Author Heather Sunseri

News and Other Notes

Protected in Darkness – Chapters One, Two, and Three

First, a note about Protected in Darkness…

Protected in Darkness is a standalone novella. It is also a part of a much larger story. My hope is that you’ll enjoy this novella, and then check out the bigger story.

UPDATE: Protected in Darkness can now be read on Kindle Unlimited!!!

Though this special story isn’t set in Kentucky, it all began in Kentucky four years ago when Kate Ward hit rock bottom in her life as the daughter of the president of an outlaw motorcycle gang. Seeing no easy way out for herself or her unborn child, she made a deal with the OMG’s number one enemy that could now cost her and her four-year-old daughter their lives.

But only if Kate makes a mistake and is discovered by the very people who think she’s already dead…

Read the first three chapters below.

Or if you’re ready to jump in and purchase this thrilling romance, it’s ONLY $1.99! CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW or read on KINDLE UNLIMITED.

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CHAPTER ONE

Kate

Kate Ward stuffed the new wig, a baseball cap, and a change of clothes inside Sarah’s go bag. Her four-year-old daughter was growing so fast that she constantly had to change out supplies in case they needed to make a quick exit from their life in Virginia Beach.

“What are you doing, Mommy?” Sarah asked from the doorway of her bedroom.

“Oh, nothing, sweetie. Come here.” She motioned for her daughter to have a seat on the edge of Sarah’s bed. After Sarah snuggled into Kate’s hug, Kate asked, “You sure you want to stay all night with Ashton?”

“Mommmmyyyy,” Sarah moaned in her sweet little voice. She angled her head and grinned up at Kate. “I’m four years old. I’m old enough to spend the night with my best friend.”

Kate smoothed her daughter’s hair, then kissed the top of her head. “You’re right.” But Kate wasn’t ready to let her daughter grow up just yet. And any separation made her nervous. She couldn’t afford to make a mistake. Not where her daughter was concerned. “Grab your stuff and go get in the car. I’ll be right there.” She also couldn’t afford to make choices out of fear that was mostly in her head.

Sarah skipped out of the room singing. Kate grabbed the go bag and stuffed it back into the top of Sarah’s closet.

With a hand on the bag, she took a minute to remember her old life—her life as Charley Packstone, daughter of the president of Samael’s Army, an outlaw motorcycle gang headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky. She said goodbye to that life long ago, and though she mourned the memories of her childhood that she could never talk about, she was thankful her daughter would never know that life or the people in it.

Hers was definitely complicated, but she did everything she could to keep Sarah’s life simple and happy while being prepared for anything.

For today, her daughter would enjoy time with her best friend, and Kate would go off to work. That’s when it dawned on her. She’d been trying all week to get out of going to a bachelorette party tonight for one of her female co-workers. Now she wouldn’t have an excuse.

However, a party just might be the thing to take her mind off of her daughter being gone and the fact that she was still paranoid enough after all these years to keep their go bags updated.

CHAPTER TWO

Gray Packstone

Gray Packstone was in prison, serving several life sentences with no chance of parole. He’d come to accept that the likelihood of him breathing clean air away from this pile of concrete and metal was slim. Gray also knew every single person who played a part in putting him behind these bars, and dreamed of getting revenge on them all.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he leaned into his foot, which was planted on a bench during his very little outside time, and stared at the photograph his mom slipped him when she visited yesterday. A photograph of just one of the people who had ratted him out.

He’d been studying it since he’d received it. The picture was blurry. And her hair was different. Not to mention his twin sister was supposed to be dead.

But it was definitely her. “Charley Packstone, among the living.” Gray said. At least that was according to the timestamp in the lower right corner of the photograph. A convict to Gray’s right looked his way as if he hadn’t heard Gray, but didn’t dare ask him to repeat it. Gray had quickly become one to fear within the prison walls.

In the photograph, Charley knelt in front of a kid and appeared to be zipping up her coat. Mom wasn’t sure if the ankle-biter was Charley’s, and, as far as Gray could tell, Mom showed no sign of any kind of motherly or grandmotherly instinct in how fast she handed over Charley’s whereabouts to him.

Receiving the photo of Charley only sped up Gray’s desire to put into motion the revenge plot he began organizing the moment the federal court handed down his multiple life sentences. Now, he’d get justice on his dear sister for her mortal sin of betrayal.

As if on cue, a guard—Officer Moody—headed in Gray’s direction. He was a big motherfucker, and his name fit him. Though guards weren’t armed inside the facility, inmates didn’t mess with this particular guard. Ever.

When he got closer, he shoved Gray’s leg off of the bench. “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners? Don’t put your feet on the furniture.”

This guard would be surprised at what Gray’s mother taught him.

Inmates scattered until no one was close enough to hear what Officer Moody said next.

“It’s done. Your pal Jake received a knife three knee deep.”

Gray put his best tough guy face on while making eye contact with Officer Moody. “So, he’ll live?”

“For as long as you want him to.”

“Good.” He shoved the photograph into his chest. “Have someone show him this. See if he knew my sister had a kid. Report back how he reacts, then finish him off.” Was Jake the father of Charley’s kid? She—the kid—was the right age. And it was clear by the picture of the two of them that the child in the photo belonged to his sister. The brat looked just like Charley. It would be the ultimate revenge to show Jake that Charley had kept a child from him just before offing him. Gray saw Jake as another backstabber, betraying Gray months before the FBI raided the drug lab.

Officer Moody grabbed Gray’s wrist and twisted his arm, forcing him to turn and fall to his knees. “Don’t put your hands on me, inmate. And you will watch your mouth, boy,” he said loudly enough for many to hear, and created a believable show for the other prisoners. “You think you’re in charge here? You’ll never be in charge of anything ever again.” He shoved Gray to the ground, then turned and left.

By the time Gray was standing again, one of his cellmates sidled up beside him. “Someone should teach Officer Moody a lesson.”

Gray watched as Officer Moody placed the photograph of his sister in his breast pocket and disappeared through the prison doorway. “Yeah. Someone should.”

CHAPTER THREE

Colt

“What the hell, Filly?” Wolf finally caught up to Colt Callaway as they finished a four-mile run.

“Don’t you know, Filly?” Abe asked, laughing and out of breath as he brought up the rear. “You’re supposed to let Wolf win.”

Both Abe and Wolf bent over at the waist and placed both hands on their knees while trying to catch their breath.

“Oh, that was a race?” Colt asked. “Had I known, I would have run faster.” He laughed, barely out of breath.

Colt was the newest member of the SEAL team stationed near San Diego, California with Matthew Steel—Wolf—and Christopher Powers—Abe. The other members—Cooke, Mozart, Benny, and Dude—had completed their mandatory four-mile run the previous day and were finishing up other training exercises before a group of them was leaving for a long weekend break. Not that they truly ever got a break. They could get a call at any time, and be sent on a mission for the US Navy, but for this weekend, the powers to be would have to call them in Virginia Beach. Their friend Tex—John Keegan—and his wife were meeting them there for a long weekend of relaxation and fun.

“Abe,” Wolf said. “Did you see that chick that Colt had a drink with last night?”

“Darla? Oh yeah, I saw her.” Abe grinned. “Legend has it that Darla’s been hanging out in that bar for years, trying to land herself a Navy SEAL.”

“It was one drink.” Colt laughed as he stretched his calves and hamstrings. He had no interest in Darla, the SEAL slayer that would give even Buffy the Vampire Slayer a run for her money. Besides, Colt had no interest in meeting a prospective girlfriend in a bar where girls came to “land themselves a SEAL.” On the other hand, he wouldn’t mind meeting someone that understood what he did for a living—someone he could come home to after a difficult mission.

“That’s not what we heard,” Wolf said and traded a grin with Abe.

Colt waved them off. “You two are just angry you couldn’t keep up with me today.” He started to turn and walk away when Wolf continued.

“My lovely bride says Darla plans to marry you.” Wolf and Abe laughed harder. “She also says that Darla thinks you’re the prettiest boy she’s ever seen. She wants you to do things to her that no other man has ever done. To ride her like a stallion.” Wolf and Abe made full-body gestures, a sort of sign language for the “things” Darla wanted.

“That’s right, pretty boy,” Abe taunted. “Apparently, you’ve fooled Darla. But don’t worry. You’re still our little filly.”

“Fuck off! Both of you!”

They laughed harder.

Wolf, Abe, and the rest of the unit had already decided that he was just too pretty to call by his real name, so they began calling him Filly. It was humiliating, but what was more humiliating was not being able to have a drink in a bar with a woman without his entire team making it into something that it definitely wasn’t. And if it had been something, Colt wouldn’t want his team talking about a woman he was interested in that way, no matter her past.

Abe punched Colt playfully in the shoulder. “You’re gonna have to learn to take a joke, Filly.”

He decided to let the Darla thing go. Colt was just in a weird place when it came to dating. “I will as soon as you both learn to lose a race. You’re both slow. And sore losers.”

“He’s right on both accounts,” Wolf agreed, then changed the subject. “On to more important matters. Ice texted. Says we’ve gotta be at the airport in two hours if we’re gonna make our flight.”

“Don’t remind me,” Abe whined. “Flying commercial is the worst.”

Wolf laughed. “And she already talked to Tex and Melody. They reserved a room at JK Shuckers Raw and Sports Bar for tomorrow night. They’re already in Virginia Beach and excited for us to join them.”

“That’s the UK-Duke game,” Colt said, referring to the Sweet Sixteen matchup of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

“Yes, but we better act like the women with us mean way more than some stupid game,” Abe said.

“I guess there are times when it’s nice to be single,” Colt said, but he didn’t really believe it.

Abe and Wolf traded another look, then laughed.

“Nah,” Wolf said. “My Ice will be rooting for the Cats all the way, and will be perfectly fine with me doing the same. And after the game? I’ll have someone warm to curl up next to in that big hotel bed.”

He had a point, Colt thought.

“Well, all I know,” Abe said, “is that Tex planned a good time for us, and we’re going to enjoy a nice, long weekend on the beach. Even if the temperatures are on the cool side, it’s still the beach.”

“What about tonight?” Colt asked. “We doing anything?”

“You’re on your own,” Abe said. “Alabama made me promise we’d have some time for just the two of us. I promised her a night out and a long walk on the beach.”

“Ice, too,” Wolf said. “We’ve got reservations.”

Colt nodded. He was actually more than okay with that. He liked and respected his new teammates, but he appreciated his alone time when he could get it.

* * *

Colt walked the beach that evening after an amazing seafood dinner of freshly caught grouper and peel-and-eat shrimp. Being March, the weather was unpredictable and had turned cold within hours after arriving. Snow was in the forecast for the next day.

With the time change from California to Virginia Beach, he was wired, but he was also thankful for the time alone.

While his teammates were off on their own with their wives or girlfriends, Colt headed up the boardwalk to look for a bar showing the March Madness games. He found a small sports bar right on the beach. Most people were sitting around high-top tables, drinking beer, and watching the games.

He found his own seat at the bar and ordered a local microbrew. The bartender served his beer about the same time a gaggle of women to his left erupted in laughter—women who didn’t look the least bit interested in basketball.

With his beer in hand, he turned and eyed the festive table. By the looks of the gifts being opened by a woman with a veil on her head, it was some sort of bachelorette party. Out of a white bag with white tissue, the woman pulled something red that looked like nothing more than a few of pieces of lace held together by even less elastic.

Colt lifted his brows as the girls screamed and laughed and talked about what the young bride was supposed to do with the tiny piece of lingerie. That was when his eyes found one particular woman. She was sitting at the opposite end of the table from the bride. And though she was smiling, she looked… uncomfortable. Sad, even.

He took a swig of beer, and for the next twenty minutes he shifted from watching Gonzaga playing North Carolina to the attractive blonde with a warm smile but sad eyes. Her face lit up briefly when Gonzaga pulled ahead, and her shoulders slumped when North Carolina took the lead again. Was she a Gonzaga fan, or just rooting against North Carolina?

When the bride-to-be was served a Blow Job shot, Colt almost felt sorry for her. She was obviously already drunk and didn’t need any more liquor.

He got caught up in the last few minutes of the game and didn’t even notice when the blonde with sad eyes sat beside him at the bar. When he finally did notice her, she was holding her wallet in front her.

The bartender approached. “Hey, Kate.”

“Hi, Barney.” She handed him a couple of hundred dollar bills. “Put this toward their tab.”

“Look at you, big spender.”

“Uh… no. Not from me. A gift from Trip.”

“You got it.” Barney took the money from her, and Colt found himself wondering who Trip was. A boyfriend, maybe? “Can I get you anything else?” Barney asked. “On the house.”

She—Kate—thought about it, and Colt stopped short of closing his eyes and praying she would stay and have a drink beside him. He had no idea where it had come from, but the desire to learn something about the woman sitting beside him was great.

“You know, I would love a Tito’s and cranberry with a lime.”

“How about you?” Barney pointed to Colt. “You want another?”

Colt lifted his bottle, checking the contents. “Sure. Thanks.” He shifted his body slightly in Kate’s direction. “Is that short for something?” Colt asked, then clarified. “Kate.”

She eyed him slowly, letting several beats pass before she answered. “No.”

Colt leaned back slightly at the cool response. “Well, Kate’s a lovely name.”

She lifted a single brow. When Barney placed the drink in front of her, she gently squeezed the lime into the vodka and cranberry juice.

“It’s not a lovely name?” Colt asked when Kate didn’t respond favorably.

“It’s an okay name, I suppose,” she said as if it wasn’t hers or she was indifferent to her own name.

“Are you from here?” Colt asked.

“Why?” She lifted her drink to her lips, not even turning to him this time.

Colt smiled. “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t usually care to make casual conversation with people I don’t plan on seeing ever again, but I noticed you across the room, and for some reason I find myself wanting to know something about you.”

Kate paused mid-drink, then slowly sat her drink back on the bar. She pulled another couple of dollars from her wallet and threw them on the bar, tipping the bartender even though he’d said the drink was on the house. My best guess? She was a bartender or waitress and knew the importance of good tips.

“Thanks, Barney,” she called before grabbing her drink and moving to slide off the barstool.

“Was it something I said?” Colt asked.

“Kate!” a woman in a sequined top and pencil-thin jeans screamed as she threw an arm around Kate’s neck. “Where’d you go?” The woman slid a droopy-eyed gaze toward Colt. “What do we have here?” She looked from Colt to Kate. “Were you…” She dipped her chin, and grinned at Kate. “Kate Ward… were you just picking up on this man? Very nice,” she slurred, while nodding with a huge smile. “He’s hot,” she said directly to Kate in a loud whisper that everyone in a ten-foot radius could have heard.

This woman was obviously hammered. And Kate Ward–he made mental note of her name—was having a drink of her own. Colt couldn’t stop himself from wondering how they were all getting home.

Nope, he decided quickly, not his problem.

“Alli, my friend, you’re drunk,” Kate said. “Let me get you an Uber.” After setting her drink back on the bar, she pulled her phone from her back pocket and began pressing buttons.

The rest of the ladies at the table were standing and gathering the gifts for the bride.

“I’ll call a couple of cabs,” Barney said from behind the bar.

“Thanks, Barney,” Kate said while helping her friend back toward the table.

Another of the ladies stumbled as she stood. Colt set his beer on the bar and ran to steady her before she fell.

“Oh, dear,” the woman said. “It’s been a while since I’ve stood up.” She laughed. “I think I had one too many.”

Colt laughed, then looked over at Kate. “How about I help these lovely ladies get outside to their cabs?”

“Oh.” She looked surprised, but then realized that her friends were more drunk than she’d realized. “That would be nice. Thank you.”

After about ten minutes of the women gathering their things and making trips to the ladies’ room, Colt helped lead the partygoers out of the bar and to the parking lot. Once everyone was in a cab or an Uber, Kate and Colt were the only two left standing.

Colt eyed Kate more closely. She was wearing tight leather-like pants and a cropped jacket that she was trying to pull closed. It had gotten colder during the time he’d been in the bar. She wore a pair of three-inch heels that put her just below his chin, which was about the perfect height for him, he noted.

“Thank you for helping. I didn’t realize how much everyone had had to drink.” She laughed, and even though she had spoken tersely before, she wasn’t now. “They ought to feel that tomorrow.”

“Yet you seem fine.”

She eyed him. “Yeah… well… I didn’t have nearly as much as they did. Thanks again.”

She turned toward the parking lot instead of back toward the bar, and Colt still found himself panicking slightly, which was highly unusual for him. She was beautiful, there was no question about that, and it was cute the way she had been keeping tabs on the game while pretending to be involved with the bachelorette party. But there was something else about her that drew him in. At first he had thought it was the sadness in her eyes, but there was more, hidden just under the surface. And he was determined to find out what it was.

“You wouldn’t want to go back in and finish that drink, would you?”

She turned, hesitated for a few beats. A breeze picked up her blonde hair and blew it across her face.

“One drink,” he said, hoping to persuade her.

She looked out toward the parking lot, then back at me. Colt could see the uncertainty on her face and the internal argument she was having with herself.

“Fine,” she finally said. “Under one condition.”

“Name it,” Colt said.

“We talk about nothing personal. And this goes no further than one drink.”

Colt considered the fact that he was only in Virginia Beach for a few days and the fact that he was in no position to start a relationship with someone living clear across the country and who probably had no clue what it truly meant that he was a SEAL. “Fine. Nothing personal.” But he couldn’t promise that it wouldn’t go beyond one drink.

* * *

* * *

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The Day I Told My Mother’s Church Friend I Wanted To Become a Bartender

Hi, Friends!

How are you today? I have a question for you. When you were young (young enough that it wasn’t possible for you to know what you wanted to be when you were no longer young), what was your answer to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I always thought this was a ridiculous question. When I was in high school, this question really began to annoy me because I always felt like it was putting so much pressure on me and my friends.

So, my friends and I started making up answers. We would literally sit around and brainstorm possible answers that would shock our parents’ friends.

One day, after one of our small southern town church services, one of these friends approached my mom and me. She had a friendly enough smile, said a really nice hello, probably hugged my mom, but I can’t remember, then it happened. She asked. The. Question.

“Hi, Heather. What’s the plan for after high school? What do you want to do with your life?” (See what she did there? She rephrased it just slightly in attempt to throw me off, but the question was still just as pressure-inducing.)

My friends and I had just watched the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Shue, so I said…

“I’m thinking about becoming a bartender.”

My mom’s friend’s eyes widened to the size of pancakes. I’m pretty sure my mom stopped breathing.

I quickly realized I had said something wrong, so I tried to make things better by saying, “Oh, but not like one of those bartenders at the local bar (not to insult those hard-working folks, but I was seventeen at the time), but you know… One like Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail… Like at the beach… Or in New York…”

I just kept talking. Adding additional jaw-dropping comments to the end of the statement that had pretty much silenced everyone in the middle of our church sanctuary, until I finally said in a small voice, “I haven’t really decided.”

Yeah… My mom didn’t talk to me for hours (maybe days – my memory is a little fuzzy) after that. Fortunately, no one at church asked me what I was planning to major in at college or what I was planning to be when I grew up ever again.

I don’t tell you this story to lessen the importance of the job of a bartender or to insult anyone who is or has been a bartender. I have absolutely nothing against bartenders. But as a rebellious teenager, I thought it would be funny to tell this nice lady in the middle of church that I wanted to be one. Apparently, according to the two-hour lecture I was given later, it wasn’t funny. At all.

But it made me scared to really admit what I did want to be. I spent a couple of years exploring the idea of becoming an FBI agent. I’m pretty sure my parents would have flipped out if I had decided to go that route. I don’t know if that had any effect on what I did eventually choose, but I never did apply to the FBI Academy like I had wanted to. I just stared at the application for a few years.

Now, after saying goodbye to a 20-year career as a CPA, I did leap into a career I really wanted. I jumped into a career as a writer where I get to pretend that I am an FBI agent (In Darkness series), a cloned human on the run from the government who wishes I didn’t exist (Mindspeak series), and the only survivor of a deadly Ebola-like virus (Emerge series).

In order to take my career as an FBI agent seriously, I attend police academies, get shooting instruction, and do anything I need to do to make sure my books are as accurate and real as possible.

So, I’m curious… Leave a comment below: What did you want to be when you grew up? And did you end up choosing that as a career? And have you ever changed careers?

Until next time,

Heather

How a New Microwave Embarrassed the Rest of the Appliances and Countertops into a Whole Kitchen Remodel

This is not my kitchen, but isn’t that wine fridge the coolest?

I’m Getting Granite Today!

So I’m sitting here waiting for the granite installers to arrive. The plumber has come and gone. Did y’all know that the plumber has to come and unhook your faucet, sink, and disposal before the granite people come and set your new sink? And then, did you know that you have to wait twenty-four hours before you have the plumber come back out to install the new faucet, drains (that match the faucet, in my case), and disposal?

These are the types of things you learn when you redo your kitchen — things that seem common sensical on the surface, but if you’ve never really thought about it or gone through the motions, you simply don’t know. We all need friends to tell us these things. (You’re welcome.)

My husband and I purchased our current house more than sixteen years ago, and we knew at the time of the purchase that we needed to update the kitchen. But nothing was really broken, so we kept putting it off. Then we got busy with soccer seasons, tennis, traveling in the summers, changing careers, and other life-like things that take time away from home renovations. Not to mention the cost!! Whew! The cost is crazy! Every little thing adds up.

But when our microwave broke (shortly after the washer AND dryer broke, which I realize have nothing to do with the kitchen) we got to looking at replacing the microwave, and then we noticed the matching stoves/ranges and the refrigerators, and they were so unbelievably shiny and new. They make appliances shiny with fancy lights for a reason you guys!!

You know how diamonds sparkle so much more under the jewelry store lighting? There’s a reason for that, and it’s called M-O-N-E-Y!

Anyway, so my husband and I sat around and debated the appliances and the fact that three of ours had died in a very short amount of time, and how the rest of the appliances were just as old and wrinkly, and that it was just a matter of time before they, too, crashed and burned. So we decided that the other appliances needed replacing, as well.

Then we talked about our laminate countertops (that were white, minus a few… hundred… stains) and how completely embarrassed they would be when the shiny new appliances entered the house, showing off in all their shininess. That’s when we decided new countertops were in order.

But what kind? Holy cow, you guys! Did you know how many kinds of countertops there are out there now? It is so, SO overwhelming. And everyone has an opinion about what countertop material is the best.

And everyone knows that if you get new fancy countertops, you have to purchase a new sink. And if you thought everyone had an opinion about countertops? Just try asking your friends about their kitchen sink preferences. I did this on Facebook, and I’m pretty sure it’s my most popular post on Facebook EVER!

Moving on… When you purchase a new sink you have to purchase a new faucet. And if you’re getting new appliances, new countertops, a new sink and faucet, then you’re pretty much obligated to get a new tile backsplash. You knew all this, right? It’s a crazy industry, the kitchen remodel industry. And they draw you in with their fancy pictures on Pinterest and Houzz (Do you know about Houzz?) and with their shiny fixtures and bright lights.

Anyway… I’m getting granite installed today. The kitchen remodel that started with a broken microwave is slowly marching forward. I thought it would be fun to break it all down here for you. While I’m no expert at remodels, everyone needs a friend to help them when it comes time to research countertops or decide if you should replace your cabinets or have someone paint them. We’re friends, right? Friends offer guidance in times like this.

So, be sure to follow along for remodel updates (You can watch Instagram or Facebook for updates, or subscribe to this blog – see the sidebar). And, of course, watch for the before and after pictures that will be along in a future blogpost. We’re just getting started with this remodel, though, so be patient. We’ve got many questions to answer before we get to the “After” pics. Like why did I ultimately choose granite over a manmade quartz? Or what sink did I end up choosing? Did I replace the cabinets or pretty up the old ones?

Also, I’m going to need your help. (Remember how we’re friends? I’m going to need my friends’ opinion on some things. Like what dishes to purchase. That debate is coming in a future blog post.) I’m doing a lot of purging and replacing of things around the house. And everything will be done as economically as possible, so this ought to be tons of fun!

I did tell you, right? Patience is also required for all home renovation projects. Have you taken on any big renovation projects? I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who has never taken on a major kitchen renovation. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Two Huge Reasons People Don’t Read and How to Change That

Is it just me, or is it becoming impossible to find time, energy, or even the desire for relaxing downtime these days? At the very least, I’m having to be extremely intentional about finding that downtime.

I asked you guys on Facebook what one thing kept you from reading, and I wasn’t all that shocked by how many of you said “time” or that you simply couldn’t turn your brain off long enough to actually enjoy pleasure reading.

We are a go, go, go society. We go and go until we’re exhausted. And to unwind from that, we fall into bed and sleep or we spend hours trying to shut off our brains by watching Netflix.

Today, I’d like to discuss all of the reasons I’ve heard since posting that post on Facebook for not reading, and then lay out some solutions to these. Because… Come on people!! Reading is fun and good for our minds! We should all be reading more.

#1 Reason:  “I don’t have time to read for pleasure”

Okay… I get this one. I totally do. I’ve been of a mindset lately that if I have time to curl up with a book, then I have time to write/work more. And since I’m so far behind on a current deadline, I shouldn’t be reading for pleasure when I have so much work to do. Therefore, technically, I “don’t have time to read.”

And many of you echoed these sentiments.

So, this discussion is for me as much as it is for everyone else who claimed time was the “one thing” that kept them from reading.

We all have time to read. It’s really a matter of priorities. Maybe reading for pleasure isn’t your priority right now. Maybe you prioritize other things higher on your list and you do, in fact, run out of time at the end of the day.

Let’s face it. There are only so many hours in the day, and we have to make choices on how to spend every single one of those hours.

I can tell you where I chose to spend time yesterday that I wish I had said “no” to. Instead, I wish I had finished my workday earlier and taken time to read or do other relaxing things that I have not made a priority lately. Those time wasting activities?

– Facebook (Some time on Facebook is allowable for me. But I’m not sure I really want to know how much time I spend there.

– Instagram (see Facebook)

– Twitter (see Facebook and Instagram)

– Pinterest… you get the point.

– Reading things on the internet (blogs, “news”, etc.) Some of this is allowable, as well. I am researching books, researching ways to tweak my website, and other job-related searches. However, there are times when I go down a rabbit hole of information that I didn’t really need. For example, I’m in the process of remodeling my kitchen, and there are so many rabbit holes of information and super cool websites to “research” choices for the remodel.

While some social media and online reading is part of my job, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m always careful with my time spent there. There is definitely room for improvement.

You might even have additional areas where you waste time. For example, when I worked the corporate job, I was always wasting time chatting too much with coworkers. What can I say? I’m a social being.

Time wasted on any of the above should have been time I spent on work output (aka novel writing) so that I could end the workday on time, or (crazy thought ahead) even finish early. Because when we get our actual jobs done on time or early, we have time for relaxing downtime or leisure activities we’re always saying we don’t have time for.

#2 Reason: I Can’t Shut Out All the Noise in My Head and Concentrate on Pleasure Reading

When this happens to me it means I’m overly stressed about work or other things going on in my life. And if there’s too much noise in my head, I know that I need to release that noise and pressure.

Too much noise in my head affects my entire life. It affects my mood during time with my family; It keeps me from cooking healthy meals for my family because I didn’t shut out that noise and give myself enough time to do that cooking; and it prevents me from relaxing in the evening so that I can have a restful night of sleep.

If we are not shutting out the noise from the day, it could affect our sleeping and our health. And it’s certainly preventing many of us from reading for pleasure.

While some people actually use pleasure reading to unwind and shut out the rest of the world, I heard from several of you on Facebook that you’re unable to do this.

My suggestions?

  • Exercise. A long walk or a hard workout at the gym is a great way to release those feel-good endorphins that have been proven to help lower stress and relieve our daily worries. (Bonus tip: Listen to an audio book while exercising!)
  • Yoga. I love yoga. The stretching. The quiet. The concentrating of holding poses for any length of time. Yoga is a wonderful way to get rid of the noise. And you can do it anywhere. My favorite way to do yoga is in my own home. I can do yoga for fifteen minutes or I can stretch it into 90-minute sessions. My favorite way to do yoga is with an app called YogaGlo.
  • Meditation. I am very new to meditation, and I’m not all that great at it just yet. But I know many people who swear by fifteen minutes of meditation a day. Just the other day I was listening to a podcast who spoke of a man who said that once he was trained in meditation, he spent his entire days in meditation in everything he did. I love that!
  • A hobby you love. By spending time doing something you love after a long day at work, you’ll clear your head of workday stress. For some people this is actually reading. For others of us, we have to unwind in other ways first.

Some of the above things require alone time, and I know what many of you are thinking. “I don’t have time to do any of that. If I did, I would have time to read, which was the original question.”

Here’s the thing. This comes back to priorities. What do you need most? I’m thinking that if the one thing that keeps you from reading is the noise left over from the day, then maybe you need to prioritize getting rid of the noise before you even think about adding reading to your routine.

But if we’re watching Netflix or Amazon Prime every night for two to three hours… Do I really need to finish that sentence?

We all need to make a pact right now that we’ll make it a priority to find a way to rid our minds of the noise, of the daily worries, and stress by taking a moment to ourselves every day to do one of the above. Or maybe you have another tactic. I would love it if you shared it in the comments.

Some of you actually admitted that reading is a huge priority for you.

When people tell me that they read every single day or night, I’m ecstatic. I was also curious what people were willing to give up in order to make reading a bigger priority. Here is what they said:

  • Netflix or other TV time
  • Sleep – I’m not a huge fan of giving this one up, though I’ve been known to do it. It kind of goes together with reducing stress and making your health a priority.
  • Housework – This one? I am totally in! I’ll give up housework to read any ol’ day. However, I’ve discovered that I don’t have to. I’ve found that I enjoy audio books while I clean, make dinner, exercise.
  • Exercise – Again, I’m not a fan of sacrificing our health. But I am a fan of combining reading or audio books into exercise.

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So there you have it. It’s pretty obvious that we are all just a little too busy and that if we want to find time to read, we’re going to have to prioritize it higher on the list and/or give up something that is keeping us from it.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Is there anything not covered above? What is keeping you from reading? If you are finding time to read, what are you giving up?

WELCOME

Hi, I'm Heather! Thanks for stopping by the blog, where I like to ramble about my writing life and keep you informed of all the news!

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