Thursday, July 18, 2019

BR to Four Foxes, One Hound - Commonalities in My Stories

I follow this amazing author blog called Four Foxes, One Hound. It's comprised of five authors who share parts of their lives and about their writing and books. The theme this past week has been Commonalities in My Stories. The authors have listed the common themes or threads in the books that they've written. So, I couldn't resist doing a BR - Blog Response. 😊 You can find Jeff Salter's one here. He went into huge detail. I don't know if I can match that, but I'm going to try to list a few things.

Four Foxes, One Hound

Major Characters

Most of the time, my main character is a heroine and she's usually into something that she's really passionate about, which is her career in life. Or she changes her life around to follow this special dream. For example, in the Wedding Girls Series, with Clean Reads, they were all into things to do with weddings. Kiana sold wedding gowns and sewed bridesmaid dresses on the side; Elaine made wedding cakes; and Rachel ran a wedding chapel on a cruise ship. In my Creators Series, with Decadent Publishing, Tessa ran an art gallery and painted these secret paintings of her dream of having a kid; Rowena was a ballet teacher; and Alicia was into photography but suppressed her desires because she carried so much shame.

Usually my heroines are more introverted, but not always. They often aren't looking for romance. They've either given up or are jaded from a broken relationship, or they're too busy with their lives.

My heroes are generally kind, gentle, giving types. Maybe too perfect. I could probably develop them more.

Secondary Characters

The heroine usually has a best friend who helps her along the way. Sometimes she gets a story in the next book, e.g., the book I'm writing at the moment is the story of Colette's best friend, Rachel, who features in When Love Blooms, which has just been contracted with Black Opal Books.

I do have grandmothers, aunts, cousins, work colleagues, or siblings. But most of the time there's a best friend around.

In Cat Therapy, it's Delia, who comes alongside Cherry to help her run her Cat Therapy Hotel.


Main Themes

The usual theme of my books is finding love, but in my later, more recent books, I've tried to thread in a women's fiction theme, as well, where my characters have discovered things about themselves and grown as people. The love relationship isn't the only focus. For e.g. in Cat Therapy, Cherry learns about self-love and how to heal from heartache. In the book I'm writing at present, my heroine learns the importance of balance and taking time to rest and renew. In my short story, Ghostly Tours, the heroine learns the importance of forgiveness of the past. In Reminding Me of You, Mia learns to listen to her intuition.


Other Things that Come Up

I find a lot of my books feature cats as pets: Wedding Gown Girl, Cat Therapy, and now my latest book, In Full Fruit.

I also have a thing about magical shops / items. This features in my Album series which I have taken off the market until I fix up Book 1. I wrote a magic shop in my first ever novel, The Shoe Shop, which is pretty awful, lol.


I'd love to hear what common threads you have through your books.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Shame vs Self-Confidence

Whew, it's been quite a week. I don't know if it's to do with the lunar eclipse and new moon energies. Probably a little. Anyway, in my journey to self-love, I've been quite aware that self-confidence is a big part of it, but I haven't felt quite ready to write about that one. Maybe it's because I know that I need to work on this one big time.
Thank you to Vinicius Altava on www.pexels.com

As I now practice a more earth-based spirituality, I like to work with the moon phases and one of the things I do is set an intention on the new moon for what I want to increase in my life. The previous new moon, I set the intention to work on my self-confidence. Little did I realise how much I would need this and how much it would be tested. Everything was going okay, until a few days ago.

I went to a social outing with a group of my dance friends on Saturday. The ladies were getting more and more relaxed as they downed some glasses of wine. I love the taste of wine, but I just can't consume much at all, and because I'm pretty much a total lightweight, I don't drink any alcohol if I have to drive home. But, I have a tendency to pick up the vibe of a place and wine makes people more relaxed, so then I become more relaxed. The ladies were starting to talk openly about themselves, so I jumped in and told them something very personal about myself and also about my healing journey from my divorce. The responses were mostly positive and supportive, but not all of them.

I went home reeling. I was so embarrassed. I wished I hadn't said anything. I didn't know how I was going to face my group of friends the following week when I went to dancing. It had taken me a year and a half (as an introvert) to start to feel relaxed and open with them. Now, I felt like I was almost back to square one.

That night, as I tried to fall asleep, I had a weird headache on the left side of my head. I eventually fell asleep. The next morning I woke up and after only being awake for a few minutes, I got something in my right eye, or so I thought. It was so uncomfortable and no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get it out. I rinsed with water; I even watched a sad movie to make me cry it out. Nada. Nothing worked. I immediately thought that it may have some spiritual significance to what I was going through, but I wasn't sure what. The eye problems got worse until finally both eyes were itchy and scratchy.

Fast-forward to last night. I had returned home from the dance lesson feeling so annoyed with myself. I'd been so awkward and uncomfortable with my friends. Most of them were treating me the same, but there was this uncomfortable feeling. It came mostly from me, but a bit from them. I did not have a good time; although I loved the dancing. I came home determined to work on myself. I knew my self-love had taken a nosedive.

I thought of one of my favourite self-help teachers, Brene Brown. She's a vulnerability researcher who did a TED video that went viral.



Anyway, she talks about vulnerability as though it's a good thing. That reminded me that I'd been incredibly brave on Saturday sharing a vulnerable part of myself. It had taken immense courage. I wasn't the loser and bad person and idiot that my mind or "their supposed thoughts about me" were telling me. I was a braveheart. Brene says that vulnerability makes people beautiful. And so it does. (I've written a chapter on this in my self-love book.)

She also talks about shame. The biggest barrier to self-confidence is shame and letting it get to us. When we allow others' thoughts or 'supposed thoughts of us' make us feel shame, then we lose confidence in ourselves. Shame is basically the message that we are not enough. And that's how I was feeling.

Last night, I went out to look at the lunar eclipse. I said a prayer for release of all my shame. I reached out for self-confidence and for self-love. I felt something beautiful and loving. I also acknowledged how it was my own thinking that had caused the problems with my friends - my own listening to the lies about myself.

This morning, I woke up with a notification on my phone from the meditation app I use. Someone, who had put up a guided meditation I did a few months ago, thanked me for a review I'd posted on their meditation. I clicked on the review and decided to just look up the meditation teacher. Right at the top of her page was a course on Self-Confidence and Help with Social Problems! What? I knew it was a miracle that I'd stumbled upon this. I did the first lesson of the course. We had to write down things that had happened to us in our lives that had taught us to be ashamed of ourselves. There was that shame word again that I'd listened to the night before on YouTube with Brene Brown. How amazing is that? I wrote down those things. Then we were to forgive those who had caused the shame and not think too deeply about each thing, but to just release them. I did that. We were supposed to crumple up the paper into a ball. I did that. What a release I felt.

Anyway, a few hours later, I realised that my eye was totally healed. How incredible is that? I believe it had a link to how I was seeing myself (and a bit of allergies). What do you think?

I'd love to write more about self-confidence. I will in the future, because it's something I've struggled with a lot in my life. Being introverted does not mean I have to suffer with this ailment. I can overcome it! And so can you.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Spotlight on Angels in Darkness

Today I want to welcome to my blog fellow Clean Reads author, A.R. Conti Fulwell. We are putting a spotlight on her book, Angels in Darkness, which is coming soon! It is an Historical, Inspirational Romance. Wow!

Author Bio

A. R. Conti Fulwell holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Malone University and a master’s degree in Education from Walsh University. Her storytelling journey began many years ago when her mother showed her the magic of rewriting fairy tales. She claims it is the cure for insomnia, or at least it was for her. Influenced by the greats – Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, T. S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Amanda resides near Canton, Ohio, and can usually be found curled up with a book, a pen, and paper, or behind a camera shooting a short film.




Short Blurb:

Relentless and refusing to be beaten, Piero Catone is looking for a rematch. Convinced that Lina’s love is the only thing that will save him from himself, he sets off to win her at any cost. Lina, now the Princess Clarice Angelina d’Orsini wife of Lorenzo de Medici, will not be strong-armed so easily. When Piero’s plan goes terribly wrong, he finds himself faced with a straight-forward decision: Will he follow the light or surrender to the darkness?




Short Excerpt:

“And what is this cruel joke? This man who can answer all my questions is laying right here, unconscious. Why are you toying with me?” Carità stifled a sob, feeling her insides clench as if rung like a dirty rag.

And suddenly, she stopped.

The man on the table grasped her hand, and it was all she could do to breathe.

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ARContiFulwell/

Instagram: @arcontifulwell

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/arcontifulwell/

Snapchat: @arfulwell

Website: https://arcontifulwell.com/

Blog: https://arcontifulwell.wordpress.com/

Friday, June 7, 2019

What to do About Love

This is a personal post about my dating and love adventures after marital separation and divorce. I think everyone's story is different, but we all have a story to tell and maybe we can grow and learn from each other's.

As soon as my marriage looked like it was totally unsalvageable, I found myself embroiled in a messy rebound relationship. (Yes, in hindsight I feel terribly guilty about this as my divorce hadn't gone through, but I knew the marriage was over. You just know. I had tried absolutely everything I could think of to save it but nothing had worked.) It sounds cliche to have a rebound relationship, but I think it's quite a common thing, especially after a long relationship where you aren't used to being single and are petrified of the prospect - I'd been married most of my adult life - nearly twenty years. I wouldn't recommend a rebound relationship to anyone, but I think in some ways I needed to go through it. I needed to know that a man wanted me in some way, even though it really wasn't the way I ultimately would like. I needed to know I could still be with someone else. The relationship ended when I realised he couldn't be trusted and I'd ignored some huge, nasty red flags. I discovered how bad my judgement was when I was desperate to find someone to fill the hole my ex-husband had left.

As soon as the marriage crumbled, I also foolishly went onto dating websites. I think because I'd seen how a dear family member had found a beautiful love very soon after her divorce, I thought it was possible for me. So, I went on a few dates with guys, even a couple of second dates, but none of them were right for me. About a year later, I found myself in a relationship with the handyman who came to the house where I was staying. It started when I confided in him some difficulties I was having. Of all the relationships I've had so far, I think he was genuinely one of the nicest. He really was a great guy. But I knew he wasn't right for me and I actually broke it up with him. I felt so bad, but I knew it wouldn't work. That was a plus for me - that I had the strength to end something instead of clinging onto a relationship for fear of being single. After that, I began to realise that I wasn't ready for dating and relationships. I decided that I would wait two years from my separation (when I knew the marriage was over) before I started online dating again. I would work on self-love, healing from my divorce, and finding myself. It was good and deeply healing.

When the two-year mark came along, I went back on the dating websites. I even paid for a couple of months' subscription for one of them. The first time a guy messaged me, we got on quite well and we decided to meet for a walk along the beach. He was polite, friendly, nice. I was hopeful, but still not sure. There were a few concerns. For one, his divorce hadn't gone through yet. I decided to give him a chance so we went on a second date. That one went even better but there was one glaring conflict with us - a religious thing - one I couldn't get over. When I told him that I read tarot cards, he mentioned something about living our lives right so we didn't go to hell. Although the tone of voice he used was soft, I just couldn't reconcile with his way of thinking. We also hit a few communication snags later on. So, I ended it with him. For some reason, that took so much energy out of me and I promptly deleted my profiles off all the sites. I sought spiritual advice on what direction to take in my dating life. I began to feel like I didn't want to meet my future love online. For some reason, it didn't feel right. I couldn't explain why; it was just gut feel. So I trusted that in my social and outside-the-home activities I would one day meet someone.

At a spiritual group I went to a few months back, I met a guy I liked. I messaged him a few weeks later to try to strike up something. Hey, it's now the modern thing for ladies to reach out too. So, I took that bold step. It didn't end too well. He showed no interest. But at least I'd tried.

When my kids went to their dad a few weeks ago, I had much more time to myself, time to think, silence, and solitude. After a week, I decided to go back on the dating sites. This time I wasn't desperate to find anyone as I was mostly happy on my own, but I figured that my kids are getting big now and would soon be heading out on their own. It was high time I started looking for someone. We're told by dating coaches and I'd seen many articles online saying that if we didn't make the effort and get out there, meeting people online and arranging dates, that we wouldn't meet anyone. We couldn't leave it up to chance. We had to be proactive. I still wasn't sure if online dating was my thing - I pretty much knew it wasn't my thing, but I went ahead and signed up on Tinder which is the only free decent one in my country. I trawled through about 50 photos of men in my area, and probably liked about a third to a half of them. I was careful, but also tried not to be too picky and to keep an open mind. The next few days, I waited for some likes back - Tinder lets you know. Nothing. Not a single one. Then the one night I was going through more of them and something happened. I cannot explain it, but it just felt really, really wrong in the deepest part of my being. It felt fake, it felt unnatural. I was shopping for men. It was like I wasn't seeing the men - I was seeing an outward shell. And they were seeing the same with me. And my outward shell wasn't enough for them. I know my worth. I know I'm an amazing person - beautiful, kind, interesting, and intelligent. I felt that I wasn't being valued and neither were they. I also felt in the deepest part of me - my intuition - that some of those men were not good types at all. You couldn't see - you couldn't pick up their vibes because you're not there with them, feeling their personal energy, but I knew it inside. I felt like I dodged a bullet - a really dangerous one - as I deleted my profile the next day.

I stayed  a bit longer on two more apps - Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel. For some reason I don't get a bad vibe / feeling with these ones. I have no idea what I was picking up on Tinder that one night, but it was seriously way-out-there freaky bad. I have now gone off all the apps again.

I have come to the conclusion, the last week or so, that I'm not meant to date or be in a relationship at this time in my life. It hasn't been easy. There are some days when I want someone really badly. I want someone to kiss and make love to; I want someone to talk to when my kids aren't here; I want someone to share life's ups and downs with. But there's another part of me that really wants to continue on this exciting journey of discovering myself and revelling in my freedom as a single person. Solitude has no longer become my worst enemy. In fact, sometimes I relish it. The silence is like a beautiful presence. It's in the silence and solitude that my connection to the Divine is so much stronger. And I really want to build that connection. I don't want anything to come in the way of that.

Will I ever date again? I'm pretty sure of it. I believe there will come a time, but it's not now. I just know in the deepest part of me - my intuition / gut feel - that it's not the right time.

Before I met my husband, things were kind of similar. I wasn't like other young women - dating different men, getting seriously into relationships, and breaking them off, and starting again. I used to feel out at times, but it never happened. It was weird. It was like I had this bubble around me. I wouldn't say I was particularly ugly. Yes, I was shy and not your ultra-contemporary sex goddess, but I was attractive in my own way. But it was like I wasn't meant to date. With every guy that I was interested in, I would hear this little voice inside me say, "no." The only person I didn't get this with was my ex. It was really frustrating, but I knew it was my intuition protecting me from something. And I'm getting the same thing again. I often see guys I like and then I often get, "no."

I don't know why this is so, but in a way I'm glad. I don't want to go through all the stress of online dating. I belong to several dating advice groups on Facebook and I hear so many stories of people and all the problems they have with online dating. I think of the few problems I've had so far, and I just don't have the energy for it. I feel that we are the stewards of our own energy. I sincerely believe that some people are meant to go through lots of dating to grow as people and discover who they really want. That sometimes they need to go through some difficult relationships. But that doesn't mean it's for everyone. I've sometimes wondered if it's my own fear of getting hurt again that's stopping me. It may seem like that to an outsider looking in, but deep inside I know that's not it. I know it's just not the right time.

So, I'm at this point now where I'm surrendering to The Universe. I'm not going to control how it's going to happen. I'm just going to trust. In the right time and in the right way, the best type of person will enter my life. For some reason, I'm being kept for them. I'm not into purity culture or "keeping yourself pure before marriage" but I do believe that relationships require an energy exchange and I believe my soul is protecting me from relationships that may be harmful to me until I'm strong and ready enough to handle more.

At the moment, I'm just following my intuition and pursing the things that mean a lot to me and which give me happiness and peace. There is love all around me and it doesn't always have to come from romance. The Universe is romancing me all the time. And it's beautiful. I'm on an exciting adventure of discovery, and I'm loving every moment.




Monday, May 13, 2019

Harper Dell's New Book - Touch Me

I want to welcome one of my editing clients, romance writer Harper Dell. She has released two books in her contemporary romance series - Trust Me and Touch Me. We are putting a highlight on Touch Me, but I also recommend you read Trust Me. Her romances are hot! I love a series where each sibling is highlighted in a new book and you get to be a part of the family throughout. Although each book is a standalone and can be thoroughly enjoyed as such, I think it's even better to get deeply entrenched in their lives. You'll keep coming back for more. Touch Me has such a unique premise. And it's tackled tenderly and consciously. Not an easy feat. Oh, and you'll love following Skye's interesting job. But I won't tell you anymore. Don't want to give away spoilers.


BLURB

Her husband is gay. Her new man is gorgeous. One is her best friend. She’s falling in love with the other…

Everyone loves Skye’s husband Jaimie…and everyone knows he’s gay! Why are they together? Does she know he’s gay? Is she still a virgin? Will she ever need more?
 
Skye has to ask herself what a girl’s to do when she’s finally ready to explore her sexuality but her husband is gay. As Head Writer on a popular soap opera, she is drawn to the new stuntman on set. Zach Madrigal screams sex appeal and he screams danger. But though she’s found a hunky new man in Zach, she doesn’t want to lose her best friend.

Is Skye brave enough to navigate her way out of her comfortable marriage and face her own truth? Is her husband, Jaimie, ready to do the same? Does Zach need her as much as she needs him? And how will she handle a family bombshell her sister Hannah is about to drop on her? All this in between planning sister Brie’s engagement party, getting a promotion, and coming to the rescue of a forgotten diva. 

This is a standalone love story but is enjoyed best in the series.

Youngest Hanson sister, Skye, continues the family saga. Her siblings, twin brothers—suave Luke and hunky Brock, share their stories in future books, along with sister Hannah. Travel from a Los Angeles plastic-surgery office to a safari lodge in Africa, as you follow their journeys to love. Mom, Sarah, is the glue that holds them all together, despite facing challenges of her own. With Luke and Brock constantly at odds and Hannalore chasing a family secret, Sarah has her hands full. 

If you enjoy this book, take a tumble with oldest sister Brianna in Book 1 as she does everything in her power not to fall head over heels in love. 

Sexy, successful, stubborn and sassy, you’ll soon feel part of the family.


EXCERPT

“So how did it go with you and Zach and the fire?”

Zach was still watching her, a slight smile curling up his roughened cheek as he waited for her answer. 

“I…it was enlightening. I’ve been thinking seriously about putting what he taught me into action.”
This time Zach’s eyebrows shot up. He leaned back, rolling his chair slightly, folded his muscular arms, and widened his legs. She didn’t know if the move was deliberate or instinctual but she couldn’t help lowering her gaze. She felt a tingling in her core and quickly turned her attention to the opposite end of the table. “I think we can wrap this up. We’ve got some good ideas to work with. I want each of the storyliners to write up their scenes and mail them back to me so I can check for continuity. Let’s make great TV people.”

Everyone left, except for Zach, who didn’t say a word, just kept that smoldering gaze on her, until she finally felt she had to speak up. “I’ve got some actor briefings coming up. I like to do them while the ideas are fresh in my head, plus everyone’s too busy shooting during the week. You can’t stay here.”
“How’s the ankle? I was outside the boardroom when you arrived. I saw you limping in. You ran off so quickly yesterday. I could have helped if you’d just waited.”

Sure he could have. He could have lifted her up in those sinfully delicious arms of his and held her to his chest. He could have walked to the car, his arms possessively around her, until she gave in to her desires and took those lips in hers again. 

“Skye?” 

He interrupted her fantasy. Lord, how could she be fantasizing about the man while he sat here in front of her?



BUY LINKS

Amazon: Trust Me https://amzn.to/2E4GAoq
Touch Me https://amzn.to/2vTKRqk
Apple Books: Trust Me https://apple.co/2HehAwZ
Touch Me https://apple.co/2Jf8ylJ
Barnes & Noble Nook: Trust Me https://bit.ly/2E2YDv8
Touch Me https://bit.ly/2JGUvoD
Kobo: Trust Me: https://bit.ly/2W1bybl
Touch Me https://bit.ly/2JtYdBM

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Creative Spark

My kids and I have just watched a documentary on Netflix called The Creative Brain. I found it quite inspiring. The movie went into what makes us unique as humans - our ability to create. It talked about how creativity isn't about creating something totally unique - it's always building upon what we see, but bringing our own slant to that. They even spoke to a famous novelist who said that he never creates something totally unique. I loved that because, oftentimes, as authors, we feel like our work is so close to other stories in our genre. Yes, it is, but every book is unique. I know because I edit romance almost every work day. Sure, the tropes are the same - it's always about a man and woman finding love with each other, and oftentimes, the process of getting there is fairly similar, but the way it's written is uniquely done by each author, and each subsequent book they write. We bring our own unique life experiences to what we create. No one else's will be exactly the same. Every creation is valid. Each one is a piece of ourselves.

Recently, I posted on Facebook that I prefer a more beta man in real life and I prefer to write them. Alpha and beta are not great words and can be loaded and harmful in a way, but I didn't know how else to express my thoughts. Let's just say that I don't like a hyper-masculine guy. I like a gentle, kind, compassionate type of guy. I don't like the ultra-muscular types but prefer a man with a bit of flesh on him. Then several people commented that they wrote the alpha guys because they sell. And that is true. But I replied to one of the comments that writing is therapy for me and I don't want to write to make sales anymore. I think I became tired of trying to work out what sells and writing that, then finding out I couldn't get it right anyway. So, I will continue to write what comes from my soul, from my life experiences. Yes, I'd love to make sales, but after almost three years of writer's block, the only way to get the creative spark going is to write from my heart, from my feelings, from my experiences, and even more so write my deepest desires - what I want from life, from love, from relationships, from growing as a person. I want my characters to grow as people too - to become better people, just like I want to. I want them to experience the radical love that I want so much.

The documentary on Netflix showed us how vital creativity is to our well-being. It showed how prison inmates who were taught how to tap into creativity and to develop it, were much more likely to go on to live better lives. A struggling school came back to life when the teachers used creative expression and art to teach the students all the subjects.

That's why I continue to write. It's because creativity is vital for my well-being. Creativity heals depression, anxiety, listlessness. It gives us a spark. It makes us new. It teaches us about ourselves and about the world around us. Every time we create something, we are putting a seed of ourselves and our unique experiences out into the world. We are reproducing ourselves and changing the world. We are creating life. We are living.

Yes, it's not easy and we may fail many times over. They interviewed the script writer for Game of Thrones. He had failed many times before he succeeded in his writing. Yes, we may fail, but it is those failures which often propel us forward to our greatest successes. And it's in every moment, whether failure or success, that we are growing and experiencing life.

I want to take a risk, push the boundaries. Yes, I'm not always sure how, but I'm going to try it, one word at a time.

Monday, April 29, 2019

What No One Tells you about Menopause

Warning: rant below and probably only ladies will be interested.

Photo by Anderson Cavalera from Pexels

Why don't they tell us exactly what to expect when a woman goes through peri-menopause and menopause? I was just thinking about this on the weekend, due to a particularly bad "hormone-charged" few days. Or let's rather say, hormone-deficient three days.

When a girl becomes a pre-teen, she is often taken aside by a caring parent / teacher / youth leader, and taught all about her menstrual cycle and what to expect as she enters into puberty: what happens when you have a period and how you will feel, and what to do about it.

But no one ever sits down with a thirty-something woman, takes her hand, explains everything, and assures her that yes, it won't be easy, but she'll be all right as her body transitions into menopause. And gives her an idea of how she will feel and what will happen. All you hear are snatches of conversation from older woman complaining about hot flushes! And that they take hormone-replacement therapy, which apparently isn't good for you! That is the sum total of what I've heard my whole life except for one passage in a book by James Dobson I read years ago about what his mother went through at the time. That's it. (Please be aware, that I do not endorse James Dobson's ideas anymore - specifically about the LGBT+ and pre-marital sex, but this post is not about that.)

Anyways, I so wish someone had told me what would happen to my periods, and my body, and how that would feel. No one ever told me that my periods would get shorter and shorter, that the gap between them would get shorter and shorter and that I would feel worse and worse PMS during these short cycles, usually lasting 2 weeks out of the 3 weeks of the cycle. No one told me that this hormonal problem would trigger anxiety. No one told me that once the periods stop coming for a few months (and I felt amazing during that period), that when they do come back, you feel so sick on that period, and it's so heavy. And all these things are normal, according to a web link I found this weekend - yes, after all these years, I've found out that what I'm going through is normal! No, all you hear about is hot flashes. (Oh, and no one mentioned that when you go to the doctor multiple times to have your hormone levels checked, that they always say they are normal!)

I don't even know if I've had a single hot flash. I don't wake up in the middle of the night, sweating profusely. In fact, I generally sleep like a baby (yay), when I'm not anxious about something. Yes, my body temperature has changed the last few years. I don't feel the cold anymore and the heat is dreadfully dreadful. But I wouldn't call that a hot flash. Unless I'm having one permanent hot flash. 👿

No one told me that peri-menopause can last 10 years!!! Yes, it's lasted me years and years so far. I don't know when exactly, but I'd say close to 7.

Why don't they give us pep talks for menopause? There is a lot that a woman has to process. Not only the fact that she's coming face to face with ageing, but also all the effects on her body. And how to handle the hormonal dips, and the consequent affects on mood, and come to terms with her new self. And that it starts years before it actually ends. And that there are ways to cope, and you'll get through it in the end. And finally, when it's over, you'll be so happy to no longer have a period. (Okay, I haven't gotten there yet, but boy, am I looking forward to it.)

Note: Yes, I am trying out different supplements to help. I can't take too many soy isoflovanes because of my thyroid.

Anyway, I just want to say I'm grateful for my body. It's given me three amazing children. And it's leading me onto the next phase of life. I just need to learn to work with it in the best way possible. Anyone else had any harrowing menopause experiences?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How I Use the Tarot to Help me Write

So, the last few years I've developed a bit of an obsession in my spare time for playing with and studying the tarot cards. I've found the tarot to be a marvelous tool for self-development and just to help me through things going on in my life. The tarot is a fascinating thing. I think the old-fashioned idea that people who read tarot are dolled up in multiple bangles, a dark headscarf, hoop earrings, way too much makeup, and reside in a caravan with a large crystal ball, in a darkened and spooky room, no longer applies. It's not so much a niche thing anymore and has become popular in the spiritual community, enjoyed by many people of all religions.

Besides offering me some personal spiritual guidance, I love using the tarot to help me plot my fiction novels, or to help me with characterisation and well, when I'm blocked.

For example, I started writing Book 2 from the last book I finished - When Love Blooms. I had grown a bit attached to a secondary character in the book (Collette's friend, Rachel) and wanted to write her story. I sat down with my notebook and pen and started the "morning pages" way of writing. I wrote the first three pages and then stopped. I couldn't bear to write anymore. It wasn't working. Something felt off. I was blocked. I knew it wasn't the book I wanted to write, but I still wanted to write about Rachel. So, I put it down and forgot about it for a few weeks, figuring that maybe I'm not going to write for a while again.

Today, I didn't have any editing and after a long weekend, felt quite a bit more rested than usual. I felt like writing Rachel's story, but how? I picked some tarot cards from one of my favourite decks. What I like about tarot is that it contains the hero's journey - it's a story in pictures. It follows almost everything about the human experience. And I like to choose a deck (I'm a bit of a collector) that has beautiful art that I can connect with. The deck I chose for my plotting had contemporary people in it. So, instead of looking at the particular meaning of the cards I chose, as they didn't really apply to Rachel's potential story, I studied the images, and suddenly I just knew what direction I wanted Rachel's story to go in. It would take her to the country near her friend Collette. I just knew this was the right direction for my book.

This isn't the first time I've used tarot to plot my book. I don't usually use it for the whole book, but it gets me started and gives me ideas. I used it to start off When Love Blooms. I also like to use it to get a glimpse into my characters, but not as often as plotting. The tarot court cards are good as they show different personalities. If you picked out all the court cards, you could choose a court card for each of your main characters. It would, of course, help to have a bit of knowledge of the cards before you start. There is a lot of free material out there to learn tarot. Biddy Tarot has a lot on her website, there are dozens of tarot YouTubers (Kelly-Ann Maddox has a free tutorial series on tarot), and well, you can always buy a kindle book on it. If you can't afford a deck, you can get some free mobile deck apps. But it's always nicer to hold the deck in your hands.

I used to think tarot was evil. Yes, some of the cards may not be easy on the eyes if you use the old-fashioned original Rider Waite deck, but you could always buy a more modern one. I prefer the more contemporary ones as the images are much more relatable. Cards like the devil and the death card don't actually mean the literal devil and death, but rather remind us that we don't have to be trapped in our negative or restricted thoughts, and that with every time we lose something or things change in our lives, something new and beautiful is born out of it, kind of like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Here are a few pics of my cards, just so you can see.



Below is the inspiration I found for Rachel's story. Sorry the cards are so dark. So, in the first picture, there is a man at the door with a letter. In the second one, she's staring out onto the farm, wondering what to do, and the third, she is harvesting apples. I shall keep you wondering. I don't want to say too much about this story until I actually have it down on paper. Just feels like I'm jinxing it, lol.


Is there anything unusual that you use to help you plot your novels? I'd love to know.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

How The Artist's Way Broke My Writer's Block

I'm writing a blog post, in the middle of a very busy day and week, to share my excitement.

I have just completed a first draft on a novel after a very difficult three years where I only wrote one fantasy novel and one woman's fiction / romance and struggled with multiple writing blocks and major burnout, going over a year without writing anything new.

It all started when I began reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Her book is addressed to blocked creatives. It's an encouragement, motivator, and a bit of a workbook all rolled in one. It is a bit of religious book, but not in a pushy way, so even those who don't believe in God can benefit from it.

I haven't finished the book yet. It's not that easy to read for me. When I read a self-help book, I strongly dislike long lists of exercises to do at the end of each chapter. They distract me and weight me down. That's why when I first starting reading the book, I had mixed feelings - quite strong ones actually. I loved the way she worked on dispelling some myths that creatives have. But then she wanted us to write "the morning pages." She said we should write three pages of our thoughts or whatever comes to mind, every morning. I was so angry with her, but she insisted it would unblock us. I thought, "How on earth would I find time to do this? I battle to find time to exercise and sleep enough as a single mom of three, running my own freelance business." But I was desperate so I read on. At first, I assumed we should write our writing projects in these three pages. I actually didn't fully understand that it was three page of journaling or free-writing our thoughts to get in touch with our creative side.

I'd already started off a book for Nano and had written about 10K. I'd reached a block in the book and couldn't seem to go on. But I was determined to try this and this book seemed the best bet. So, I found an old notebook in the house, took out my black Bic click pen and began to write. I did do a bit of journaling, but I mostly wrote my book. It was hard at first, but then it flowed. I did it the next day. And the next. I wrote three pages by hand for about three weeks without interruption. A day or two of life getting in the way interrupted it, but then I got back on and wrote.

The key here was setting. I made sure I was in a pleasant setting that was conducive to creativity. I went to my happy spot - on my bed in my room. I sometimes put on soft, instrumental music, or other times lit a candle. I was in a relaxed spot, away from my computer (which I now associate with work) and just having fun. The words would flow. She stressed that we should do it first thing in the morning before our logical / left brain kicked in too strong, and I did start with that. I think it was essential that I did, but then circumstances changed in my life and I needed to get going earlier in the morning, so that no longer worked. But I made sure that before I started my editing jobs for the day and went into editor mode, I did my morning pages.

So, yes, even though my morning pages aren't the same as Julia Cameron's ones, they have worked for me.

I have since read some more of her book and am enjoying it except for the excessive exercises in it, which only overwhelm and guilt me. But I'm deeply grateful for "the morning pages" which got me out of my three-year writer's block.

So, I've written the whole first draft of my woman's fiction / romance. I have a huge job ahead of me - transcribing the writing onto the computer. It's going to take me a couple of months to get the words down. I admit that it's not the fun part of this way of writing. And I still have to give the book a thorough edit and send it out to beta readers before I work toward publication. But hey, the first draft is down and I love the story. That's what counts, isn't it?

Here is the tentative blurb so you have an idea what it's about. Bear with me as I wrote out a whole blurb one day and I cannot find it anywhere. And the title is still under construction.

Flower Fields

Collette's designs and puts together the flowers for weddings. She's a successful entrepreneur, but her business has been floundering in the last few months. She's helping her friend Rachel, who is a wedding planner, to beautify the bride Debbie's wedding. Rachel's in a panic as a key celebrity bridesmaid - Andy - hasn't arrived and she begs Collette to take her place, seeing she looks uncannily similar to the actress. Reluctantly Collette poses as Andy in the bridal party. Because she looks so much like the actress, a long-lost cousin called Jonas strikes up a conversation with her. He confides in her when he drinks too much and she discovers he's the new florist in town - her competition. Has he been stealing all her clients? They hit it off though, but Jonas (who prefers to be called Jonah) starts to suspect the woman he's attracted to isn't his cousin after all. He's angry, but intrigued. He'd like to see her again, but Collette isn't looking for a relationship.

Her business troubles make Collette look deep inside at her own unrest. No matter how crazy it may seem, she knows she has to follow her heart and her dream and move to the country to farm flowers. She approaches Jonah to help her out and merges their two businesses. They are drawn to each other as they spend time together. But Collette's past hurts come back to haunt her and going back home brings them all to the surface. And Jonah soon discovers that things in her business aren't what they seem - something is going on that could sabotage them all.

Flower Fields is a book of unexpected love, dreams, family conflict, and ultimately redemption.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

Self-Love on Valentine's Day for Singles (Or Anyone Actually)

Happy Valentine's Day. I'd love to share an excerpt from one of my self-love books as a gift for you this day. Even if you're single, the day can embody love for you - self-love and friendship.

Oracle Card Made by K. Bosman (c)

Taken from my first book:

Falling in Love with Me - 30 Days of Self-Love


I’ve always felt that the cornerstone of a good relationship is respect. If someone doesn’t respect you, they don’t really love you, do they?

But what does it mean to respect yourself?

This is a really hard one, but it’s so important.

Firstly, do you criticize yourself constantly? What would it be like if you did that to your partner, friend, or your child? Would they feel loved? Would they want to be around you? Not at all. Remember that you’re the only person who is with yourself 24/7, 365 days a year, all the years of your life. You’d better learn to get on.

There is nothing wrong with becoming a better person and working on your faults, but negative self-talk can be debilitating. You have to learn to celebrate all that you are and all that you’ve come through. You’re an amazing human being. You’ve accomplished so much so far in your life, or multiple lifetimes (if you so believe). You’ve overcome immense challenges and stuck it out through many trials. You’ve loved and laughed and cried. You’ve grown as a person, matured through the years. The deepest part of your being is pure love. That’s because you belong to The Universe which is also pure love. You are one and the same. The very deepest well of existence is love.

Sure, you’ve messed up. We all have. Maybe you’ve done some terrible things that have really hurt yourself and others. You did those things because you felt separate from love. They were a cry for help. It’s time to forgive.

If self-respect is hard for you, write a list of five things you like about yourself.
Then write a list of five things you are crazy about yourself.



Thursday, January 10, 2019

Why I'm Back to Writing Sex Scenes

Ha!

Maybe the title of this blog post makes you cringe.

Or maybe it makes you go, "Yay, at last!"

I don't know, but I have to be honest: this is me.

The last few years, my life has changed radically. Not just with the divorce, but in my whole way of seeing things. I think the divorce played a big part in it, but also coming out of a religion that I was in my whole life.

I started deconstructing from this religion about five or six years ago. I can't say the exact date as it was a very gradual thing at first. Then it became quite a big thing when I left the church and became agnostic and questioned everything I believed in. But I felt too lonely without a relationship with The Divine. So, I decided to believe anyway and began to pray again. That felt right. And after my marital separation, I went back to the church, mostly for social support. I mean, church people are really kind and caring.

But I didn't belong fully anymore. I didn't believe half the things they preached. In fact, most of it made me cringe. But I went for the fellowship. Eventually, I couldn't hide my true self anymore and it came out several years later - end of last year. I could no longer teach Sunday School because my beliefs were too different and too questionable. I'd evolved too much.

Being an Evangelical Christian meant that sex outside of marriage is wrong. You just don't do it. And if you do, you feel guilty, ashamed, and have a lot of fixing up to do on the inside. And things like erotic romance are just no! Not allowed. I started writing erotic romance under the name Vicki Ballante before I'd left the church. I justified it by always presenting my characters as married when they had sex. It made me feel like I wasn't sinning. But the writing never felt right. It didn't come totally naturally; yet I wanted to write sex. In a previous blog post I blamed my ex for persuading me to do it, but I take that back. It was purely my decision. Yes, he prompted the thought, but I thought I could maybe become a best-selling author and that my sweet romance wasn't cutting it in publishing. That, of course, isn't the best way to do it. I don't disregard those who write purely for money and success, but that's not how I tick.

Writing for me runs MUCH deeper than that. It's in my blood. The flow heals me and feeds me. I have to write. It's like eating. It's like breathing.

Anyway, after a two-and-a-half-year writer's block, things are starting to happen. I managed to write one fantasy novel in the time and one romance - Cat Therapy, which is a sweet romance. I love sweet romance. I love reading it and writing it. I think that the feelings between the couple are so, so important and sweet romance puts a highlight on the progression of the emotional side. I love that.

But sometimes, I like the tease of the sex scene. I love to see how the couple come together and how their chemistry works.
Thank you to pexels.com for the free pic.

As far as writing it goes, it's just been happening. I haven't been planning to write sex scenes, but they've just been happening. The characters have called for it. The romance has needed it. And...it's also part of my healing. It's part of letting go the shame attached to sex from my previous belief system, and it's healing my hurt from my marriage and my divorce. I think part of the reason I struggled to write sex scenes properly as Vicki is because there were things wrong in my marriage and I didn't see it. Now, after healing and seeing things in a whole new light, I've got a dream. A dream about a man who will be tender and kind and just what I need. And I'm writing the hero I want. The man I'd love to make love to one day. And writing it is so cathartic. It's glorious. And it's showing me who I am.

I think that's what's so beautiful about the well-written sex scene - it can show us what a good partnership can look like. How a good and loving lover can be. And I think that's why erotic romance always upset me. And the shame from religion.

Being sex positive is a new thing for me. I've always felt these twinges that it's wrong to write sex and it's wrong to read it. But now, this gentle peace and this sparkling excitement is rising up in my soul as I begin to embrace the truth that we are sexual beings and as long as we make sexual decisions that respect ourselves and others, we aren't shameful and bad human beings. It's not easy to believe this and I still have a long way to go to be totally free, but I'm getting there. One step at a time.