Start Over. Again. And, Again.

Friendly reminder that even though Mondays are notorious for being awful, they also offer us the opportunity to start again. Whatever the goal or project that lost traction over the weekend, it gets a chance to revive on Monday.

So, here’s to Monday and to your shot at digging in and finding the courage to keep working toward success.

The Writing Learning Curve

In the midst of editing book 2 in the Chronicles of the Heart Series, I have come to realize all of the mistakes I made with book 1, Capturing a Countess’ Heart.

Even though book 1 received much constructive criticism from beta readers, contest judges and editors, and I edited it over and over again with said feedback…I could go back to it today with all of the new wisdom I’ve gained from writing and editing book 2, re-edit it and re-publish it. In fact, I’m contemplating doing just that and calling it a second edition. That’s the perfectionist in me. Hard. To. Let. Go. Of. Past. Mistakes.

The other part of me is immensely proud of my first published work because all of it was accomplished while being a working mom…no small feat. I’m proud because I learned so much during that journey and I wish to honour it by leaving well enough alone and just applying my deeper insights to book 2.

The learning curve included something as simple as selecting character names to how to craft descriptions of setting. I’m having so much fun making use of literary devices to enrich my writing and to improve how the characters jump off the page. That’s not to say I didn’t take this into account in book 1…but with book 2, it just feels like I’m going deeper…challenging myself more.

In Capturing a Countess’ Heart the best friends to lovers trope gave me something to work with. In The Earl Who Won My Heart (book 2), the healing of a wounded marriage isn’t something many historical romances deal with, so I am challenged to show both the state of the marriage at the beginning of the novel (not very good) while keeping both protagonists likeable for the rest of their story.

Each draft brings with it more learning about using words to convey meaning. It’s one of the reasons I love writing so much…something can always be said better, given more meaning and made more impactful for the reader. Writing book 2 has shown me my strengths, my weaknesses and how I can improve both. It has also taught me that the art of writing is definitely one of continuous learning.

Patience

Have you ever felt like you’ve worked so hard towards a goal…and you know what the end result looks like…but you just can’t seem to get there? The road is not easy or clear of obstacles, but you surge forward knowing you will get there and be rewarded and feel accomplished and done.

Except, sometimes it feels like the road doubles in size while you’re on it.

Patience, you remind yourself. Patience.

It seems like the past four months have demanded nothing but patience. And, while I too am subjected to the patience demanded of Covid-19 self-isolation and self-care, my impatience is being tested by my need to be done with my cancer treatment.

I am finished chemotherapy treatment. And, so it must be done, right? Wrong!

There is still so much road left! There is still so much to do before I am well. Completely well. More surgery and treatments which will weaken me and push me to be strong and to overcome and to survive and to thrive.

I’m tired. I want it to be done already. I want to be at the end and be healthy. I am wishing for a giant fast-forward button so I can get to the good part and not have to live through these awful parts.

But, I can’t. Nothing is going to get me through except me getting through.

I try to remember my yoga lessons. I try to remember my meditation lessons. I try to remember to stay in the moment and feel everything. Damn. It’s hard.

I guess it’s a normal part of every journey – the wanting to be at the end already. All of the aphorisms about “enjoying the journey”, “it’s not about the destination” come to mind and I want to curse them all. I have no answers or words of wisdom on this one. I don’t even want to contemplate them to be honest. I just want to sit with my impatience and acknowledge that I am feeling this way. Because sometimes, that’s all there is to do.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Because you deserve it.

You give everyone around you a break, the benefit of the doubt, another chance to undo a wrong. You forgive and forget and forge ahead. You are for the people around you and for the people you love at all costs.

You try your best, always. In whatever role you are filling at the moment, and with whoever you are surrounded by, you know in your heart that you are giving your all.

Sometimes you feel down, you feel your all isn’t good enough because not everything was accomplished, because the people you love feel let down in some way, because there is judgment from others who view your efforts as less than.

Still, you forge on. You try harder. You give more. You are more. You will get it right and succeed and make everyone smile and happy because your efforts come from your heart.

But, who said your best isn’t good enough? Who told you that your efforts must make everyone happy all of the time? Where did the message that you have to be everything to everyone all the time come from anyway?

Perhaps it is time to start learning new beliefs. It is time to believe that your best, coming from your heart will always be enough. It is time to believe that you deserve the same breaks, the same benefits, the same grace. It is time to let go of the pressure, of the expectations, of the judgements. Let’s be honest – people are going to judge anyway, everyone always has an opinion. Maybe it is time to stop judging others since that is the real indicator of how harsh we are to ourselves.

And, in the end, you are happy and at peace. The love you so freely give to others you give to yourself with gentleness, patience and acceptance. You are enough. You are worthy.

How Much Energy Do We Have?

I nearly got an anxiety attack as I created this graphic. Some things on the graphic do not reflect my life, but I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible…just because I don’t pick up a hammer, doesn’t mean other mothers don’t (however, we do all have to deal with repair issues of different kinds). I’m sure there’s lots I’m missing too…the end result is the same: no wonder we’re exhausted!

Being on a journey to health, aka chemotherapy treatment, definitely forces a woman to take a good, honest look at her life. The past few months of self-isolation have been exacerbated by facing the long road to recovery from breast cancer. Hence, I’ve had oodles of time to pray, reflect, journal, meditate and try to come up with a plan so that This. Never. Happens. Again.

I can adapt and change my eating, exercise regimen, meditation practice. I can ask for more help from my husband and now that my children are getting older, they also are expected to participate in household chores. Nonetheless, isn’t it interesting that it falls on me? More women are reporting increased stress levels during Covid-19 due to increased demands at home…yet, haven’t we all been self-isolating?

The struggle to fulfill all the demands of modern-day life has left me bereft in the sense that I struggle with keeping up with said demands and fulfilling my own dreams and goals. And, as I read posts and articles about parenting and exhausted mothers, I realize that I’m not the only one.

I know my experience of Covid-19 would have been vastly different if I had been perfectly healthy without this stupid cancer. I would have been on Team Exhausted too.

I don’t have an answer for changing why family responsibilities mostly fall on women. I do know that the way we expend our energy needs to change.

I don’t know how to balance wanting to be an exceptional mom with keeping up with my goals and dreams. I do know I’m no good to my kids if I’m not true to myself.

I don’t know how to be an awesome wife and daughter and friend and teacher and yoga instructor all at once. I do know that when I give what I can, I am enough and the people I love accept it as enough.

I don’t know how all the things get done somedays. I do know that when they don’t everyone is still just peachy.

Perhaps, therein lies my answer.

We can’t be everything, for everyone, all the time. We can be true to ourselves, our needs, our energy and expend it from there in a way that doesn’t cross the line into impatience, irritation, annoyance and overwhelm. This is not an innate skill. It is learned behaviour. Just like we trained our families to expect us to be there whenever, we can also retrain ourselves and them to respect what we can give and when we can give it. They’re called boundaries. And, they’re beautiful.

Yes, this will become a challenge whenever “normal” life resumes and the calendar is bursting with practices, games, lessons, recitals on top of appointments, meetings, work engagements and the plethora of things we allow to consume our time and energy. EXCEPT, it is up to us to ultimately CHOOSE. We need to choose if that lesson, practice or meeting is vital to our survival or is conserving our energy and taking care of ourselves more precious on that particular day? Like I said, I don’t have the answer…I just read a lot on the subject and see how women everywhere are struggling. I relate to and identify with that struggle.

My hope is that in revealing that I too suffer from “feeling-the-need-to-do-it-all-and-be-everything-to-everyone” syndrome, I can create a space here where women feel safe to feel what they need to feel. I see you and I am you. I too am learning that caring for myself and my energy is the only way I can care for the things that matter.

Where do you lie in all of this? Are you in the fetal position with exhaustion? Are you like me, learning to care for your energy? Do you have a magic formula and have figured out a way to both conserve your energy and be for others without overwhelm? Would love to hear from all the moms on how you are coping and learning!

Reviews Are Fascinating!

Reviews are a great way to receive feedback on your writing and what you’re publishing. They also remind you to remain true to the vision you have for your characters and books, because you can’t please everyone and everyone will always have an opinion. There are reviews that show how your hard work has created a novel which resonates with readers:

And, there are reviews that show misunderstanding or misreading of your characters and latch on to the negative. How do you react? Do you let it pass and let the other 5-star reviews speak for your book? See examples below:

I enjoy writing about flawed characters whom struggle to find their Happily Ever After. I like to explore the ins and outs of characters whom are imperfect, and through their journey of self-discovery, they see where they’ve erred, they atone for their sins and they too can find happiness. My reviewer seemed to fail in noticing that Matthew was celibate for years because he discovered the emptiness of mindless sexual relationships. And, as for cheating husbands in my next book, they existed in the regency era (and, still do today)…but what happens when a marriage can be saved? How can it be saved and made better by growing and learning from past mistakes? This for me is far more interesting. But, I see it is not for everyone.

Then, there are the other reviews. Short, sweet and encouraging that not all of my readers are turned off by stories of the flawed.

All reviews help me to continue on my path as I strengthen my writing and create stories that both challenge and sweep readers off their feet. And, in the end, criticism is only meant to help us grow.

Image Courtesy of Calm App #DailyCalm

How do you take both the positive and not-so-positive reviews that come your way?

Friends to Lovers Regency Romance

When I started to write Charlotte’s story, I was certain she would be the peeress and the man she would find happily ever after with had to be someone for whom a title held little appeal. It was also known to me from the very beginning, that in order for her to trust, she would have to know the man for a long time – hence, the best friends to lovers trope. I have a few scenes from Charlotte and Matthew’s childhood adventures which didn’t make the book, but they really helped to give me a sense of how deep their friendship runs.

When I found this quote on-line and was taken to Seventeen magazine’s website for romantic Valentine’s Day sayings, I knew it described Charlotte and Matthew completely. What I love about the protagonists of Capturing a Countess’ Heart is that they can truly be themselves without any reservations or angst. Their primary goal isn’t love, it’s besting or beating each other, or simply being together. When the spark hits them, it gets confusing, but the knowledge that at the bottom of every flurry of emotion is true friendship gives them the edge and confidence they need to move forward. So much fun to write.

Whether Charlotte and Matthew are racing through their lands, helping Matthew navigate PTSD at a party, or dealing with a revenge-thirsty duke, they are happiest and most themselves when they are together. They are also stronger together.

How do you feel about the friends to lovers trope?

Write Everyday

Mid-week inspo to keep writing!

Regardless of what is happening around you or within you, make the time to write. We write because we have to. It is a calling from our soul to put words to the feelings, imaginings and stories bouncing around in our heads.

Hopefully this wonderful quote by Jodi Picoult will kick-start you back to the blank page and fill it with your creativity. Just write! Everything can be edited, changed and rearranged, once it’s on the page. And, just think of that amazing feeling of completion, of accomplishment when your writing piece is finally finished, just so.

Happy writing my dear friends!

Your Next Beach Read?

Here’s a tantalizing excerpt from Capturing a Countess’ Heart…when Charlotte and Matthew begin to realize their friendship is being challenged to become something more:

“They really missed you,” she said softly. And, after a beat, the words deep in her heart could no longer be contained, “we all did.”

Her voice was barely a whisper, but she knew it reached his ears and meandered its way deep inside him because he offered a small smile in return. Charlotte knew it was Matthew’s most honest of smiles without the intention of charming or eluding. It was a smile she had only ever seen when in private, and somehow knew, he reserved for her.

“Me too,” his blue eyes deepened, locking onto hers and her throat suddenly shrivelled. Her lips parted, and for the second time in one night, she lost the ability to form words.

“In any case,” he cleared his throat, “it’s nice to see you aren’t in need of my help at the present moment.” The cavalier attitude returned, brushing the fragile moment aside.

Charlotte squared her shoulders realizing he wasn’t ready for real honesty and was clearly evading becoming too sentimental. She hid her disappointment and played his game. “You’re the only one who ever thought I was in need of your help. I’ll have you know Mr. Harrington that I’m most capable.”

“And beautiful and graceful too,” he drawled provocatively.

Her stomach dropped to her feet. Why would he say such things in the middle of a ballroom? She suddenly realized that he felt different. Aside from the strange feelings surrounding her, there was something markedly different about him.

“Dance with me,” he raised a brow, laying the dare for her to accept or face endless mockery for cowardice. 

“No,” she stopped the game because he never flirted with her like she had seen him do with others. He had always patronized her like an older brother. She realized he wasn’t the same Matthew she had known growing up, and therefore she couldn’t trust him as she once had. At least not until she figured out what sort of game he was playing and decide whether or not the stakes for her were too high.

“No?”

“Not used to hearing that word, are you? You know why I’m here and you could ruin my chances with your attention. You’re also a renowned rake and charm oozes so easily from you many a lady has convinced herself of being desperately in-love with you. I’m happy you’ve returned unharmed, but I can’t disrupt my chances of an honorable proposal.”

“Honorable or lucrative?” His tone became slightly sardonic, but his eyes questioned her. He was unsure if she was looking for love or money, and she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of accurately assessing her situation.

“How easy it is to judge from where you stand,” Charlotte levelled him with her finest countess countenance. “I will marry honorably. Clearly, your compliment was nothing more than a wish to thoroughly annoy me.”

“Since my compliment meant nothing,” his brow raised for emphasis and his voice lowered dangerously, “then you shouldn’t fear dancing with me.”

She glared at him remembering all too well that besides offering comfort, camaraderie and competition, Matthew also knew interminable ways to irk her. And, it appeared, it was something he recalled far too well.

She clenched her jaw and saw the beginnings of a victorious smile lift the corners of his mouth. Within moments she was in his strong, yet gentle grip. She felt him hold her just a little bit closer than was proper, and his arms contracted as he tightened his grip ever so slightly. Her heartbeat a little faster and warmth spread through her cheeks. Her head spun with delight and annoyance as she realized it was the first time she was actually enjoying a waltz. 

She felt Matthew’s strength emanating through his precisely tailored evening dress. She winced realizing her gloved hand fit perfectly into his and their bodies moved harmoniously, effortlessly. His warmth enveloped her and his masculine scent invaded her senses. She whirled in his arms, feeling safe, protected as she always had. She also felt the flutter of a warning because her best friend could disrupt her plans to marry a rich peer.

The entire dance was maddening. Instructing herself to revel in every last second, because it would be their last, she forced herself to remember that Matthew had no interest in marriage. His sole intention was to live his life in as carefree a manner as possible. He had run away to the other side of the world after one brief kiss! Any ridiculous feeling about the perfection of their waltz had to be stamped out because he would never trade in his freedom for the chance to rebuild an ailing earldom.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” He taunted as he bowed at the conclusion of their waltz.

“Remember it well because that was our one and only this season,” she countered, and then added for good measure, “Probably even, ever.”

“Coward,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“I won’t let you ruin my chances of marrying well,” she said with an arrogant tilt to her head as she was led back to Mother.

“You don’t understand, do you?” Despite his easy manner, his voice was iron. “I have the fortune of finding you unmarried. Now, it’s my duty to make sure you marry someone worthy of you and I will stand in anyone’s way who dares to ask for the wrong reason.”

“What you don’t understand is that I’m a grown woman and I will marry who I think is best for Bentwick. You have no say whatsoever.”

He shrugged his shoulder casually and offered one last infuriatingly smug smile as they parted ways. “We shall see, Lady Bentwick.”

Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the novel and want more! Happy reading!

Available for purchase at Amazon, Amazon Canada and Kobo

Minor Characters

During my publishing journey, I discovered a divide between readers who like minor characters to have a more active role in the plot and those who don’t. Many times editors advised to decrease the page space given to said characters in favour of the protagonists; whereas readers expressed delight in the minor characters and their relationship to the protagonists.

Sometimes when reading a great romance, minor characters seem to get in the way. As a reader, we want to solely follow the hero and heroine because the story is so juicy! However, I notice that I tend to gravitate towards books that establish a world for the characters which includes other important people in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoy the relationships the main characters have with others. Siblings, parents, best friends all help me to perceive the main characters deeper – they don’t seem so one-dimensional. After all, no one exists in a vacuum. We all have people we interact with at different levels of intimacy and, in my opinion, showing a protagonist in the same light makes them more real.

Also, I find it difficult not to indulge particularly fun characters. Or, to set up their own stories for future books. It’s as if the protagonists of future stories reveal themselves slowly and it’s too much fun not to listen.

What side of the argument are you on as a reader of romance? Do you enjoy the development of minor characters and their use in adding context and texture to the story, or do you find them annoying and wish to solely focus on the hero and heroine when you’re reading?

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