The Meaning Of Life ~ You're Welcome!

Recently a young person who was just starting out in the working world said to me—after thinking about being at their job for many years to come—there is no meaning in life. This young person did not have a faith life, so I couldn’t explain it in religious terms. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond. But now I do.

This morning I heard a song that made me think. Now, I am NOT a country music fan. I like some of the more crossover songs, but twang makes me nauseous—no offense to you country people. (I’m sure some of my hard rock would give you a headache.) Still, I was listening to George Strait’s “The Breath You Take.” If you haven’t ever heard this song, I’ll include a link below, but it is about a father being at a son’s baseball game and the son saying, “I thought you had a plane to catch,” and the dad saying, “I did,” but it was important for me to be here, with you (I’m paraphrasing). The next verse talks about the dad being at his son’s first child’s birth and the son saying, “Dad, you didn’t have to come,” and the dad saying, this is where I am supposed to be. The chorus talks about how life is not about the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away. (On a side note, no one knows where this quote originally came from.) 

This got me to thinking. Thinking that I should have come up with this answer when the young person questioned there being a meaning to life. It’s there in our literature, our art, our music, our prayers, perhaps even in our heartbeats. Life is about LOVE.

It’s about loving other people, that’s where we get our meaning. For parents, it is often about the love we have for our children. We do our menial tasks at our jobs to support our families. To make a better life for them.

But that’s not the only way we love. Priests, teachers, nurses, missionaries, social workers…all these people find meaning in loving the people they watch over. For single people, working may be a way to support our love of travel. Whatever you love, or have passion for, that is what gives your life meaning. It may be music. That feeling you get when you listen to a really good song, (whether that be country or rock). ;) For writers, and artists, we find meaning in our desire to create. We feed off it. It is when we feel truly alive. Love, passion, in all its forms, that’s what gives life meaning.

As Strait pointed out, life’s not about the everyday things, like breathing in and out. It’s about those moments that take your breath away. You derive the meaning for everyday tasks—like washing the dishes—by realizing you are doing it for the ones you love. They take your breath away when they say their first words. When they whisper “I love you.” When they graduate from high school and move away to college (sorry, had to throw that in there because that is what my babies are doing!). Or maybe, for you, it’s reaching the top of the mountain and seeing the beautiful scenery below. Or maybe it’s playing electric guitar to an arena full of screaming fans. Maybe it’s just laughing into the wee hours with your best friend, who is spending the night. Those moments that clutch at your heart, bring tears, and make it hard to breath. Those are the moments you live and work for, the moments that give your life meaning.

So, glad I could figure that out for ya! ;) 

What is it for you? What gives your life meaning?

I suppose you could say I think about music too much. I think about how absurd the lyrics really are, if you take them at face value. I think about the emotion behind the words, and start bawling. I think and begin to wonder...has the artist really been done that bad? Or, the reverse, could anyone really be that perfect? Or perhaps, what must have happened to the musician to take them to the place where they wrote this song?

I am graced with a few people in my life who will go with me down this path. My son, Ryan, for instance. And my best friend, Kelly. We will look at songs, turn them upside down, and generally amuse ourselves with them, and sometimes others. Most of the time, though, I think people are annoyed with us, but I'm hoping you are some of the few that "get" us.

For example, the other day I was actually imagining myself in a song, so to speak. The song is "Closing Time" by Semisonic. Here's the video, if you aren't familiar with it.

Now, while this is an American band, from Minneapolis, MN, I like to imagine this song taking place in Ireland. Maybe it's because he says, "finish up your whiskey or beer," like there isn't any other choice of beverage at a bar. Maybe it's because I've been planning a trip there--but I digress. I just feel like this song captures the essence of closing time so well. I hear the bartender squeaking the bar towel around the last few glasses he's washing and stacking them on the shelves. The clink of bottles as he pulls them out, eyeballs the remainder, and restocks whatever is low. And then the dreaded "Last call for alcohol!" shout is greeted by a chorus of moans.

"What? No, man! I'm having fun. I don't want to go home."

To which he snaps, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." LOVE THAT LINE! "So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits, I hope you have found a friend." Isn't that what so many bar patrons are looking for? A "friend" at closing time? And then the "Time for you to go out to..." scratches his head, "the places you will be from." Like he doesn't have a clue, and doesn't really care, where his patrons come from. All he knows is that it's time for them to return there and leave his bar!

And then there is the plaintive chorus of "I know who I want to take me home." You get the feeling that whoever the singer is talking about isn't exactly interested in going home with him. Otherwise he'd be singing, "I know who is going to take me home. I know who is going to take me home. I know who is going to take me home, take me ho-o-ome."

And then there's the smashed philosopher at the end of the bar saying, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." The bartender slings his hand across this dude's shoulder and walks him to the door, shaking his head and saying, "Yeah. Sure. Deep. Whatever. Time to go, man."

I mean, really. Isn't this song perfect? It draws a scene so clearly with very few words. Awesome!

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this first edition of Music Analysis Mondays and will return for more. And remember, as I end this post, that every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Profound!

Now, confession time. How many of you have been there at closing time? Have been the last few to shuffle out the door, stand on the sidewalk, and decide if you are going out for breakfast, or just home to catch some zzzs. 
Share some of your closing time stories with us! 

How many of my author friends out there have done their own thinking about songs and let them inspire a book? Maybe this song will end up inspiring a scene in one of my upcoming rock books. You never know!

Thanks for joining us, and happy listening! 

~ Interviewing One Smart B*tch ~ Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books ~

Image credit to James Leynse.

First of all, I have to say how honored I am to have Sarah Wendell on my site today. For any of you outside of the romance industry who are unfamiliar with her name, Sarah is one of the co-founders of the review site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of the top review sites on the web. I am also convinced that she may be a vampire and never sleep because she’s written two books and co-authored a third, Everything I Know about Love I’ve Learned from Romance Novels, Lighting the Flames, A Hanukkah Story and Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide To Romance Novels. She’s a mother and has appeared on Good Morning, America and The Today Show, among other TV appearances. She’s been quoted in People Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly. That’s a whole lot of italics, people! In addition, she’s attended and spoken at every major romance convention conceivable. She was also, at the age of five, in the feature film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, which my husband just informed me also starred Dr. J. Wow! But I’m going to stop fangirling over her now and ask her a few questions.

So, Sarah, I have to say that while researching for this interview, I was surprised by how young you look in your picture. With all that you’ve accomplished, I expected you to be older. Do you get that a lot?

Thank you! I don’t get that often, actually, but I am really bad with numbers and regularly forget how old I am in general. I have to think about it if someone asks me. I’ll be 40 this year (I just counted, heh heh) but I’m having more fun now than I did in my 20s, so whatever my age is, I’m happy.

I have that same problem remembering my age, but I don't think it started until I was over 40, so you've got me beat there. And you look far from 40! I want to just touch on your appearance in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. I know that it doesn’t have much to do with what you are doing now, but most of us will never get the opportunity to be in a movie and are perpetually curious about such things. How did this opportunity come about to begin with? And, since you were so young, how much do you remember about it? Is there a particular actor or actress that impressed you? (The movie starred Flip Wilson, Stockard Channing, Debbie Allen, Jonathan Winters, Meadowlark Lemon, among others.)

LOL, I barely remember any of it. I was about 5 years old, and I’m an extra in the final scene. There was a call for people to come downtown to film a crowd scene. There was a face Coke stand, and my mother told me that I’m the only one who’s looking in the wrong direction because dangnabbit I wanted a Coke, and didn’t understand that it wasn’t real. So there’s a crowd scene where a small girl is looking the opposite way as everyone else, and that’s me. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning in there somewhere.

I’m so glad I asked that question. That’s really
SBTB has smart 50s-style women decorating its pages.
funny. After this auspicious start, what led you to start up your site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books in 2005?

An email conversation, really. Candy, who co-founded the site with me, was a regular commenter on my personal blog. Eventually we started one of those email conversations that goes on for pages, and ended up talking about how much we both liked romances, how few people understood how truly great they really are, and how tired we were for taking crap from people because we liked to read them. One of us, and I don’t remember who, said, “We should start a blog about romances.” And the other said, “Ok!” I bought the domain and installed the software, she did the first design, aiming to be as screamingly pink and NSFW as possible, and off we went.

And for those of you who are as ignorant as me, all four of you, NSFW means Not Suitable For Work. What is the most challenging part of your role on SBTB?

I’m enormously blessed and adore my job, and I love being self employed. Often the challenges are the fun parts, like thinking of a really funny idea to share or a new way to connect readers to the books they love. That’s our goal, really: connecting romance readers with one another, and with the books they want to read. So the challenging part is making sure we do that as best we can every day. And that’s also the fun part, too!

Can you think of any points in your career where you felt rewarded for having faced the above challenges?

Every time I hear back from a reader that a recommendation worked, that they loved a book that was suggested for them on the site, it’s a lovely feeling. Romance readers are often very isolated and unwilling to talk about their love of romance fiction, so when I receive an email messages that says, “I just found your site and where have you BEEN all my life?” I feel so happy. Knowing that we’ve created an enthusiastic and welcoming community is the best reward.

What would be your best piece of advice you would give to an up and coming romance writer? I saw your answer to this question on a video on Amazon, but I wonder if you’d share it here as well. What about a novice blogger?

This past December I self-published a Hanukkah novella, Lighting the Flames, inspired by my rule that I’m not allowed to complain about something more than twice without doing something about it. I wanted more Hanukkah romances, so I wrote one, and to my absolute joy, it was well received. I got fan mail! Fan mail from happy readers is the BEST. I don’t know if I’ll self-publish again, but the process has taught me a lot, both as a reviewer and as an author. In both cases, it reaffirmed my belief that speaking up about what you want to read, and what you want to find in the books you read is powerful stuff indeed.

There is so much opportunity, too. It may seem really intimidating to have so many options for publication, but if you’re an aspiring romance writer, don’t give up. I know there are readers looking for new books to read every day. They email me! So don’t stop writing, please!

For bloggers, whatever it is that you’re passionate about when writing and reading will be the most interesting to read about. One of the greatest aspects of interacting with readers online is that there’s always an opportunity to connect with someone who loves what you love just as much as you do. I love reading about what makes another reader excited and passionate about a book, even if I disagree with that reader about that particular story. We haven’t run out of room on the internet yet, and there is always room for more voices talking about the books they read, so please keep talking about books.

And, finally, would you like to let us in on any future projects in the works?

I have a lot of projects I’m working currently. Some, like the Dear Bitches Smart Authors Podcast with Jane from DearAuthor, are weekly projects that keep growing and evolving with each new episode. Others, like the Book Blogger Convention at Romantic Times, are annual instead of weekly, but we plan the discussions and panels in order to respond to what bloggers are looking to learn about, and that’s always changing, too.

Elyse, Carrie, Amanda, RedHeadedGirl and I are discussing, recapping and reviewing more television shows and movies at Smart Bitches now that there are more stories that feature women so prominently and so excellently, like Agent Carter, Outlander, and Jane the Virgin. And as always, we’re reading and reviewing the romances we’re excited and curious about, and talking about all things romance with the lovely people who hang out with us each day.

Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions. As busy as you are, it says a lot that you were willing to do so for an author you’ve never heard of. I appreciate you sharing your time, talent, and intellect with us today.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you readers Sarah’s blurb for Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels. This is a classic!

Take a dashing hero with a heart of gold and a mullet of awesome. Add a heroine with a bustle and the will to kick major butt. Then include enough contrivances to keep them fighting while getting them alone and possibly without key pieces of clothing, and what do you have? A romance novel. What else? Enough lessons about life, love, and everything in between to help you with your own happily-ever-after.

Lessons like...

•Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending

•Learning to tell the prince from the frog

•Real-life romance is still alive and kicking

•No matter how bad it is, at least you haven't been kidnapped by a Scottish duke (probably)

Isn’t that great?

You can find Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels here:

I also recommend watching Sarah’s videos, found about halfway down the page. Her description of a romance novel cover is hysterical (found in second video).

And here’s a smidgen from the blurb
Cover image copyright Simon & Schuster, 2009.
for Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels

With insider advice for writing romances, fun games to discover your inner Viking warrior, and interviews with famous romance authors, Beyond Heaving Bosoms shows that while some romance novels are silly -- maybe even tawdry -- they can also be intelligent, savvy, feminist, and fabulous, just like their readers!

Buy it here: 

And check out this blurb for Lighting the Flames: A Hanukkah Story:

Genevieve and Jeremy have known each other since they were seven, and have been summertime best friends at Camp Meira, a Jewish overnight camp in the mountains. As campers, and then as staff, their friendship was a constant, something neither wanted to change, no matter how tempting those changes might be.

Then, last year, with little warning, Jeremy left camp early. After that summer, Gen left the country on a graduate fellowship.

Now, a little over a year since they were last at Meira, Gen and Jeremy are back together to help run a special Winter Camp during Hanukkah. Any water under the bridge is frozen this time of year, and with so much left unspoken and unexplained, this week may be their chance to rekindle their friendship, or turn it into something new.

It's free on Amazon right now!

Thank you again, Sarah, and here’s wishing you the best with SBTB and all of your future endeavors.

Thank you for having me! This has been a LOT of fun!

On tour for the next two weeks with Buy the Book Tours! Stop by and say hi!

~ Monday, December 8, 2014 ~

Kristy Centeno {Guest Post}
Romance Me {Spotlight} 

~ Tuesday, December 9, 2014 ~

The Book Review {Spotlight & Review} 

~ Wednesday, December 10, 2014 ~

Tome Tender {Spotlight & Review} 

~ Thursday, December 11, 2014 ~

~ Friday, December 12, 2014 ~

Paranormal Dimensions {Spotlight} 

~ Monday, December 15, 2014 ~

Deal Sharing Aunt {Spotlight}

~ Tuesday, December 16, 2014 ~

Authors’ Cafe {Author Interview} 

~ Wednesday, December 17, 2014 ~

Paranormal Realms {Spotlight} 

~ Thursday, December 18, 2014 ~

Diane’s Book Blog {Author Interview}
Books That Hook {Spotlight & Review} 

~ Friday, December 19, 2014 ~

Christine’s Words {Guest Post}

~ Saturday, December 20, 2014 ~

What Readers Want {Spotlight}


Today I want to make one of my books come alive for you through pictures. [Since I write romance, that should scare you, but I assure you, it’s strictly PG. ;) ] Two crucial scenes in my romantic suspense TRAPPED UNDER ICE take place at a winery that is roughly based on one located in Rocheport, Missouri. I recently had an opportunity to visit that winery again and it was cool to walk in Beth and Chad’s fictional footsteps.

I was in a panic, however, when I climbed to the top of the bluff overlooking the Missouri River and found a restaurant there. Where was Chad and Beth’s A-frame? The restaurant was gorgeous, but it didn’t have the charm of the winery, with its terraced patio area and spectacular view of the river below. After a bit, I discovered that the A-frame was still there, just a little further down the path. What a relief! Chad and Beth’s spot intact. It is a very romantic location, made more so by my own memories. My husband and I attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, which is not far from Rocheport, and we visited the winery when we first started dating. Maybe that’s why it came to mind when I began writing TRAPPED UNDER ICE.

Here are a few pictures from our recent trip. You will find the scene at the top of the bluff, and the path Chad and Beth slid down as they hurried to get back to practice before Roger blew his top. You’ll see some of the things that Beth oohed and ahhed about when they first started along their walk. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the pictures of a very scenic area, even if you haven’t read TRAPPED—yet.

If you haven’t read it, here’s a blurb to give you a feel for the characters that arrive at Rocheport’s winery.

Chad Evans, lead singer of the platinum record award winning band, Trapped Under Ice, is haunted by his past.

Growing up in an abusive home, he is left alone at the age of thirteen to raise his kid brother. Years later Chad still fights the pain he felt as a child, and the anger it causes, despite being a wildly successful rock star. “Chad [tries] to play his heart out on the stage; but he [can] never quite seem to leave it there.” 

Three years have passed since her husband, Paul’s, death, but Beth’s life is still shadowed by sorrow.

The lunch lady/writer is thrilled to be enjoying a Trapped Under Ice concert with her daughter, Cassie. But when the concert is over, they are followed and attacked by two men in one of the stadium’s bathrooms. When Chad and his bodyguard, Pete, come to their aid, an instant attraction sparks between Beth and the tall singer. 

Will Chad and Beth be able to leave their pasts behind? Or will they remain TRAPPED UNDER ICE?

They have to face difficulties from without, (ex-girlfriends who resurface, crazed fans who don’t want to take “no” for an answer…), as well as difficulties from within, (jealousy, anger, fear…). And just as the two seem to be able to work through their problems, someone starts sending Chad death threats. Will their story end before it even begins?

The Mighty Missouri

Terraced patio

The trail begins...

The path Chad and Beth skittered down.

The bridge Beth spots from atop the bluff.

The A-frame.


Do you have a favorite nature spot you like to visit? 


Nancy Gideon's 4th Annual Haunted Open House

Oooh! It's almost that haunting time of year again, time for Nancy Gideon's Haunted Open House Giveaway Blog Hop! Nancy and her author friends have gathered to entertain you, Halloween-style! We're going to tell you scary stories, talk about our favorite Halloween treats, or just discuss the season in general. I'm glad you can join us.

On my blog I want to explore my weirdness. That's right. I'm weird. I don't like haunted houses. I don't think it's fun to be scared (it's the opposite of fun, in my book!) But...I like writing about gruesome murders and twisted villains. So explain that. If you hop by my house at Halloween, you're not going to find gory decorations, bloody dismembered parts or ax-murderers lurking in the corners. You are more likely to find whimsical decorations, like figurines of Trick-or-Treaters dressed up like candy corn or signs that read, "Witch Parking Only~Violators Will Be Toads!" But my bad guys are not cartoonish in any way. They kill, they rape, they threaten children~ a grim lot, indeed. So why this incongruity? Maybe it is because I can control the evil in my books. If my characters kill, it's because I make them. If they brandish weapons, I put them in their hands. If they're jumping out of shadows, it's because I wrote them there. 

So I wanted to share a villain here today. But who to choose? The evil Lord Boltar from my desert romance, TAKEN BY STORM? He killed the king and queen and countless others. He's definitely creepy! Or speaking of royalty, maybe the king from AN UNCOMMON LOVE. After all, he tricks his daughter and locks her away in the castle. Not a role model for proper parenting. There's even cold-blooded killers in my rock star romances, like TRAPPED UNDER ICE, or BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. But I decided to bypass all these bad guys and switch up holidays on you, giving you the villain from UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR.

Excerpt ~

Max didn’t expect the explosion. He heard the

tremendous, almost rhythmic sound of metal crunching as the car cartwheeled down the side of the cliff like a preschooler at recess. The thunderous BOOM of the sedan going up in flames caught him by surprise. He was rushing to peer over the edge, but was stopped dead in his tracks by the blast. By the time he got to the side of the ridge, the fire had already engulfed the vehicle. The flames licked hungrily at the night sky like so many devils’ tongues and consumed the car with such vehemence that, within seconds only a black outline of the frame remained.

Looking back on it, standing on the side of the road was an incredibly stupid thing for him to do. Anyone could have seen him as they whizzed up the side of the mountain, and perhaps even noted the dents in his car and copied down the license plate number. But he wanted to see the results of his handiwork. Besides, he wasn’t thinking at all clearly that night. 

It gave him a raw thrill to chase the sedan over the edge of the cliff. He followed Kevin home from work, desperate, not knowing what he would do to solve his problem. At first he only picked up speed to keep pace with Kevin, but then recklessness began to pump in his veins. HHe pulled out into the lane meant for on-coming traffic, not even realizing what he was doing. His eyes darted everywhere, his pulse raced, frightened witless as the scenery flew by. Luckily, for some reason, the usually well-travelled road lay deserted. Thinking he wanted to pass him, Kevin slowed down, no doubt cursing the crazy driver beside him. But he only matched the sedan’s speed. Kevin glanced over, and in the flash of a streetlight, seemed to recognize him. 

He must have thought ol’ Max didn’t have it in him. But I did.

He remembered the changing expressions on Kevin’s face as he began to understand his adversary’s intentions. At first his brow had been furrowed in confusion. Then his jaw went rigid and he tightened his grip on the wheel, glaring at Max, who feinted with his car. Kevin had to swerve onto the shoulder before correcting the path of the sedan. That was when Max’s prey stared back, his eyes hollowed by fear. A wild laugh burst through the air and Max wondered at first where it came from, before realizing it belonged to him. 

The vehicles jostled, and tires screeched. When Kevin’s car finally did careen over the edge of the cliff, Max could have sworn he felt the heat of the gigantic explosion, although he knew that was impossible. For him it was like an orgasm, a wave of pleasure and relief. Kevin Kelly was no more.

If only that had been the end of it. 

~ Nice guy, eh? Let me tell you a bit more about UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR before you head on your way to the next stop. Oh, and then I'll giveaway an e-copy of UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR to two people. A Christmas romantic suspense just in time for the holidays! 

Blurb ~

Dylan Fisher is an EMT and part-time Santa Claus at a mall in Denver, Colorado.

He has logged plenty of time with children sitting on his lap asking for anything from the latest electronic gadget to a week’s worth of homework passes, but he never heard anyone ask for what little Delaney Kelly asked for on one snowy night in December. A dad! When Dylan’s eyes search the crowd for Delaney’s mother and land on Keira Kelly, the paramedic almost finds himself in need of a little CPR. She is stunning! 

Keira Kelly is still grieving over the loss of her husband…

… but a reckless driver has her thinking about nothing but survival as she’s headed home from the mall. When Keira wakes in the hospital to find a hunky EMT at her bedside, she begins having a few thoughts that would put her on Santa’s Naughty List for sure!

Neither is ready for what is coming UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR!

When she finds out the EMT is only hanging around because the police believe someone is out to get her, she’s not sure what to think about his kindness. Is he helping her because he wants to, or because he feels he needs to? And what about the man who rammed her car, could he have had something to do with her husband’s death?

giveaway ~

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