Tuesday 31 December 2013

Peace of Mind

As an old year draws to a close and we look forward to new beginnings, we often find ourselves searching for something that will bring us peace of mind.

I've adopted a mantra that over the years has brought me exactly that. It’s been around for hundreds of years. It’s simple, easy to remember and effective.

It is one of the most famous lines in Catholic theological writing and is one of the best-known phrases of medieval literature. Julian of Norwich claimed God himself had bestowed it upon her.

Here it is:

"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

I know. You’re sceptical, right?

Let me tell you about Julian of Norwich. She was an English anchoress who lived from about 1342 until about 1416. She is regarded as one of the most important Christian mystics. Anchorites were religious hermits who often spent their lives in contemplative prayer in tiny cells built onto existing churches. Very little is known about Julian's life. Her personal name is unknown and the name "Julian" simply derives from the fact that her cell was built onto the wall of the church of St Julian in Norwich.
St. Julian's

She may have been from a privileged family that lived in Norwich, or nearby. Norwich was at the time the second largest city in England. Plague epidemics were rampant during the 14th century and, according to some scholars, Julian may have become an anchoress whilst still unmarried or, having lost her family in the Plague, as a widow. Becoming an anchoress may have served as a way to quarantine her from the rest of the population.

There is debate as to whether Julian was a nun in a nearby convent or even a laywoman. When she was 30 and living at home, Julian suffered from a severe illness. Whilst apparently on her deathbed, she had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness on 13 May 1373.

Julian wrote about her visions immediately after they had happened in a version of the Revelations of Divine Love now known as the Short Text. This narrative of 25 chapters is about 11,000 words long. It is believed to be the earliest surviving book written in the English language by a woman.

Twenty to thirty years later, perhaps in the early 1390s, Julian began to write a theological exploration of the meaning of the visions, known as The Long Text, which consists of 86 chapters and about 63,500 words. This work seems to have gone through many revisions before it was finished, perhaps in the first or even second decade of the fifteenth century.

Julian became well known throughout England as a spiritual authority. The English mystic Margery Kempe, who was the author of the first known autobiography written in England, mentioned going to Norwich to speak with her in around 1414.

Julian of Norwich lived in a time of turmoil, but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God's love in terms of joy and compassion, as opposed to law and duty. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God loved everyone and wanted to save them all.

Popular theology, confirmed in people’s minds by the Black Death and a series of peasant revolts, asserted that God punished the wicked. Julian suggested a more merciful theology, which some say leaned towards universal salvation. Although Julian's views were not typical, the authorities did not challenge her theology because of her status as an anchoress. A lack of references to her work during her own time may indicate that the religious authorities did not count her worthy of refuting, since she was a woman.

Her theology was unique in three aspects: her view of sin; her belief that God is all-loving and without wrath; and her view of Christ as mother. According to Julian, God is both our mother and our father. Feminist theology in our own times has developed along similar lines. The harmony Julian suggests between the motherly and fatherly qualities of Christ has greatly influenced feminist theology.

Julian saw no anger in God. Her belief in God as mother was controversial. Julian believed that the mother's role was the truest of all jobs on earth.

For me Julian’s mantra is a positive and simple way to reaffirm that even in times of stress and trouble, all shall be well.
I wish you peace as we journey into 2014.

Monday 16 December 2013

Promoting My Competition: Are You On My List?

About a year ago, I embarked on a program on my blog to interview other authors in the romance genre. The idea was that my guests would share the wealth of their experiences as writers. I looked at it as an opportunity to get to know fellow authors and learn from them.
Many might consider this as promoting my competition, and they'd be right. That's one of the things I love about belonging to the writing community: not only do we promote each other incidentally with advice, information, reviews, tweets, FB announcements and the like, we actively help each other succeed.

A perfect example is the LoveHistoricals website I've recently had the good fortune to become part of. Thirteen historical romance authors have banded together to promote each other! Five of these writers are women who either blogged with me and/or I was a guest on their blog. I encourage you to read the stories written by these generous authors: Cynthia Woolf, Margery Scott, Sydney Jane Baily, Jill Hughey and Heather Boyd. At the end of this post is the complete list of the remainder of my guests since January 2013, with my thanks.

Cynthia Woolf: Fiery Bride.
After a disastrous marriage, Matchmaker Maggie vowed never to marry again. She will never give another man the power of life and death over her body and soul. Unfortunately, that doesn't keep her lonely heart from fantasizing about her newest client, Caleb Black. She made the mistake of starting a flirtatious correspondence with the clever devil, believing they would never meet. But when his new bride abandons her mid-way to Colorado to elope with another man, Maggie is forced to face the devastatingly handsome Caleb and explain. Now she'll have to stay long enough to make things right and find him a new wife. But Maggie better hang on to her vow with both hands, because Caleb has other plans for the fiery matchmaker...and a very seductive kiss.

Margery Scott: Emma's Wish
A man consumed with grief ...
Sam Jenkins still hasn't come to terms with his wife’s death, but he can't build his ranch in the Texas wilderness and care for three children alone. He has only one heart-breaking choice – send his children away until he can provide for them properly.

A woman desperate for a family ...
A tragic accident changed Emma Witherspoon’s life. Now, she has accepted the fact that she will never have a husband and children of her own, but that doesn't ease the ache in her heart.

A proposition ...
When Emma offers Sam a marriage of convenience, neither of them can foresee the changes that will make their lives – and their relationship – anything but ‘convenient’.

Buy links: Amazon Barnes&Noble Apple (iTunes) Kobo Smashwords

Sydney Jane Baily: An Inescapable Attraction

In a year of roaming the West, angel-faced, sharp-tongued Eliza encounters a world of card sharks and low-life gamesters, all the while trying to forget the searing brand of one man’s fiery kisses. In a dangerous game of high-stakes poker, she tangles with the wrong gambler and finds herself in a heap of trouble. With heartache haunting her relentlessly and a killer on her trail, she has no choice but to run.

Thaddeus Sanborn has always had a weakness for the girl he calls Ellie. Even though she cut him to the quick by getting engaged to his childhood friend, she’s the only female who’s ever kept his interest smoldering at a scorching level. When she steams unexpectedly into his carefree life, derailing his plans for getting rich, he’s stunned by the trouble that accompanies her. But he’ll do just about anything—even kill—to protect her.

Dangerous men, Indian trackers, and wanton women populate the landscape—while steam trains, swift horses, and a lively riverboat keep Eliza and Thaddeus on the move. Though they do their best to escape the peril that’s always merely a hoofbeat behind, they can never run away from their own Inescapable Attraction.
Purchase: http://amzn.com/B00H7LEUOM

Jill Hughey: Vain
A tailor’s abandoned daughter fashions a vain nobleman’s tunic, finding passion between the neckline and hem as misfortune forces her into his precarious aristocratic world. 
Links: Amazon http:// viewBook.at/Vain
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vain-jill-hughey/1114587598?ean=2940016262406
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id669474409
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Books/vain-evolution-series-3
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/284641

Heather Boyd: Miss George's Second Chance 

When desperately private writer Imogen George offered to marry neighbour Peter Watson it wasn't just to save a friend but to secure her own future. With her eyesight failing and no other prospects for marital bliss on the horizon, surely it wouldn't be too horrible to marry without the benefits of love. But then Peter gains a title a week before they’re set to wed and all of Imogen’s expectations change.

Peter once believed that marriage to Imogen would solve his financial problems. He didn't mind marrying for convenience and a large fortune when affection was within reach. Yet when he gains a title, an estate, and a fortune of his own the secretive writer releases him from their engagement so he might marry for love instead. Now he’s returned, unwed and unaware of changes in her life, should he do what is expected or listen to his heart instead?
Aus  https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/miss-georges-second-chance/id737406840?mt=11&uo=4
US  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/miss-georges-second-chance/id737406840?mt=11&uo=4
UK  https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/miss-georges-second-chance/id737406840?mt=11&uo=4
Canada  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/miss-georges-second-chance/id737406840?mt=11&uo=4
Amazon US  http://www.amazon.com/Georges-Second-Chance-Mayhem-Novella-ebook/dp/B00GMU6P7O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384309273&sr=1-1&keywords=B00GMU6P7O
UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Georges-Second-Chance-Mayhem-Novella-ebook/dp/B00GMU6P7O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384309273&sr=1-1&keywords=B00GMU6P7O
aRE  https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-missgeorge039ssecondchanceamissmayhemnovella-1344504-160.html
Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/374755
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miss-georges-second-chance-heather-boyd/1117341656?ean=2940045370844
Kobo  http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/miss-george-s-second-chance

Here's the list of my remaining guests:
Virginia Henley
Danita Cahill
Victoria Pinder
Joan Reeves
Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
Sandy Loyd
Lois Winston
Ruth Glick (Rebecca York)
Judy Roth
Lily Rede
Jennifer Zane
Mary Raimes Curtis
Rose Anderson
Jill James
Janis Patterson
Pati Jager
Sharon Kleve
BC Brown
Leanne Tyler
Bonnie Edwards *
Florence Witkop
Melissa Keir
Berengaria Brown
Gemma Juliana
Shelley Bates *
Cara Marsi
Virginia Vail Kelly
Diane Burton
Dawn Marie Hamilton
E. Ayers
Jodie Esch *
Lynda Bailey
Jane Toombs
Pat Amsden *
Tina Donahue
Reggi Allder *
Mary Marvella
Melba Moon
Kate Hill
Mona Risk
Mimi Barbour *

*Fellow members of Vancouver Island Chapter RWA.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Napping: The Romance Writer’s Secret Weapon

If you want to be a successful writer you have to learn to nap. 
When we nap, we are resting our eyes while our imaginations soar. We can sort and sift, visualizing our hero and or heroine, creating scenarios for their story. 

Napping requires a prone position. We might drift off, just far enough to rescue our creative spirit from the chaos of everyday life. 

Where to nap? A bed is the obvious place, or in the living room recliner with the footrest up; a hammock is the best napping invention ever. 

How long should you nap? An hour is the optimum. That’s long enough to free your mind of the nagging demands of real life and set it free to solve the block you’ve encountered in your plot, or come up with an idea to transform a sagging middle into something the reader can’t put down. More than an hour and your family will start to worry. 

Comedian and writer Carrie Snow hit the nail on the head when she said, “No day is so bad it can’t be fixed by a nap.” We can paraphrase her statement to apply to untying knots in our creative thought process. 

If you can’t nap, you can always daydream. What?! Weren't you told to quit daydreaming when you were a child? Like me you probably felt guilty for years when you lapsed into reverie. Instead, we should seek opportunities to daydream. Folding laundry, ironing, riding a bus, cleaning silverware: none of these require your mind to be in the present. You could be off exploring medieval castles, tracking down a vampire or riding the range with a handsome cowboy. One of my favorite places to daydream is walking along a deserted beach. 

Daydreams are fertile soil where creativity incubates. The Muse visits in reverie, even if the daydream has nothing to do with the project you’re working on. You know you've been daydreaming successfully when you’re suddenly jolted out of it! 

But we don’t just dream during the day, do we? Night-time dreams can be problem solvers too. I dream about my characters especially in the early hours of the morning, just before waking. I've "written" some of my best work then. Of course, sometimes I can’t remember the details when I wake up, but sooner or later, it sifts back into my consciousness and becomes an Aha! moment. 

Beethoven and Brahms used to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to write down scores. Thoreau kept a pencil and paper under his pillow. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the poem Kubla Khan in his sleep and Robert Louis Stevenson worked out plot details of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I can almost guarantee that napping, daydreaming and nightscaping will resolve seemingly insoluble problems, even those that have nothing to do with writing. In The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco says, “A dream is a scripture.”

I wish you sweet dreams!