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.

Historical Romance and Women

I am a feminist at heart. In my soul, I believe the female form is sacred and is therefore equal to the male. Therefore, I have struggled with my love of the romance genre.

As an English teacher, I studied many, many classics and works of “literature” – no commercial fiction, and certainly not works that followed a “formula”. During that time, I learned so much about writing and the beautiful ways in which words strung together illuminate the soul.

How then, could I reconcile loving a genre that was supposed to be formulaic, that put men and women in rigid roles and the core of which was something as mundane as romance and love?

Because romance written by women, for women, is sacred. The stories of women learning who they are so they expect to be loved on their terms is exactly what we need.

Romance was tarnished for me by the typical fairy tales of my childhood where the damsel was saved by the dashing prince. As an adult woman, I didn’t wish to be saved. But, I believe we have all collectively felt the change of direction in modern day fairy tales for little girls which show empowered young women taking ownership of who they are in order to achieve the life they want. Which is great for the generation of girls who will be growing up with different stories as their foundation and mothers who give them the foundation to truly be themselves.

But, what about us? The women who were fed the bogus stories as little girls and now yearn for stories of women being themselves and knowing in their core they deserve a life that honours every one of their desires?

Enter Romance being told by these very women, for every woman.

Modern storytellers provide us with rich characters who know what they want (and, if they don’t, they discover it), and refuse to compromise on their worth and how they deserve to be loved. They provide us with characters who access both their divine masculine and their divine feminine. Strength and softness – physical and emotional.

I’ve read that the reason Romance was not given its due is precisely because it was for women, and therefore the holders of the keys to literary greatness (white men) scoffed and belittled it, thereby relegating it as a lesser genre of writing – as a fantasy of how men and women can never be.

Romance inspires more than feelings of lusty, love (although, those are fun too) – it really showcases how deep emotional intelligence can significantly improve the lives of individual people. The characters in romance novels experience loss, grief, fear and shame…and they overcome these through relationships. Through communication that is open and honest, they thrive and rise and are willing to be open to love. These characters are willing to face their fears and be vulnerable. They believe in the power of love so fully, they fearlessly jump in and feel all of its glories.

Historical Romance then becomes tricky because there are so many entrenched gender rules that characters must abide by in order to be historically accurate. However, any kind of knowledge about women in history shows that women in every time period struggled with and against the norms set out for them by society.

I love historical romance because even though the characters know the rules they must follow, their human spirit – the need for connection and vulnerability and love – is so strong, that most times the rules need to be broken in order to achieve that. Therein lies the fun of historical romance. Modern women can read about women in a different time period whom were not free to be themselves, and yet find a way to do so and be loved on their terms.

We seem to be very accepting of the tales and love stories of witches, wizards, shapeshifters, vampires, soul-finders, etc. each time we read a work of fantasy or dystopian literature. So, why is it so difficult to accept that true love, vulnerability and an elevated unbreakable connection can exist between two human characters?

What has your experience of reading romance been like?

A Writer’s To-Do List

This list is made doubly-difficult because it is my life-line to staying emotionally and mentally well during my journey to physical health. I wrote about this journey – which now seems like it will extend into the rest of this year – here. However, due to said health journey, time & energy to do all of the above is significantly lessened. My passion for writing is not my career – it’s something I do to stay afloat…however, it comes with a to-do list that the above barely covers.

The desire to do all the things is strong with me. As soon as I’ve accomplished a new goal or task, I don’t rest and take it in and simmer with the feel good of accomplishment. I’m off to the next goal. (Which could be why I’m in this health predicament in the first place – but that’s a musing for another day.)

So now that my first book has been released…what next? While most indie authors work diligently and focused on establishing their on-line presence because that is what drives book sales and gets their beloved work into the hands of readers – which is the aspiration of all writers, it’s a rabbit-hole that can be deep and distracting from why we originally started writing in the first place – to tell great stories!

I try to limit my time on Insta and FB and Twitter. It might not drive sales or expose me to as wide an audience as possible…I’m one person. One wife, one mama, one woman trying to heal her body. Writing is what I love to do. It’s not my life.

Social media and graphic design are super fun and a great distraction when I hit a snag on the writing. Reading steamy romances are fun and inspiring – interestingly enough, some of the medicine I’m on reduces my ability to focus, so that can be limited, too.

So, while the above To-Do list can be daunting…it does help to keep me focused on what I’ve always loved to do…make-up characters and their stories and see it all fall apart and come back together…

Book 2 of The Chronicles of the Heart Series is therefore underway, and it’s so juicy! Book 3 is starting to talk to me. Capturing a Countess’ Heart is out now. You’ll find me on social media once a day and occasionally trying my hand at graphic design (for which I love Canva, great for newbies like me!)

And, when I whittle it all down to the simple fact that I just love to write…it all seems to fall in place without the crazy of having to do more, or do it all.

Are you an indie author who feels the pressure to do all the things? Maybe, we can do things differently and still manage to get our stories into the hands of readers!

I am a published auhor

It has actually happened and I couldn’t be more happy or more proud. Funny, though. It isn’t the jump out of my seat, holler from the rooftops kind of happiness. It is a such body hugging warmth. I feel accomplishment. I have reached my goal. It is so calming and peaceful the sheer joy which is radiating through every single cell.

Available here.

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