Master of my own universe

These days, I’ve been actively trying to take control of my own happiness rather than relying on others, circumstance, luck, or fate to bring it to me. This post outlines two recent instances where I took action to be the master of my own universe. In this blog post, I am publicly giving myself a pat on the back and saying, “Go Meri!”

After spending time with my writer friends, I’m always super motivated to improve the quality of my writing and try new things for marketing. I also feel so understood by my author buddies because they share so many of my dreams and frustrations, and if they don’t have the answers to my questions, it’s usually because they are seeking them as well. Being united in cluelessness is pretty bonding. My friendships with some of these people go beyond our shared writer identities. I’ve gotten to know and love them as individuals, which only adds to the positive effect they have on my life. Unfortunately, most of these friends do not live close enough for me to see them with frequency, and we are limited to communication mostly by email and social media. Although I can’t simply clone the heart of these people in my hometown, I’ve been wishing I could at least find a group of published authors in the city who would want to meet in person monthly and dish about writing, publishing, marketing etc. There are plenty of groups out there for writers in general and still more for people looking for feedback in their writing, but I’d never seen a club for published authors who simply want to talk shop over a drink, coffee, snack etc. Rather than continue to wait for someone else to organize such a group, I took matters into my own hands and I started one myself. Announced a week ago, the group already has close to 100 members, although meetings will be limited to fewer people, about 10-20. I hope this group yields the comradery I’m seeking, but if the result doesn’t meet my highest expectations, I’m still proud of myself for taking the initiative rather than leaving it in someone else’s hands.

I’ve also been trying to think outside of the box with respect to marketing my novels and my own author brand beyond the “usual.” Of course, I post blogs on my own website and am active on social media, but aside from that and the occasional sales of my individual books, I haven’t done much lately to really put myself out there. Because I have a full-time job as a paralegal, I prefer to spend my “writing” time working on my novels or my blogs. I rarely write guest posts for other authors unless the other author has a large following. It’s nothing personal to the author, but I really need to balance my marketing efforts with the time I have available and the likelihood that the results will be worth the time spent. But how does one find third party websites with the potential to reach a large, relevant audience? It would be wonderful if someone like Sophie Kinsella or Jennifer Weiner would invite me to post on her blog, or if Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazines came calling, but it’s highly improbable. But seeking out publications I think would appeal to my target reader and pitching my writing to them is something I can do. And so I did. I was told the pitch letter is as important as the article itself because if the person who reads the pitch is not sufficiently intrigued, they won’t ask to see the article. In my efforts to take matters into my own hands, I came up with an idea for an article, drafted a pitch letter (with the help of an author friend with more experience) and wrote the article (also with my friend’s keen eye). Thankfully, the pitch did its job by piquing the editor’s interest enough to ask to the see the article and I’m thrilled to say that my first ever article for a magazine “5 Tips for Making a First Impression inspired by The Bachelor” was published today in the Happy Ever After column of USA Today. You can read it here.

There is so much in this world that we cannot control, but some things in life do require us to make the first move in order to get anywhere and, to the extent possible, I want to continue to be the master of my own universe, both professionally and personally.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I originally wrote this post for Hey Said Renee, but she said she wouldn’t mind if I posted it on my own blog as well. Check out her review of Novelista Girl here.

My big plans to celebrate the holiday of love are simple: I’ll be watching the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. Rather than making googly eyes at my boyfriend over a candlelit dinner and a bottle of red, I’ll be sitting on the edge of my couch, gripping my remote control, and holding my breath waiting for a walker to sneak up on my favorite characters and eat their guts. Sound disgusting? It is. But the intensity is delicious.

Since I’m currently not in a romantic relationship, I do not have a date for Valentine’s Day, but even when I have been attached, it’s never been a holiday on which I placed much weight. Sure, I liked receiving flowers and candy, and being taken out to a nice dinner, but I’m all about sincerity in a relationship and I wouldn’t want my boyfriend to do/say things to me on Valentine’s Day that he wouldn’t want to do/say on any other day. I find the posts people leave for their mates on social media to be cheesy because, seriously, if you are that into your significant other, shouldn’t you be saying these things to him in private, for instance when you’re with each other in bed? Why must it be done in a public forum?

I’m not going to lie, the arrival of February 14th does act as a reminder of my single status and increases my yearning to meet someone special. Not because I want him to “go to Jared” so I can post pictures of my new earrings, necklace (insert other item of jewelry here) on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, but because it’s been quite a while since I met a man I really liked, and I miss having my “other half” and all of the positive aspects of a happy, healthy pairing. Lately, I just haven’t found myself pining for the company of the guys I date as much as I crave watching zombies feast on human intestines.

Oh, well, there’s always next year 🙂

 

Musings of a forty-something

Until recently, I was loath to confess I was a “forty-something.” I preferred that people make their own assumptions of how old I was based on how old I looked which, I’ve been told enough to believe, is probably a decade younger than I am. Perhaps this email is an example of that “go-with-the-flow” and “I don’t-care-what-people-think” attitude those who’ve gone before me promised was one of the benefits of entering this decade.

In many respects, my life is more similar to younger women in that I am unmarried with no children. This means I can take vacations whenever I want, spend my money how I please, sleep in on the weekends or stay out all night, date anyone I want or no one at all etc. and it’s no one’s decision but my own. But while my life might resemble a twenty-somethings on the outside, below are a few issues with which I never concerned myself back then, but do now Ad Nauseum:

The impending “change of life”

In my twenties and thirties, “menopause” never entered into conversation unless we were talking about our mothers. My mother was in her fifties when she went through it, and my older sister is a couple years shy of fifty and still gets her period. Since I generally have regular cycles myself and am still closer to my thirties than my fifties, menopause was one of the few things I didn’t fret over when I turned forty. Yet, women only a year or two older (and even younger) than me talk about “the change” as if it’s going to happen next month. They throw around the phrase “perimenopause” (another word I never heard until turning forty) around the way we said “happy hour” in our twenties. Now, if my cycle is a couple of days early or my PMS worse/better than the month before, I freak out, wondering if it’s perimenopause. These same fluctuations never bothered me before.

Fifty-year-old men

In my early-mid-twenties, I had a flirtation with a thirty-year-old man and remember thinking he was so old—way too old for me. And in my late twenties, when one of my friends dated a guy who was pushing forty, we thought she was crazy. I remember thinking “no way!” when “older men” sent me emails on dating sites. Even now, my first impulse when a man of fifty approaches me is to grimace and think, “He’s too old!” I’m struggling with the realization that fifty is not too old because I’m not as young as I used to be! Part of it is that I look younger than my age while most of the available single men I’ve met of fifty look fifty (or older). It makes me feel like I’m dating my dad. (None look as good as the cute guy on the Our Time commercial or Fitz on Scandal!) But another part of it is denial that I’m actually not in my twenties or thirties anymore. Being in my forties doesn’t mean I can’t date men in their thirties, but it probably means I should at least be open to meeting a man in his early fifties, too.

Health

I used to blow off small ailments on the assumption they would pass quickly. When I told my hair stylist I had to stop for a snack on my way to my appointment because I was experiencing hypoglycemia, he urged me to check it out with a doctor because as we get older, we can’t take minor things lightly anymore. I told him I’d been experiencing occasional episodes of hypoglycemia for years so it wasn’t age. “Still,” he said. ”We’re no spring chickens anymore!” (He’s a few years older than me.) I replied defensively, “I’m not old either!” But it did strike a nerve. Between my many friends, someone is almost always experiencing some sort of health ailment. When we’re out to dinner, sharing great food and wine, the conversation will often turn to health problems and I’ll think, “There is no way we’d be having this conversation ten years ago!”

Spinsterhood

I was inspired to write my fourth novel How Do You Know? as a result of my own feelings and fears about turning forty. I wanted to show it from the perspective of a single, never-been-married woman rather than the usual married, separated, or divorced standpoint. Most people loved the book, but several commented (rather passionately) that at thirty-nine (“almost forty!”), Maggie was way too old to be having such insecurities about her relationship and should be more mature and settled. They said they didn’t know anyone who would act that way at thirty-nine (“almost forty!”). Well, despite the fact that most of my friends found me very similar in personality to Stephanie from Just Friends With Benefits, the character of Maggie was closer to me in mindset than any other character I’ve ever written and I was about her age when I wrote the book. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally, but I did feel judged for not being more settled, for wanting to find my own happy ever after, and for choosing my happiness over settling with someone because it better fit societal norms. This kind of judgment is not something I experienced in my twenties or most of my thirties. I want to believe my five nieces and nephews think I’m “cool Aunt Meri” but I do fear they think of me as their spinster aunt even though I have a great social life, including relationships with men, and I don’t own a cat. I could absolutely be in a serious relationship if I wanted it badly enough (I get offers…), but at this point in my life, I hold my happiness above all other things and unless I’m more content with the guy I’m dating than I am without him, I’d rather keep enjoying the freedom. I do hope I meet someone who fits the above criteria and I haven’t given up hope of it happening, but in the meantime, I’m okay.

I’m sure I can come up with additional subject matter that clogs my brain space now that never even entered it ten to fifteen years ago, but I don’t want to depress anyone! Rest assured, some aspects of this decade are actually better. And while I often yearn for my thirties (my favorite decade so far), I actually look better now than I did in my twenties, and am a more interesting and strong person by far.

Maybe for next time, I’ll list things I used to think about in my twenties that no longer cross my mind at all. I’m sure there are plenty and I’m not so old or far removed that I can’t remember them 🙂

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-feb-2016