Happy New Year

Happy new year to all. For me, this is the official start of the year. I give myself the first day of the year to reflect, transition, and then open the door into the new year.

Last year was rough. Not long into the year, my mom went into hospice care. She steadily declined, becoming weaker in mind and body due to breaking her leg/hip, dementia, and the stroke she had six years previous. It’s not easy seeing someone you love become so lifeless. She died at the end of October and passed peacefully. I still quietly mourn her.

Yesterday was spent at home. Mike and I enjoyed waking up with our grandson’s bright smile and playing dinosaurs and Legos with him. We did small things around the house, spent time together, and watched a movie. No big fanfare, which was nice. We had time to think and simply enjoy the day.

Today is about starting the year with recharged energy. I’m looking forward to what each day brings. My challenges this year will be balancing life and work. I’m ready to take both on, spending quality time with family, friends, and co-workers/writers. I’ve also been editing the second book in The Calling trilogy, which I’m geared to publish this spring.

Let’s make this a great year.

Beth M James

The Calling

Gitana – Life Plan

Connections

The world is a busy place with the instant connectivity we have at our fingertips. Social media is a big time hog that can suck you into its vortex.

Facebook: I’ll go out to Facebook to review happenings and the next thing I know is that an hour has past. Really? An hour? I thought I was only on the site for five minutes.

Twitter: Fun way to send tidbits but also a constant eye catcher, wanting to send and review comments. Boom. Boom. Boom. Let’s see what’s trending.

Pinterest: This site is another place that I know I’ll need to visit. Great place to promote. I have an account, but I’m scared I’ll get hooked. I’ve seen it happen with friends and family.

I have only named three of the top places. There are others like Instagram and Tumblr.

And of course there is Email. I get quite a lot of emails per day. I have more than one account. Today I’m going to try getting through all the unopened emails waiting to be read.

I’m not saying that it’s bad. I love catching up on events going on and staying connected. My only request…can we have a few more hours in a day? Please?

Beth M James, Author

Available Books: The Calling (Book One), Gitana – Life Plan

 

Lesson Learned: Snow Day!

Saturday night was the start of a huge snowstorm that swept the Midwest. The storm ended this morning and produced 10 to 12 inches of snow in the Hudson area. The bad news is that I had somewhere to go on Sunday, my writer group’s meeting and holiday party. Driving over fifty miles in snow and on slick roads is not a favorite of mine. The good news is that I wasn’t the only one who thought the same. We cancelled the meeting and rescheduled the party to our January meeting. I now had a full day with no commitments. A snow day!!

I thought about all the things I could knock off my list, like clean off my desk, go through my emails, and wrap the presents I had bought. I wanted to get started right away, but my mind spun in every direction. I froze for a bit (not literally) and then took on the first chore of watering my plants. I went upstairs with my water pitcher and thought of something else to do. I tried working on that, was distracted, and then remembered I had to finish watering the plants. How frustrating!

At that point, I stopped and looked out my bedroom windows. I have three high windows on one wall. Inside, I decorated the sills with candles, snowmen, and white leaves. Outside, the backdrop was snow and ice clinging to the window, almost as if Jack Frost had come to visit. I smiled as I admired my windows in this new winter scene.

I then went to the dining room window and looked out to the park. I watched the white flakes swirl down to the ground. A dog jumped across the blanket of snow with his tongue hanging out and ears flapping. Snow flew up as he bounced around and circled the marshmallow- coated pine trees.

I did get to my list. I prioritized and dug into the tasks I knew had to get done. In between work, I took a few moments to look outside and watch the beauty around me. What a great day.

Even Small, It’s Still Exciting.

Last spring, I attended the RT Booklovers Convention to learn more about ePublishing. I had a conversation with Jim A. from Smashwords when I visited their booth. He asked if I would be interested in talking to someone who was writing an article on ePublishing. Of course, I agreed. After exchanging email addresses and correspondence, I received an email from Andrew Rice who writes for Time Magazine. He asked if he could interview me, but he couldn’t guarantee that he’d use the information for his article. I was fine either way. We set up a time for the one-hour interview.

During the interview, we talked about why I was at the convention, what I wrote, what my story was about, and how I felt about the ePublishing process versus going the traditional agent/publisher route. We talked a lot during the interview, and when our time was up, he had to state once again that he wasn’t sure if my information would be used or not. For me, I was just excited about the experience!

Mr. Rice thought that the article may come out sometime in June. June came and went. I didn’t think too much about the interview after that. I figured the timing wasn’t right for the story, or that the story may have been completely dropped.

Two days ago, I received an email from Mr. Rice stating that the ePublishing article he wrote should be in stores soon. The issue would have Egypt’s leader on the cover (the December 10th Issue). In the email, he included a PDF version of the article.

My little fingers clicked open that PDF in no time. I scanned the document for my name, and there it was near the beginning. My name in Time Magazine! I was okay with the one sentence blurb – a sliver of the article. From our conversation to what he wrote, I understood the reason why he said what he did.

Thank you, Andrew, for including me in the article. You made my day!

Lesson Learned: Holiday Dynamics

I remember when I was a child, we knew that we’d have Thanksgiving at our (my parent’s house), and we’d celebrate Christmas on Christmas morning. Then we grew up. We had boyfriends, we married, we had our own families, we had two sets of parents, we moved away, we came back.

My parents were accommodating to our needs. They continued to have a big Thanksgiving dinner (knowing that we may not all make it), and we changed our Christmas morning celebration to Christmas Eve. We kept this schedule for many years until two years ago when my mom and dad had to move out of their house. We no longer had that center place.

This year, we’re still trying to figure out our new holiday schedule. Last year it caused a lot of stress. This year, not as much. We realize that traditions can’t stay as we’d like. However, it does provide an opportunity to build new ones – or maybe even none (wing it each year).

As you begin the season, remember to celebrate tradition while you can, yet be flexibile enough when it has to change. It’s stressful for everyone. Make it easy on yourself and for your loved ones, knowing that they may not have control over their time either. Just find a time (even if it’s not on the actual date of the holiday that you celebrate) and enjoy.

Happy start to the holidays!

Lesson Learned: Let Fate Work for You

I love it when events fall into place without effort. When this happens, I believe it’s meant to be.

For example, yesterday my family was able to go up to our friends’ cabin. We met our friends through scouting. Jeff was a leader, Sue handled the wreath fundraiser, and I was the treasurer. Our sons, the same age, became friends and received their Eagle Scout honor approximately one month apart. Today, we still get together to confirm the bond we built through the scouting program; however, it’s difficult to get together with our busy lifestyles. This year, on a fluke, Jeff called last week and invited us up to their cabin. With Hans, my son, being home for a visit, this worked out great. Brian, their son who works weekends, was able to go up as well. Hans was able to hang out with his friend and go boating (something he wanted to do while he was home). We had a great time.

On other occurrences, fate helps us make the right decision. This happened when my husband and I tried to sell our house. The market turned downward, along with prices. We had the house up for sale three times. The first time, we had a minimal amount of potential buyers. On the second round, we found a twin home that we liked, and it was in the same school district as the current house. We made an offer to buy and that deal fell through. On the third try, we finally got it right. The minute we walked into our current home, we knew it was meant to be. The builders accepted our offer, contingent on us selling. We put our house up for sale, and we sold within a few months. Everything came together – we just had to wait for all the pieces to fall into place. Five years later, we still love our house. We don’t think we would’ve been as happy in the twin home, the place where the deal fell through.

And then fate has to tell us we messed up with our choice and redirects us. For me, I took a job as a manager trainee for a large discount chain. Nothing went right from the interview on. I didn’t know which store I would work in until two days before I started (which I then found out wasn’t in the best of neighborhoods). I wasn’t told that I was required to work a minimum of 48 hours per week (they made it sound as if the extra time was overtime). And I found out later that I’d have to work every day from October to the end of December for the holiday season – no time off (which is not a good situation being a single parent). I was so overwhelmed and I didn’t know how to change it. One night after close, I was assaulted in the parking lot. A mugger stole my purse. The store wanted me to work the next day. Yes, they felt sorry for me, but they didn’t have anyone to work my shift. I worked. I also gave my two-week notice. I did not have another job planned out. I left it up to fate to guide me. Even though I wouldn’t want to go through that same situation again, I did learn. I took a temporary government job which turned into a permanent job for another agency. The job was better pay with benefits.

Some call fate as God, luck, the stars, angels. I can agree with all. But now I’m just saying that I let fate work for me and it’s never failed.

Lesson Learned: Bittersweet Appreciation

This past Friday and Saturday were tough days for me. On August 11, 2011, my brother died of lung cancer. He was alert one minute and the next gone. I wonder if he knew what was happening to him. Did he decide to go or was the choice made for him? Was he aware of what was going on?

He had been looped up on drugs to keep him pain-free. He knew who we were when we came to visit, but he’d repeat a sentence five times and not realize it. His hands shook when he poured creamer into his coffee cup. He’d take a sip, only to spill on himself. He was too stubborn to let us help. That was Mike.

Now, I look back and remember how much pain he’d been in. How the cancer ate at his spine and left him paralyzed from the waist down. We were selfish to want him to stay with us and to fight. We were guilty for wanting him to go so he wouldn’t have to suffer.

My brother Mike wasn’t perfect by any means. He was stubborn like a bent, rusty nail stuck in a board. No matter how hard you tried to pull on him, he’d stick to his way or no way. He was weathered in both looks and demeanor. Life had been hard for him, but he always found time to laugh or joke around. He could talk your ear off, and you were lucky if you completed one sentence. And then when he finished talking, the conversation was over.

I had days when I got along with him and days when I didn’t. I still remember both. Those memories are what made my brother, and I will keep both good and bad in my heart. I tell myself that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to grieve. And it’s okay to laugh at his idiosyncrasies and to cherish the times when he was a true brother. In fact, I bet wherever he is right now, he’s got a fishing rod in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and laughing at us, wondering why it took us so long.

Here’s to you, Mike. I love and miss you.