Channeling Creations

Years ago, I heard a speaker at an Orange County Romance Writers of America meeting who said something I’ve never forgotten. I wish I could remember who the speaker was as I’d like to give her credit, because what she said has helped me so much since I’ve become published. She said that when we write a book and we put everything we have into it, then send it out into the world, it’s like we give birth to a baby, then hold it up for people to throw darts at it.  It struck me as being profoundly true, even though, at the time, I had no experience of it. Now I do.

Since then, I’ve had three lesfic books published, with two more coming out in 2018.  During the time since my first book release in 2015, I’ve thought quite a bit about how people have reacted to what I’ve written—whether it be through reviews, posts on social media, or through private messages and emails to me—and how interesting it is that a book can be loved by some and receive five star reviews, while at the same time be disliked or even hated by others and receive two star reviews. Sometimes, it can very much feel as though darts are being thrown at my baby, but as my author skin has thickened, as all author skin must do for someone to make it in this profession, I’ve frequently remembered the words of that speaker. I’ve also realized, though, there is more to it

A story comes to me as a seed or a kernel. It comes in its purest form—an idea. I’ve learned, however, that it already has within it how it will unfold and its completion, provided I will listen. I suspect it also has within it what it is here to do. It is, in fact, like a baby that comes into the world already with a purpose and a path, already with things that that being is here to do. As an author, I take that idea, and I work with it, and I help shape it and mold it. I help develop it, just like as a parent, I raise my children. I help shape and mold who they are to be. In general, though, in both cases, my job is to put my heart and soul and love into my children, as well as into all the creations that come through me, like the books I write, and in both instances, the day comes when it’s time for the child or the book that came from that initial idea, that kernel of a seed, to go out into the world to do whatever it came here to do, to fulfill its purpose, to touch the people whose paths it crosses in whatever way it does. And at that point, there will be people who love it. There will be people who maybe merely like it or even dislike it and maybe who even hate it.

The child will touch people’s lives as she does, just like the story will touch a reader however it does, based on what the story is and what about it drew the reader to it. In either case, my job as the parent or the writer is finished. Sure, in both cases, there may be questions I can answer or clarification I can give and I still love these amazing creations that came through me, but my children are adults with lives of their own and the stories are completed books in the hands of people I will never meet, affecting them in ways I will never know.

We are all channels, whether or not we know it. Whether it’s children who come through us, or books, or paintings, or a brand new way to do something at work or rearrange the furniture in our home for a fresh look and feeling, everything we do affects others and touches them in some way. And regardless of what our creations are, there always comes a time when we have to let them go and touch the world however they do.

A Reason: A Blog about Embracing the Dawn

What are we all doing here together?

This question has been with me my entire life, and various answers to it have presented themselves depending on my age, circumstances, and where I’ve been in my personal and spiritual development.

I know many of us have come across the poem about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I thought everyone had, but in writing this, I encountered a couple people who’d never heard of it. So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, if you’re interested, you can find a version of it at Consider This.

For a long time, when I thought about this idea, I focused mostly on the “season” relationships I was in and what appeared to be the lifetime ones because those seemed more important. Once I began to understand, however, how significantly those with whom I am in both long and short term relationships impact my growth and development, I started questioning if that could be true of anyone with whom I spent even the slightest amount of time. It became somewhat of a favorite pastime, as people came and went from my life, whether it be in a line at a grocery store or in a weekend workshop, to then pay attention to see if I could pinpoint the reason for the encounter. Then I came across two individuals that answered this question for me forever.

The first I met in a hospital waiting room outside of an intensive care unit. My mother had been rushed to the emergency room with staff pneumonia and hooked up to a ventilator. Our family was told we should be making a decision about how long to keep her on life support because she wouldn’t be able to come off the breathing machine. I spent hours at the hospital, my emotions raw, and one afternoon I went into the waiting room to sit until I could return to my mother’s bedside. I’d been there about fifteen minutes when several young men, covered in tattoos and wearing gang colors, walked in and filled the small area. I admit, I was immediately nervous, but felt too emotional to pay too much attention.

We all sat in silence for a long time, my thoughts occasionally turning to stereotypes and judgments. I’d never actually been around any real gang members. I’d only heard the stories on the news and warnings from people about walking through certain neighborhoods. At one point, I looked up and found the young man across from me staring at me. Just as my heart jumped, he asked me who I had in the hospital. His voice was quiet and gentle, and didn’t go with his appearance and what I’d made up about him. I told him about my mother, and he just nodded and said he was sorry. When I asked him who he was there for, his eyes filled with tears and he told me about his best friend being stabbed the night before. I saw my own fear of loss and worry in his face, my own glimmer of hope shining in his eyes.

For the next three days, we sat together off and on, but we didn’t talk much. There wasn’t a lot to say. Being with him, though, knowing someone understood what I was feeling, and having someone to whom to offer a smile,gave me strength and comfort. Then one afternoon when I arrived, he was waiting for me with a huge grin. His friend was released earlier to go home. He had waited for me, to say good-bye and to tell me he hoped my mother got better, too. I never saw him again, never knew his name, but I will never forget him.

The second person was a woman I met only online through a dating site. I contacted her because she had the kindest eyes I’d ever seen and she volunteered with a dog rescue program and took in foster dogs. I was touched. We e-mailed back and forth a little, then exchanged phone numbers. On our third or fourth call, she said there was something she really needed to tell me before we went any further. She sounded so nervous and scared. A little anxious myself, I assured her it would be all right and that I wanted her to be honest.

So, she told me she’d been in prison. That didn’t have too much of an impact since I’ve known other people who’ve served time for various things. I asked her for what, and she said, “Oooooh, I don’t want to have to tell you. But I will. It was for armed bank robbery.” I’ve never been so grateful to be on the phone and not face to face. My jaw literally dropped open. My editor tells me that hardly ever really happens, but it did in that moment. We talked for a long time about it. She answered all my questions, explained she’d been sober for seventeen years but back then her life was all about getting drugs. She was very sweet and very kind, and I was deeply impressed and moved by her honesty. If we hadn’t lived a couple of states apart and both had commitments where we were, something more could very well have come from our connection.

Both of these situations left me wondering what exactly they were for. For what “reason” did my path cross with each of them? It took me a little while to figure it out, but both of these people always come to my mind when I’m about to make a snap judgment of someone and need to be reminded to allow people to reveal themselves to me rather than me decide who they are based on something I think I already know.

What does all this have to do with my contemporary lesbian romance novel, Embracing the Dawn, you might be asking? Well, the woman who served time for bank robbery was actually the seed that was planted all those years ago for this novel. Jinx Tanner, one of the main characters in Embracing the Dawn, is loosely based on her. Jinx is an ex-con who served twenty years in prison and has been out for only three when she meets E. J. Bastien, a successful business executive. The rest of Jinx’s background is not linked with that of my friend’s, but she does portray the kindness, gentleness, and willingness to be so forthcoming about who she’s been and who she is that was shown to me through our brief encounter. So, it’s clear to me that part of the “reason” for our paths crossing was also to tell this story. You’ll also find the young man from the hospital among the pages.

Someone asked me just this morning what Embracing the Dawn is about. I think it’s about acceptance, about accepting ourselves as who we are and who we once were. It’s about accepting and meeting others where they are and loving them through changes they’re ready to make. It’s about deciding to be different than who we’ve been before and facing our fears as we do so. It’s about love and courage and being there for one another.

Embracing the Dawn won a 2016 Rainbow Award and was a 2017 Golden Crown Literary Society (Goldie) Award finalist in the Traditional Contemporary Romance category.

Embracng the Dawn-Cover

Threads of the Heart

This is a blog I wrote for the Bold Strokes Books Authors’ Blog when my debut novel, Threads of the Heart, was released in July of 2015. As I’m building my blog, I thought I’d include it.

Threads of the Heart

No one travels this life alone.

This was the premise for my novel, Threads of the Heart. This was the seed from which the story sprouted and grew to its fruition.

As I have moved through life, I’ve learned that people, moments, relationships, circumstances, events, and lives are all interwoven with one another to form what we call the human experience. No man—or woman—is an island. Nothing takes place in a vacuum. All action is influenced and all outcome determined by its participants and observers. These truths are found in quantum physics as well as spiritual law.

So, as we live each day, we find we are influenced by others as others are influenced by us. We learn that what we do affects not only our own circumstances and our own hearts but also those of the people with whom we are in relationship. We discover that when we believe we are alone and that no one else could possibly understand what we are thinking or going through, someone—sometimes the most unlikely person—appears to show us the way.

The characters in Threads of the Heart learn that guilt held onto from the past influences the present and, ultimately, any potential future. A secret affair not only affects the person having it, not only her and her partner, but the life of everyone who loves them as well. Feelings unshared, words left unspoken, shape circumstances and lives just as strongly as those expressed fully and boldly, only in a much different way. And new decisions affect not only our own lives but the lives of those we love. Through it all, through their interconnectedness, they give and receive strength and support, they form bonds that strengthen through each circumstance and life change, they get mad, they get lost, and they love.

These characters could be any of us, their lives any of our lives, because it doesn’t matter what we go through. What matters is that we go through it together—and, hopefully, we learn and we grow.

The writing of Threads of the Heart allowed me, or maybe forced me, to explore these ideas. It gave me the opportunity, as my characters guided me through their stories, to consider some new ways of viewing some old, well-practiced, and sometimes harshly-judged behaviors. I looked at the choices people make—myself included—through different eyes, with vision that made it possible to see that what we choose to do in any given moment is exactly what we need to do in order to further our growth and move us along on the journey we are here to take—no matter what it might look like on the surface or through the eyes of another. Sometimes love looks exactly the way fairy tales and romantic comedies present it. Sometimes. But a lot of times, it’s messy. Sometimes it looks like the end of a marriage in order for both spouses to be able to experience what love really is. Sometimes love requires us to face and accept our deepest fears about ourselves and our lives in order to move a friendship to that next level of intimacy. And sometimes infidelity can show us just how deeply we love someone at a point in time we would never have seen it any other way.

Through the writing of this book, along with the study of spiritual principles, I grew to understand that everyone needs to do what she needs to do as part of her journey, and no one is doing anything to anyone else. This understanding has profoundly changed my life and my relationships, and I am happy to be able to share it through the stories of five women whose lives weave together in love and friendship just like in real life.

And, hopefully, anyone who reads Threads of the Heart will see some aspect of herself in one of these characters. I actually hope anyone who reads it will recognize herself in several. After all, isn’t that the very reason we relate to particular characters, because we can see ourselves in them? We can feel, or have felt, what they’re feeling. We’ve thought what they’re thinking. We’ve experienced what they’re going through. There’s an emotional or psychological connection. It is also my hope that anyone reading this book will take from it at least the seed of a different way of viewing herself, her relationships, and her life.

Above all, however, it is my hope that anyone reading Threads of the Heart will simply enjoy it.

Threads of the Heart, was a 2016 Goldie winner in the Debut Author category and a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards.

Threads of the Heart

A Crowded Mind

I was recently speaking with someone about working on edits for one book while at the same time beginning to write my next one. She made the comment that that must be an interesting experience having two full sets of characters running around in my head and all talking to me at the same time. We went on to discuss the mixture of exhilaration and frustration I feel when I am halfway through the writing of one story when the characters for the next show up and start telling me their tale. I get excited about the new story coming through, but still need to finish the one I’m working on because, after all, I’m on the dreaded deadline.  (We’ll talk about deadlines another time. )

After that conversation, I got to thinking about just how many characters and stories I actually have in my mind at any given time, and I’ve begun to wonder how I haven’t gone insane yet. For example, right now, as I’m typing this, I have the full set of characters and their story, from A Heart to Call Home, the book I just finished writing and for which I’m waiting for the edits to come back. In addition, I have the full cast of a brand new story fresh in my head from a proposal I recently submitted for which I’ve started writing the first few chapters. Then, somewhere further in the back of my mind are a couple sets of characters that some of my readers have asked if they will someday get to have their own books. So Gwen and Taylor, E. J.’s besties from Embracing the Dawn, have begun some murmurings about their back stories and what is keeping them apart, as well as Dusty and Tess from Threads of the Heart, who seem to have more of their own tale to tell. Never mind the consideration of the requests I’ve received for a sequel to Into Thin Air that explores Jordan’s healing and psychological recovery. There are even two brand new sets of characters—one from a romantic intrigue and the other from a romance—that poke their heads in once in a while just to check the status of things.

I find it no wonder that I’m never lonely or bored.

As a young child, I always had people/voices in my head. Not in a scary, call-the-psych-ward kind of way, but just in that way that many writers have in which there are always interesting new friends showing up and telling their stories to us. I wrote some short stories in Jr. High that featured characters that were based on me, my brother, and our friends, but it wasn’t until some daydreams and fantasies in my twenties flourished into a full-blown plot that I took the leap into the truly unknown and began writing about those people that spent their time hovering around me. That book took a long time to finish because it was a huge beginning to my learning experience in the craft of writing fiction, so those characters were a prevalent presence with me for many years, but many new characters have become my friends and even family since then as well. And I’m sure there are countless more waiting patiently—and sometimes not so patiently—for their turns.

For now, the next friends I’ll be introducing to you come from A Heart to Call Home, a traditional romance being released by Bold Strokes Books in February of 2018. We have our leading ladies, Dakota and Jessie, whose linked pasts are shrouded in loss, guilt, and tragedy, but whose hearts yearn for the love that can only come from each other. Forcing them to put their own struggles aside and work together are Melinda and Ian, a couple of struggling teenagers who need their help, and supporting them on their difficult path is a diverse collection of friends and family members. I’ve fallen in love with this whole group and hope you will too.

A Heart to Call Home is available now for pre-order in the Bold Strokes webstore.

A Heart to Call Home-Final Cover

B is for Back Story

Over the years, through learning the elements of writing fiction, I’ve learned a lot about people and life. One of the most important elements of writing fiction is characterization, the creation of characters, because, after all, can there really be a story without someone—or, in some cases, something—to experience it?

In turn, one of the most important elements of a character is the back story. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the term, a back story is a history, the background and events that shape a character’s personality and cause her to express herself and react to things in a specific way. For example, in my current wip (work in progress), Into Thin Air, one of the main characters was given by her birth mother for adoption, and not knowing the circumstances or the reason left her with a deep insecurity and a belief she is unlovable. This inhibits her ability to be in a truly intimate relationship.

Now, I know every facet of that back story—where she was born, not only who her mother was and why she put her and her twin sister up for adoption but also who her father was, where and how her mother lived after the pregnancy, the background of her adoptive parents, the reasons she never looked for her birth mother, et cetera. While not every detail of a character’s back story makes it into a novel—nor should it—it’s important for me as the writer to know those details in order to make sure the character stays in character. In print, however, sometimes it’s enough to simply allude to them.

I recently read a novel by Kristin Hannah, Magic Hour—a powerfully moving and psychologically intriguing story—in which the only aspects of one of the back stories that were actually stated were that the character had been married and had a son who was killed by a drunk driver. Everything else the reader needs to know about how painful and devastating the loss of his son was to the character and the degree to which he is still healing is conveyed through his reluctance and fear to make any meaningful connections with anyone in his current life. I would bet, however, the author knew as much about his back story as she did about his role in the current story because of the depth to which she was able to write him. I know in my own work, I could write each character’s back story as its own novel in the same depth I can write the present one.

As I think about this concept in relation to my fictional characters, I also realize its importance in my daily dealings with people. Everybody has a back story, whether or not I know what it is. There is a reason, or maybe several, that people react to me, or others, or situations in their lives, the way they do. And if I’m paying attention and being fully present with whomever I am interacting, I can catch glimpses of that back story, that reason for a particular reaction, that vital piece of information that allows me to understand something I may not have before. Like a reader, however, I don’t need to know all the details. I simply need to allow the person to show me what’s important.

Any thoughts on back story, either in your writing or in life?

A is for Author

Okay, it’s time for the A to Z Blog Challenge to begin.

A is for Author.

I’ve always thought of the words “author” and “writer” as synonyms, and according to Merriam Webster’s simple definition of the word author, that’s true.

Simple Definition of AUTHOR: a person who has written something; especially: a person who has written a book or many books.

Under the Full Definition, however, the first entry is 1. a: one that originates or creates

That broader definition made me think about all the ways there are to create, not only within the commonly recognized forms that fall under creative expression along with writing, such as painting and drawing, sculpting, cooking, gardening, all forms of design, and many more, but also in ways that might not normally be considered.

It occurred to me that under this more expanded definition, we are certainly the “authors” of our own lives. A life and its events are created in the same way as a story. Both begin with a thought, an idea, a premise. For example, my novel, Threads of the Heart began with the premise, No one travels this life alone. From there, five characters came forward with their stories that intricately wove together, connecting these women in love and friendship, bringing the premise to life and expanding it into a fully fleshed out world of interconnectedness. By the same token, we create our lives in a similar fashion, with a thought or an idea of what our purpose for this life is. And then we people it with our family members, long-standing friends, and our significant partnerships and marriages.

For example, say my premise for this life deals with the overcoming of challenges—something like, The only way to fail is to quit. Then to develop that premise or idea, I need something to overcome, so I create a physical challenge like impaired vision, thus producing a more difficult path to the things I want to achieve. From there, I need some people/characters to assist me, ones that will both support me on a journey of overcoming the challenge of limited vision in achieving my goals and dreams, as well as those who will outpicture my fears of failing. This way, I have choices to make, just like the main character of a story—in essence, I am the main character of the story of this life that I have authored. With all this in place, I then—like the characters in my books—get to traverse the rocky terrain, jump the hurdles, sometimes swim against the current, learn, grow, and ultimately come out on top.

The best thing about it is that once I know I am the author of my life, I know that whatever happens, I am not a victim to anything that happens. Since I authored this story, I can edit it, revise it, and completely rework the ending any time I want.

So, what about you? What have you authored as your life?

At Long Last…

It feels like it’s been forever that I’ve been trying to launch a blog. Really, it’s only been since last May, but the amount of time I’ve spent asking about blogs, thinking about them, worrying and trying to figure out what the heck to write on a regular basis if I started one seems like it could be calculated into something closer to forever! Finally, today’s the day.

Last Saturday, I attended a meeting of Writers of Kern – my local branch of California Writers Club – and heard about the launch of their Annual A to Z Blog Challenge. I decided to accept!

The challenge for me is to begin with creating a blog, then beginning January 25th, posting two blog entries a week, each one’s subject matter beginning with the sequential letters of the alphabet. Once I have reached the end of the alphabet, the ideal is that I’ll continue with a riveting and exciting blog ;-). This is my first step!

Wish me luck and feel free to subscribe and support me on this new venture. I’ll need it and appreciate it!