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?

Feel What You Need To Feel

It’s interesting all the things we do to run away from our feelings: shop, eat, gossip, binge watch, clean…avoid, avoid, avoid.

I know this because I do it. The surge of energy that comes from emotions we believe we can’t handle is too much to bear so we dive into something that’ll make it go away.

Except, our feelings don’t go away, do they? Whether we are concerned, worried, angry, in shame, whatever the wave…it doesn’t disappear because we’ve engaged our attention elsewhere. The feelings stay and direct us regardless of how in control we may feel.

A very wise reiki master and spiritual counsellor advised me to feel my feelings everyday before I started chemotherapy treatment. To sit on my meditation cushion and ask myself “how am I feeling today?” and simply, let the feelings come.

Sometimes, the feelings came in great waves of tears, sometimes they were gentle nudges of comfort, sometimes in body shaking rages. And, after each feeling passed, I was to ask myself…what are you trying to tell me? And normally the answer came…be softer, forgive, release the past…and a huge space would be created inside of me for feelings of light, joy and trust.

This is not easy work. It is, however, necessary work because it lightens us. This way, when we reach for the extra food, the remote to binge watch, or our phones to catch up on fun gossip…we do it from a place that isn’t soaked in guilt, avoidance and shame.

Feeling our feelings is the only way through and the way out of any kind of darkness. It is how we can come closer to our light.

Try this meditation to help you feel your feelings:

  1. Sit in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Take five-ten slow inhales and exhales to deepen concentration
  3. Ask yourself “How am I feeling today? I am free to feel what I need to feel in this moment.”
  4. Let the feelings come up without judgment or fear – remind yourself, you are safe
  5. Ask the feelings what they want you to know.
  6. Feel. Breathe. for as along as you need to
  7. Release with deep inhales and exhales
  8. Give thanks for the courage to feel, for the insights you’ve gained
  9. Pick up your journal and write everything and anything that comes to mind – see what is revealed to you
  10. Say a short prayer in gratitude

My hope in sharing this with you is to give you a tool which has helped me to feel and release emotions that don’t serve me and perhaps, in this time of uncertainty, can help you.

Consider Donating

https://weebraveheart.com

From the About Page on the Website: The Wee Braveheart Foundation was conceived by a young woman by the name of Joanne Mitchell. Joanne was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer in the summer of 2013. While undergoing treatment, Joanne realized that there were not many charities designed to give directly to people going through treatment first hand. Through her own experiences on her journey as well as communication with others undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, she compiled a list of helpful everyday items that would benefit those in similar situations. These items were then placed into “Care Packs” and dispersed at random to those dealing with their cancer treatment.

All I can add is the Care Packs are truly special. Every single item will be used at some point during chemotherapy or radiation treatment. It is a care package put together by someone who actually experienced the many side-effects of this treatment and who wished to make a difference in the lives of those facing this diagnosis and treatment. The Care Pack feels special because everything in it is like a little bit of love and support as you live through a very difficult time in your life. Also, each time a new symptom pops up, you feel covered…“Oh, I’ve got something for that!”

I am eternally grateful for this Care Pack and the people who put it together. I know that right now is not the best time to be “asking for donations”…however, it may also be the perfect time. Cancer has not stopped because of Covid-19. We can continue to show our support for our loved ones whom are facing this illness and treatment alone because their immune systems are compromised by sending them a Care Pack. Or, consider donating to the non-profit so they can continue their loving work.

To donate, request a Care Pack or learn more, link to the organization’s website here or via the image above.

Surrender

I used to think surrendering meant giving up. It used to mean letting go in a negative way…you know, wave the white flag because you’ve lost the fight.

I’ve been challenged with the idea of surrender in my yoga practice. So much of yoga practice involves letting go, and because yoga began for me as a physical practice, I equated surrender to giving up on a pose or on a series or sequence of poses…so I would muscle my way through.

Well, the universe has its way of landing messages. I have been reluctant in stating online that I am in the midst of chemotherapy treatment for stage 2 breast cancer because I didn’t want to just say so for the sake of creating a story around it. My intention isn’t to inspire pity or fear because I know I heal from this dis-ease…it’s just a matter of time. I want to share this because the experience of cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been my principal lesson in surrender. Nothing yells surrender like chemo.

And, strangely enough, in this strange Covid-19 era, I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience true surrender.

For the first time in a very, very long time, I am listening to what my body needs…not what my head thinks it needs. I am fluid. I am water. I am embracing this intense moment of complete transformation and embracing life gently. And, it’s beautiful.

How I Have Surrendered:

  • Sleep when my body says sleep; rest when my body says rest
  • Let go of how or why my husband does the things he does…truly appreciate him and his efforts in keeping me healthy and safe
  • The structure of homeschool is gone…oh boy I would have thrived on a color-coded schedule for my kids! But, right now, we focus on reading, writing and math in whatever order, at whatever time. We do their projects together and I am surrendering to the idea that they are learning far more valuable lessons by being gentle with themselves than trying desperately to meet some standard – this is a huge leap for calendar-keeping, list-checking me.
  • I have surrendered my will to that of the universe – this is on-going. I thrive on control. So, every day, I show up on my meditation cushion and allow. Sometimes, I need to surrender multiple times throughout the day
  • I have surrendered the physicality of my yoga practice for a practice that truly meets the needs of my body and soul
  • I have surrendered all agendas around my writing

What I Have Learned

  • My body always knows what it needs – listen
  • My husband loves me so much and he shines when I release control
  • Children are resilient and incredible forces of love and light – I just have to love them and they really know what is best – this includes setting loving boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour
  • My angels are watching out for me, supporting me, revealing messages to me all day long – it truly is amazing to experience the divine when we let it come into our life
  • Yoga is magic. The poses I need come to me when I need them. The days that I feel strong, my body holds me without pressure. The days I require ease, my body melts into the poses without fear.
  • I love to write and always will. I journal. I blog. I create stories. It is my connection to my creative self which truly allows for all of the above to flourish and I believe will support me in my journey back to health

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with surrender. I hope the small peek into my own challenges with surrender might inspire you to try it and help bring more ease, faith and purpose into your life.

No Mud, No Lotus

Transformation cannot occur without suffering. This has been a difficult one for me. I am an eternal optimist, which means I also hide from dark, negative feelings for fear of what they might do to me.

Over the past several months, my physical body has forced me to dive into that fear. Illness. Diagnosis. Treatment in various forms which will take up the next year or so of my life. These are things I desperately tried to avoid, but somehow they caught up to me. I eat well, I exercise, I think I manage stress well…and still, my body said time to stop. Time to dive into your spirit.

There have been very dark days. And, to my surprise, days bursting with energy and love and gratitude for everything I do have. The darkness made the light so much brighter. Every single day since this started, I have meditated and prayed. I grew up Catholic, and still am, but my faith has always been a source of struggle for me. I find it very difficult sitting in a Church, run by an institution that is cloaked in mystery, that leaves me out, that for all the good it offers, there are so many shadows…

And, so, I have been challenged to find my own way to the Divine. It has been an incredible path which I will follow for the rest of my life.

This path has shown me that I don’t need to be afraid of suffering or darkness. Light, support, love are always there to catch us, to heal us, to transform us. Every. Single. Time.

I invite you to embrace your suffering – in whatever form that is taking at the present moment. See what it is trying teach you, learn from it and let it go. Sounds easy, right? It is. But, it won’t magically happen overnight…it hasn’t for me. Every day I pray for strength to endure what I must over the next year, and every day I receive the grace I need to carry on with love and joy. It is a daily practice and one that will hopefully transform your life for the better, too.

Like a lotus flower, we can bloom despite (or, maybe because of) the muddy waters. No mud, no lotus.

First Review!

Regardless of what happens next, this will always go down as my first review! While I figure the negative reviews are coming, I’ll be hanging onto this one when they do. This is why I published Capturing a Countess’ Heart – I just wanted readers to fall in love with a great story. And, for this one reader, my goal was accomplished. Thank you for taking the time to send me notes or to post reviews about my book.

Hope you find a great book to read today!

Five Years of Writing

The seed for Capturing a Countess’ Heart was planted late one night when I finished a swoon worthy Amanda Quick novel. I researched the author for a few minutes and realized how very normal her start was. My immediate next thought was, “I can totally do this”. Within minutes, I had my protagonist, Charlotte, and I knew I wanted her to be the one with the title. And, I wanted her to struggle with the idea of giving herself up to love.

The next morning, once I did the morning routine with my two small children (at the time) and did the daycare and school drop-offs, I drove to work in silence. Except, my mind was filled with colourful thoughts and images of how I would bring my Countess to life.

Within that short twenty minute drive, I made up the basic plot for the novel, developed the title and the title of the entire series, The Chronicles of the Heart, because the other three books would also have Heart in the title.

All of this happened within a day. Five years ago.

The next four years were spent writing whenever and wherever. Mainly, that meant during my daughter’s nap times (she was little then and still napped) and once the kiddos were in bed. I completed three drafts this way.

Then, I put the novel away for a month while I sent it to dear friends to give me any feedback they could to help improve it – advising them my feelings would not be hurt. Because, as any writer knows, I need time away from my project in order to come back to it with an objective mind. I was very clear that I didn’t have a budget for an editor, so I had to approach each draft ruthlessly once my friends gave their honest reviews.

Each time I saw an area for improvement I loved it so intensely because it meant I would be able to elevate my work. And, each time I hit a roadblock, the universe would inadvertently answer my question by bringing me the information I required. It truly was inspirational.

By draft five, my children were older, and I started to bring my laptop to soccer practices, gymnastics or dance classes, to piano lessons…anytime there was a block of time available to me, I took it. So, I never waited for inspiration to come, I became disciplined to write what needed to be written, to edit what needed to be edited in the time I had, not when I felt I could do it.

At this point, I had the confidence to start sending out my manuscript to agents, publishers and a few contests. And, it would go through a few rounds of “send us more”, but ultimately was not accepted by agents or publishers. And, while it didn’t win any contests, it would come in the top half of all submissions and be returned with tonnes of coaching from the expert panel of judges. Each rejection from publishers and agents also came loaded with questions and ways to improve the novel. I took every single comment as free editing and gleefully set out to write the best novel I could with all of this free advice from people in the industry.

Drafts six, seven and eight were edited in this fashion. Then came, the now what? I knew I wanted to publish, but I was so overwhelmed because I didn’t know where to start.

Then, as seemed to be the case with this entire journey, divine intervention came to help me and the universe brought me this post by the author who reintroduced me to my love of historical romance, Claire Delacroix, who also writes under Deborah Cooke. Find her blog at Deborah Cooke & Her Books. I couldn’t believe that the author whom reawakened my love of historical romance eight years ago had now written a step-by-step outline on what to do to publish your own work exactly at the moment I needed said list.

Talk about universal guidance!

The past year has been focused on following that list. I have learned so much about formatting and book covers to the myriad of tiny details required for every single step and every single platform. I’m still navigating publishing on Apple Books – you’d think it would be the most user friendly one!

And, now, here I am. A book published and currently writing book 2. The second book in the series is already easier to write because of everything I learned during the writing of book 1. It has been an absolutely incredible journey and one I am so happy to have said yes to.

My hope for you, if you are someone who is toying with entering any kind of creative/artistic endeavour, is that you take the plunge and answer the call of your creative soul. The universe will provide the answers as you go, as it did for me, and you will have fun every step of the way.

%d bloggers like this: