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.

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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

Arrested Hearts by Holly Stratimore

I recently read Arrested Hearts by Holly Stratimore and want to pass along my experience of this well-written, thoughtful love story. There are many aspects of both the writing and the story that struck me—the depth of the characters’ back stories, the clarity of the writing, the author’s unapologetic and bold presentation of a main character that some readers might find unlikable. The one that stood out the most is Stratimore’s exploration of that self-destructive part of the human psyche that can sabotage the very life we want to live. It can be rooted in m

any things–tragedy, loss, abuse, neglect, etc–and it does differ in varying circumstances.

In the case of Randi Hartwell, one of the leading ladies in Arrested Hearts, she’s a bad cop who abuses her power as a police officer to get what she wants, but Stratimore adeptly moves the character and the reader through Randi’s self-realization and healing process, while keeping the reader c

ompletely engaged in the story, to the attainment of the life and love she has always wanted. The other main character, Jule, has her own issues to deal with, and Stratimore handles them with equivalent sensitivity, but it was Randi’s story that moved me the most.

As I mentioned, there are many things to love about this book, and if you’re a fan of lesbian romance, you’ll want to experience it for yourself. 🙂

Arrested Hearts

A Fresh Start

At the beginning of 2016, I asked my tech person to set up my blog, and I committed to the A to Z Blog Challenge through the Writers of Kern, my local branch of the California Writers Club. The challenge was to last thirteen weeks, and the commitment was to post two blog entries per week, one for each letter of the alphabet.

I made it to “B” on January 31st. J

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about blogging, things I might have to share that anyone might be interested in, and just generally coming up with reasons not to blog—not the least of which is I should be working on a book, as in right now.

Then the other day, I was posting a short review-type ditty on Facebook about KC Richardson’s new release Courageous Love, having just finished reading it, and I thought if nothing else I could discuss recommendations of books I’ve liked as blog entries, and maybe that will lead to additional inspirations. So that’s my plan.

I will be posting about books I’ve read. I’m not going to call these posts reviews for a couple of reasons. First, I’ll post only about books I’ve liked or ones that have spoken to me in some way even if there are aspects I didn’t particularly care for. Additionally, I’ll address the book’s or the writer’s strengths and elements of the story or characters that were thought provoking and/or made me explore ideas, concepts, or behaviors in a new or different way. I won’t rate the books or give any negative criticism, constructive or otherwise. I will only talk about what I like and will come from the perspective and understanding that no one book is for everyone. A story that speaks to me and that I find powerful or amazing, may still be one that someone else might not even finish. Right now, I’m reading mostly lesbian fiction as that is what I’m writing, but I have an eclectic taste in fiction, so periodically there will be works from other genres that I write about. And, hopefully, an occasional entry about writing, or something else entirely.

So, all that said, I’d like to draw your attention to the previous entry on this blog in which I did share my experience of reading Courageous Love, by KC Richardson last week. And I’ll be posting about a couple other books I’ve recently finished within the next couple of days. I hope you come along with me on this new journey.

Courageous Love by KC Richardson

KC Richardson’s new December release, Courageous Love, is now available in the Bold Strokes Books web-store. If you read KC’s debut romance, New Beginnings, you’ll recognize some of the characters in this moving and emotional love story, but you can get to know them here as well. This is Alex’s journey as she finds the power and strength of love at the same time she faces a life threatening illness. The author handles a difficult subject with sensitivity and honesty while simultaneously finding the perfect balance between offering important information that every woman should know about breast cancer and a tender yet strong love story. Well drawn characters, both main and secondary, realistic plot, and the kind of love we’d all like to find. Best of all, it’s a romance, so the happy ending is insured. Treat yourself to a great readCourageous Love

Buy now from Bold Strokes!