Admittedly reading my own books wasn't how I thought I'd be moving through my 2022 reading challenge. With the Walker Family Series in audio production, I have been reading through the series before it's recorded. Six books in the last three weeks, that's pretty good reading for me (and I have a different book on my phone to read, an audiobook in the car, and yes, I'm cranking through The Shining too.)
Considering that when my books go into publication, I'm already into the next book I'm writing, and I've already forgotten what was in that book. So reading them now, some of them 4-5 years later, they're brand new to me. (And, in my opinion, they're superb.)
One of the questions I get asked most often is, "Do you put personal things in your books or people?" Early on, that answer was NO! I was afraid to do that. But somewhere in the midst of writing Finding Hope, Trevor threw his empty water bottle in the back seat of his car, and the rest was history. Not that my husband would ever do that. But from there it became a game! The next person to be put in the book was someone who would never read it, but he wanted in. His annoying habit became that of the ex-husband's in A Second Chance.
But the truth is, my life, my childhood, my favorite things--they're all spread throughout my books. In nearly every book you'll find my dad's favorite pizza. You'll notice my love of craft beers and local breweries. (Funny enough, they don't eat a lot of chocolate in my books.) My Holly Hobby oven (Easy Bake) has made its appearance in a few of my books, as well. There are discussions about quilts that have been made (not blankets,) which would be the influence of my mother, and just in this last one I read, a sibling recalls the other sibling dangling spit over the other--that would be compliments of a childhood memory of my sister doing that to me. (I know, you're thinking she'd never!) Currently, the houses I write about are based on those of my great-grandparents, and even the Highlands vs North Denver debate is mentioned in a few books. The chandelier that hangs in the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver during the holidays has made its appearance multiple times, as have the Flatirons in Boulder.
In Cart Before the Horse, my favorite Christmas ornament is mentioned--a coffee filter angel. If I'm not mistaken, I think it makes another appearance in The Tea Shop. (I'll have to investigate.) Though mine has my second-eldest son's face in it. And in On Thin Ice, the phrase that my eldest son's Pee Wee coach said over and over and over makes its appearance, as does the permeating smell of hockey rinks. The main male character is based on a friend we lost nearly thirty years ago, but he came to me in a dream, though he didn't play hockey, and I knew that character had to be based on him.
Kennedy Devereaux's store, and it's pinkness, is based on the dress shop that used to be in the 100-year-old Victorian house I owned where my salon was located in the 90s. Though it was as elegant and exclusive, it wasn't pink--that's all me! Even in Beginnings, Nichole's pink wedding ring mimics mine, (and it's a HEA Romance, so there's no spoiler there.)
Some of the stories I tell are those belonging to others. A Second Chance had me sitting down with different friends who were going through cancer journeys, and they shared their experiences. I forever hope I did them justice.
One of the things I have learned by reading back through my books is that I really am a MU junkie. Often, when my characters sit down to watch TV, they turn on an Avengers movie. I also have published my opinion on which Batman is my favorite (Keaton), and that I like Superman over Batman. Though, I do appreciate a superhero that doesn't have any superpowers. Since I've had multiple conversations with my author friends, who have their own distinct opinions on Batman, I found it funny that my opinions were published years before our debates.
Some of my characters come from similar backgrounds to mine, such as having a close-knit family. Everett Walker's side of the family kind of close (you have to have read the books to get that.) Other characters come from some pretty broken homes. One thing I enjoy writing though, are characters that don't think like me at all. Things I would be aghast about, they are accepting of. Ya know, that's some good therapy there, in seeing multiple sides to something.
There are a few of my characters who are based loosely on real people in my life. And yes, some of them know it.
My female characters often own their own businesses, and can kick some butt (very accurately since I'm trained to do that myself as a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do/Taekwondo.) They can hold their own in any situation, against any man or woman. The men in my stories are not too alpha or too macho. More than anything, they might be a little grumpy, but love brings out the softy in them. And raising an entire house of men (5 sons) has given me some amazing insight into the minds of boys and men. (I think.)
I just finished reading Beginnings, which was the first book that published just weeks after my father's passing, and it has two dedications. One is for him. All the others are given to my husband, whom I share this HEA life with, and have for over thirty years now.
Admittedly, it's most fun to read all the love stories. If you're lucky enough to be a loving relationship, it gives you all the feels of that new or rekindled love. If you're not in one, my goal is that it gives you hope that it's out there--and all the feels too. For me, it's been amazing to relive my falling in love over fifty more times.
Maybe someday I'll sit down and read through all fifty-plus books I've written and highlight and mark the personal affects that I dropped. It would be a scrapbook of sorts that I've shared with the entire world while helping everyone fall in love and have their own happily ever after moment.
As I scrolled through Facebook this morning, one of the groups I belong to asked, "What is your word for 2022?"
I thought for a moment, because I knew I had one. The first word that came to mind was COURAGE. Okay, I'll go with that. That could be my word for 2022. I have a lot of things flying at me lately-good things, but it's going to take a lot of courage to see them through to be successful. As a self-proclaimed, and recovering, self-sabotager, I need a lot of courage.
It wasn't until later, when I'd been writing at my kitchen table, still in my pajamas, because Fridays are for me to take on my own time, that I remembered the other word I had chosen for 2022. GRACE.
I'd begun to beat myself up over not having the kitchen clean, or having started on other work, or blah, blah, blah. Then I took a moment to remember that I was giving myself grace this year. Things didn't have to be over planned and scheduled for every moment of every day. Wasn't that what I learned by January 2nd when I'd filled out three different planners? I had decided that I needed to focus on me, and give grace to the things that I didn't get to. Because seriously, when you plan out forty-hour weeks on three different planners, when are you really going to have time to cross off every item on that list? Not to mention, where does self-care fall there?
I love lists. I love planners. I love events. I love ideas.
What happens in those situations is burnout, and it happens fast! When 2020 came to a screeching halt, I had to learn grace. I was very diligent in journaling and keeping a routine, because I knew, even locked in my own home with some of my family, I needed a routine. It did wonders for my mental health. But I had to give myself grace for things not always being perfect, because I couldn't control so many things. Carrying that into 2022, I still need grace every single day.
But in order to have grace, I need the courage to give it to myself. We are programmed to overdo everything, and then feel the guilt of not having done it all perfectly.
In 2022, have the COURAGE to give yourself some GRACE. You deserve it.
Peace and love, my friends!
Bernadette Marie is the bestselling author of over fifty titles and the CEO/Founder of 5 Prince Publishing.