him. This can be difficult because, like a guy, he shrugs his shoulders and says he doesn’t mind one way or the other. I don’t like eating in restaurants, but he does. Sometimes I suggest we dine out and his eyes light up. His joy is well worth the inconvenience of sitting in a noisy, cramped space and waiting on potentially greasy food (I can be nuts in a restaurant).
  • Men seem to have their monthly cycles, which I find fascinating. I know to stay away certain days of the month.
  • He can’t stand to be within fifty yards of the bickering Housewives. I can still watch my precious Housewives, but I wait until he’s out of the room.
  • I just assume people are there and I don’t reach out to them as much as I should. When you live with someone you love, you can’t assume. I try to check in with him a few times a day. He’s the type who loves hearing from people so I know it’s a big deal. Being with him has made me better about calling my mother, too.

I’m sure I’ll learn more over the years and some days will be more difficult than others. Most of the time, I think how lucky I am.

Fifty Shades of Saturday

rs_634x1005-141114095132-10644711_665591963557478_6990185292071945908_nEver since the casting for Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been eager to see the movie. Jamie Dornan was brilliant in The Fall, one of the creepiest series I’ve ever seen and well worth a Netflix binge. No doubt, he could bring Christian Grey to life, though I’d been set on Charlie Hunnam for the role. Dakota Johnson, whose memorable short stint in The Social Network, seemed a perfect choice as Anastasia Steele. I’d Youtubbed her a little as research and found her charming and natural (double kudos if it’s all a performance). As for the story itself, I’m Switzerland and won’t even try to explore all the issues this book provokes in people (it makes me tired). I wasn’t offended by what I read, but it’s not my thing either. I like that a book–rather than a reality show–has created such a phenomenon and I support most women who laugh all the way to the bank.

But back to the movie. The sad fact is that I haven’t stepped out much since last June. Call it mild agoraphobia or just a Garbo phase, but I’ve kept my outings to essential only. I put off seeing Fifty Shades until the last minute (before we’d discuss it at work). I felt grateful that E.L. James wrote a story that would get me out of the apartment. Either because he was bored, curious, loving a free ticket, or just supporting me, Sam tagged along. We entered a mostly empty theater (it was early). Two creepy guys sat in the back. Two girls in the middle. Sam and I gave each other a look and found a place on the side. Because he liked Maid in Manhattan, I thought he could sit through this. Then again, he’d seen the J.Lo flick during our honeymoon phase*. Now, he won’t even consider watching anything with Jennifer Lopez, Hugh Grant, or Julia Roberts in it. Yes to Sandra Bullock and double-yes to Melissa McCarthy.

Sadly, we only lasted an hour in the theater. Dakota Johnson was adorable. She brought so much to the role. In my opinion as a celebriholic and movie junkie, Jamie Dornan was a better serial killer in The Fall and his talents were wasted in this movie. I still thought he was good, just not fall-down-in-a-faint good. It was beautiful to watch, and even though the pacing dragged for me, I could have lasted admiring the Seattle vistas, the helicopter, the glamorous decor, and Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice. Our movie drug of choice has been too many Channing Tatum movies where things go boom and each moment contains serious biceps flexing. Channing Tatum is Sam’s Julia Roberts so we’ve watched every Jump Street and sabotage of the White House flick.

As Ana saw Christian play the piano, I glanced over at Sam whose eyes were glazing over. This was his look when he saw a Kardashian, a Duran Duran concert or Sex and the City, the “please get me out of here” look or “at least give me a glass of bourbon.” No matter how provocative Christian was, no matter how many contracts he wanted Miss Steele to sign, my husband would rather be flogged to death than sit through another hour. I wasn’t so into it that I needed to stay. Given we spent 30$, I thought he’d want to get his money’s worth, at least see some blindfolding and whipping. When I suggested we leave, he brightened, as if I’d given him a pizza. We left.

I’ll wait a little longer to see Fifty Shades in full, or at least, the last hour.

*Though the honeymoon phase is over, we are still nauseating in our lovey-doveyness.

Romance Tales from Louisiana

Last weekend, I went to Shreveport, Louisiana, to attend a conference for romance writers. I had gone to this event maybe fifteen years ago and remember feeling like such a newbie, quivering over my speech, but having a blast with some amazing people. My colleagues have been as well, and they always come back with raves. I knew I was in for fun (and work, too). As usual, I went through my pre-flying rituals:

1. Freaking out

2. Packing and re-packing

3. Picking out a Steven Seagal movie to watch but then opting for Sons of Anarchy instead–sort of same thing (bringing out inner warrior self)

4. Looking at husband, possibly for the last time (since I could die) and feeling that if I did plunge into a land mass due to engine failure, I’d have absolutely no regrets. Everyone knows I love them.sam

Oddly enough, this time, I had no flying terror since I’d spent most of the week on weather.com, ensuring perfect plane vistas from my window seat. Because I’m a spaz and superstitious, I don’t eat while in transit (since eating brings on wild turbulence and the universe operates based on my actions always) so I arrived in Dallas famished but ready for my next flight. Alas, it was cancelled. Luckily, the conference organizers had a nice lady ready to drive me to my final destination. My luggage decided to stay in Dallas until the evening when it magically appeared in Shreveport.I didn’t know this until later that evening, after visions of sleeping in my business clothes and wearing them again.

After a mini-road trip, I arrived only to set down my purse and run to be on the editor/agent panel. I’m not sure what I said that evening, but it was lovely to look out into the audience and see three of my authors–Lenora Worth, Beth Cornelison and Farrah Rochon–smiling at me. They gave me hugs of sympathy, though by that time, I was deliriously happy to be on the ground. A lovely agent loaned me her brush. My author gave me some toothpaste and the nice lady at the front desk passed me other supplies. Oh right, and I was hungry-ish, but too rattled to eat. After twelve hours on the road, I went to my room and just collapsed. At 10pm, my luggage arrived.

The next day, I felt amazing with the post heinous travel glow of gratitude and did a “Chat With” workshop. Most of the questions involved preparing a good pitch, how publishers feel about hybrid authors, deal breakers in a submission to an editor, how can writers improve their work. There’s no substitute for being able to engage with writers face to face. For a few hours, I also did appointments, which I’m hoping will yield some great projects on my desk (e-reader). A nice perk–there were snacks everywhere and I indulged, making up for my travel hunger strike. Hurray for bags of snacks!!!

The conference en11043052_805084322873362_8048958285275004698_nded at a nice dinner with my authors. I gave up giving up gluten since bread must be eaten sometimes. No regrets, especially since the next day promised rain for my journey home. Memories of bread, amaretto house cake and enthused writers got me through those jerky moments in the clouds. After lugging my suitcase up five flights of stairs (our elevator is out for three months), I opened the door to find my favorite guy and my favorite foods waiting for me.

Though depleted, I always return from conferences energized. It’s a festive time for both introverts and extroverts to bond over their craft. Only 4 months until RWA…