In my novel, The Healing Touch, Isabelle is already over fifty when she attracts the attention of a much younger Greek Adonis, the man with whom she falls in love, and he with her.
But you might imagine I’m talking about women and while it’s true that many women I’ve spoken with, feel this way, I have also talked with men who think the same.
We all age and most of the features of ageing sneak up on us. We may notice a few extra lines, a few extra pounds. Our eyesight may not be as perfectly clear as it once was. We may have a few aches and pains and don’t get me started on menopause. But none of these things disturbs us too much because they happen gradually, allowing us to get used to our changing bodies.
I assumed becoming invisible – the dreaded concern I’d heard so much about – was an element of ageing that would sneak up on me, too. But I’ve been told the truth is very different. Apparently, there is a sudden realisation of the feeling that you are no longer attractive to others, no longer considered vital and useful, no longer considered sexy and desirable. And often, it happens because of others’ reaction towards you.
A few years ago, I was very ill and ended up in the hospital. I was fifty years old at the time and relegated to the geriatric ward where – I kid you not – most other occupants were just shy of a hundred years old or older. We were all treated as though we didn’t matter, as though our lives were already over. It disturbed me greatly.
After I got better and left the hospital, I promised myself that I will never be treated again as invisible just because of the number that makes up my age.
Sure, I don’t have my skinny, toned, youthful body anymore, my face no longer carries the glow of youth, but I’m happy in my skin. I keep my body healthy by eating properly. I exercise as much as I want to by walking and swimming. I paint my nails, wear make-up, colour my hair and look after myself.
So, what if twenty-five-year-olds don’t fancy me anymore? Do I really want them to? No. I like myself, and make the most of myself. I have nothing to prove anymore. I feel confident, and I enjoy my life. And guess what? Younger guys still look at me, and younger women appreciate my style and sometimes even ask for make-up tips.
I don’t think we have to become invisible. I certainly don’t intend to, and I urge you not to either. You are still valuable. You are still useful. You are still vital no matter your age. Your mere presence in this world is a blessing to those who know you and those who meet you.
Some of the most interesting, inspirational, glamorous, confident, funny and stylish women in my life are all much older than fifty and I adore them.
It is time we honour ourselves and each other and not allow labels to affect who we should become as we age, just as my character, Isabelle does in my novel, The Healing Touch.
Inspired by true events, The Healing Touch is a mesmerising story of loss, heartbreak, passion and love in many guises.
If you liked The Notebook, then you’ll love The Healing Touch.
Explore The Healing Touch, the first novel in the captivating Love Beyond Reason series today.
“Profoundly moving, delightfully evocative and totally absorbing… reminds me of novels by Nicholas Sparks.”
– Mary Anne Yarde, author of the award-winning series The Du Lac Chronicles.
Disclaimer: This novel contains some heat and a happy ending. Don’t forget, it’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had difficulty sleeping. It’s a serious issue for me and others who suffer from insomnia. Over the years, I’ve learned to live with it and tried to adjust my lifestyle to incorporate it rather than fighting it. I discovered insomnia has its uses.
Around two o’clock one morning, unable to sleep, I switched on the television. As I flicked through the channels, I came upon a BBC Four documentary in which literary novelist, Stella Duffy, took on the challenge of writing a romance for Mills and Boon (Harlequin in the US).
I believe it was part of a celebration of their one-hundredth birthday and a re-run of an earlier program. What fascinated me, in particular, was how impactful romance had been and continues to be, on society and on women.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, but I hadn’t realised romantic fiction is written primarily by women for women. Most other art forms have been created and/or developed by men. But romantic fiction looks at the world through the eyes of women.
Romance novels have changed drastically over the years and not all romance readers are women. But the vast majority are. I suspect there are as many reasons people read romantic fiction as there are genres and subgenres of romantic fiction in the world.
It soon became clear from the documentary that writing romantic fiction was rather more difficult than I’d imagined it to be.
Mills and Boon know a thing or two about romance novels as they’d been in the business so long. Perhaps that’s why they’re so difficult to please? They know instantly whether a romance novel will appeal to their readership.
Many have tried to write romances and have failed. But there is good news. Dedicated courses are on offer and reading as many good romance novels as you can, also helps. And the program showed Stella Duffy joining specialist romance writers’ courses and her progress as she wrote her first romance novel.
I thought starting to write a romance novel sounded like a great idea because the early morning hours is the time when all great ideas are born, isn’t it?
Visiting Mills and Boon’s website, I learned they required three chapters and a synopsis to gauge my suitability as their next superstar romance novel writer. When I read they were keen to find writers who were born in Southern Africa or who wrote novels set there, I thought I’d scored the jackpot. Being from Namibia and having lived in South Africa, I had at least one of those two requirements in the bag. I read their guidelines and sat down to write a story I’d like to read.
Over the following days and weeks, I agonised over it, re-wrote it multiple times, dreamed about it, talked about it to anyone who’d listen, and sent it to all my closest friends for their brutally honest opinion.
Satisfied I could do no more, I hit the submit button and started to write something else. To my utter surprise, I received a long email back from them, expressing interest in my story but asking for changes. I duly implemented the changes, again driving my poor friends loopy with my requests to check even the smallest changes until I felt I had something Mills and Boon might like enough to commission.
But a few weeks later, when I received a short rejection email, the characters in Under A Namibian Sky started to scream at me, as characters so often do. They were alive and wanted to live in the world. They wouldn’t be denied.
It brought me immense pleasure to revisit the world I’d known in my youth. Writing Under A Namibian Sky felt as though I was on holiday in Namibia. I could feel the sun on my skin, breathe in the dry, hot air, and see the vastness of the desert in my mind’s eye as I wrote. I know the people, the characters – several are based on dear friends and family members. But I took a few creative liberties here and there, and those who know Namibia well will recognise where I’ve endeavoured to make the story more exciting, more dynamic.
Under A Namibian Sky isn’t a Mills and Boon novel, but a story that looks at love on many levels, and the first in my Desert Love series.
I’ve been delighted that readers of this novel wanted to know more and it’s a real pleasure to return to Namibia to write the rest of the stories in the series.
Won’t you join me?
I never thought of myself as a romance writer. My go-to staple genres have always been science-fiction, fantasy, psychological thrillers, and horror. Those genres sometimes include romance but it’s not usually the main subject of the book. Yet, whenever I sit down to write something, romance comes out. It puzzled me until I analysed it and the truth dawned on me. We all want love. I’d say we crave it. We want to be loved and fully accepted by another human being. It drives us.
When we read a romance novel, we experience feelings of love through the characters in a way that may not exist in our everyday lives. It gives us the high, the hope that the love we yearn for is possible for us. It helps to renew our belief in love.
We live in a world where we’re bombarded with images of pain, divorce, disasters, acts of violence, and war. But when we read a romance novel, we reconnect with love, with the idea that there is something higher than the pain and discontent that pours daily from our TV screens or from social media.
For readers who have not yet experienced a soulmate love, reading a romance novel can open them up to what that might feel like and how worthwhile a pursuit it can be for them. As one of my characters says in my novel, Under A Namibian Sky, “In the end, love is all we have.”
Yes, love is all we have. We come into this world with nothing but love and when we leave again, that’s all we can take with us. It’s how we expand our souls through love while we’re here that matters most.
Human beings and human relationships are complex. So, stories are a safe way to explore those complexities and can even help us deal with our own issues.
There are many other reasons romance novels are important, but that it can also be entertainment is not to be sneezed at. When a reader with a demanding job or a mum pulled in many directions, read a romance novel, it’s a great way to just relax, have fun, and escape from the daily grind.
Even though nowadays, romance novels are widely accepted, there are still those who turn up their noses at the thought of reading one. That these novels are unrealistic – who really gets the happily ever after, right? – or at worst, that such novels are ‘trashy,’ ‘titillating’ or ‘fluffy,’ and inferior to other genres, is still very much the perception, especially of those who do not read romances. (Interestingly, opponents of romance novels often overlook the fact that classics such as Jane Austen’s books are the most sigh-worthy romances. I assume it’s because her books are ‘older’ that it doesn’t count?)
And yet, the romance genre is the biggest selling genre in the book world. Why? Why do we read them?
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts about why you feel romance novels are important?
Tomorrow is the day of love – Valentine’s Day.
I know Valentine’s Day is about romantic love, but being fascinated by the origins of things we take for granted, I discovered that the history of Valentine’s Day is rather obscure, and clouded by all sorts of legends.
The holiday’s roots lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. But Pope Gelasius I changed the pagan festival into a Christian feast day, declaring February 14 the day to celebrate the memory of St. Valentine, a Christian martyr. But which St. Valentine is supposed to be honoured isn’t clear as there were about a dozen of them, the name being a popular one during the fourteenth century. There was even a Pope Valentine.
The festival used to begin when members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, gathered at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or Lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility, and a dog for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. The matches often ended in marriage.
But, in fact, the medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer may have invented Valentine’s Day as we understand it today. Chaucer did what many historical romance fiction writers of today do – he often placed his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real.
Around 1375 Chaucer wrote a poem, “Parliament of Foules,” in which he links a tradition of romantic love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to his poem, that received widespread attention. The poem refers to a belief commonly held, especially in France and England, that February the 14th was the beginning of birds’ mating season. His line from the poem, “For this was sent on Seynt Valenteyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” is supposed to be the reason for the invention of the holiday as we know it today.
We know that Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. But written Valentine’s only started to appear after 1400.
Charles, Duke of Orleans, while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415 following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, wrote a poem to his wife. It is the oldest known Valentine still in existence today. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.)
Today, Valentine’s greeting cards rival the amount of cards sent out at Christmas.
We know that music predates the written word. Scientists believe that modern humans developed in Africa around 160,000 or so years ago. Around 50,000 years ago these humans began to disperse from Africa to all the corners of our planet.
Since all peoples of the world, including the most isolated tribal groups, have some form of music, scientists reckon that music must have been present in those original societies prior to their distribution around the world.
Social bonding for these early humans was crucial when they were more often the hunted rather than the hunter, when finding food was no mere stroll on the plains. It is believed that for them, music promoted a sense of being together in the same situation, facing the same problems. Music therefore became a communication system for the expression of emotion and the forging of group identities.
It is interesting to note that as soon as modern humans got to Europe, one of the first things they did was to leave not evidence of hunting, not evidence of a fight for survival, but a proper musical instrument. It is the earliest known musical instrument, a bone pipe, which dates back 40,000 years. It was found in Southern Germany and suggests that music was as significant to our ancestors as any other aspect of their lives. Of course, the oldest human instrument, in all likelihood, was probably the human voice.
Humans seem to be adapted specifically for music. Music activates our pleasure centres in ways similar to drugs, food and sex. The patterns and features of music are also perceived in special ways by our brains, distinct from ordinary sounds. This explains some of what we find attractive in things like the patterns of notes in an octave, musical harmony and complex rhythm.
Today if music is about anything it is about expressing and inducing emotion.
But let us first of all take a closer look at what music is. We know that it does not have one concrete meaning. That not all people will react similarly to a specific piece of music is obvious to anyone who loves music, but explaining the reasons for these differences is considered by music therapy researchers to be so difficult that the question is usually avoided entirely.
Music certainly means something different for different people. For example, to a musician, music is their life. They eat, breathe and live music. Music is their passion. For others it is a hobby, a pastime. Music is also a means to relaxation for some and a source of great excitement to others. For example, a party would be unimaginable without music.
So we know that music is at least sound because we can hear it, but you have probably also noticed that you are able to feel the sound of music in your own body. Perhaps in the past you have stood next to a large speaker. Or maybe you have felt the rumbling of heavy bass music through a table or a floor. These effects prove that sound is some kind of physical phenomenon. Sound must somehow be hitting you, letting you feel the beat. But we don’t see, or taste or smell anything when we feel sound. There is nothing but air. It stands to reason therefore that we must somehow be feeling the air when we feel sound.
A very simple but effective experiment might shed more light on how we feel the air. Gently place your fingers on your larynx, the tube through which air passes when we breathe or talk, or sing. Now, keep your fingers gently touching your larynx and sing any note for a few seconds. If you are not the singing type, you can also hum or talk instead of singing. You may have noticed that your larynx vibrated, but if you did not, you may need to sing a little louder.
The results of our experiment on sound showed that your larynx vibrated when you made a sound. This means your larynx caused the air to vibrate. We have proved therefore that sound is just vibrating air.
We now know these three things:
1. music is sound, 2. music is vibration and 3. we experience music through some form of physicality, either externally or internally.
This brings us to the next stage of our investigation. It might be very interesting to find out what music is for. Apparently the thought of music and humans fill biologists with trepidation. Its existence and variety in human cultures and the strong evidence that the brain comes preloaded with musical circuits, suggest that music is as much a product of human evolution as, say thumbs. But that raises the question of what music is for.
Darwin speculated that human music, like birdsong, attracts mates. Or, as he put it, prelinguistic human ancestors tried to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.
Studies in neuroscience and anthropology do suggest that indeed, music did help our human ancestors survive, particularly before language. For example, scientists suggest that language may have been built on the neural underpinnings of music.
It has now been proved that music can exist within the brain in the absence of language, a sign that the two evolved independently. Since language impairment does not wipe out musical ability, it stands to reason that musical ability must have a longer evolutionary history. And because music has grammar-like qualities, it might have served an even greater function.
With music hardwired in our brains, early humans had the neural foundation for the development of what most distinguishes us from other animals, symbolic thought and language.
But for most of us in our day-to-day lives, music has three major functions.
1. Music affects our moods and can make us feel, happy, sad, excited, calm or hopeful.
2. Music adds colour to our lives – without it, the world would be very plain.
3. And music is a creative outlet, a way we express ourselves when words are not enough.
That does not tell us, however, why music is important. But to say that music is important in our lives seems an understatement, given the fact that we spend billions on music each year.
We already know that music affect our moods. Many musicologists believe that music is a form of language or communication that directly accesses the emotions without the intermediation of words and rational thought. If that is true, and I guess we all suspect that it is, then we have to look at all the music around us and its impact on us. It’s everywhere. In our homes. On the street. In shops, restaurants and lifts. Even at the dentist. We cannot escape it.
One thing we do know is that our moods affect our bodies which in turn affect our health. But the use of music and sound to improve health is not a novel idea. Though little thought is given today as to the meaning or function of music within society, the civilizations of former times, were very conscious of the power of music. This was especially true of the pre-Christian era.
It has been easy for modern man, born and raised within a society infused with the philosophy of materialism to fall into the trap of regarding music as a non-essential and even peripheral aspect of human life. But both harmful and beneficial effects of music were recognized by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese and Indians.
From ancient China to Egypt, from India to the golden age of Greece, we find the same, the belief that there is something immensely fundamental about music. Something which, they believed, gave it the power to sublimely evolve or to utterly degrade the individual psyche, and thereby to make or break entire civilizations.
Plato and Cicero, like the ancient Chinese and Indians, believed that music profoundly affected the behaviour of entire societies. Particularly in China, the belief was held that the state should regulate the performance of music and prohibit certain types of music because of their potentially harmful effects.
These sentiments might be extreme, but perhaps it can lead us to think about what people living in modern industrialized nations have learned through painful experience, that many of the wonders of technology have deadly side effects. For example, Nuclear power was originally promoted as being a clean and safe alternative to burning coal and oil. And the ubiquitous plastics that promised to make our lives convenient are now recognized as a major hazard to our own and our planet’s health. Could it therefore be possible that music, which many of us take for granted as just background noise, could also have unrecognized effects, both harmful and beneficial.
Let us take a brief look at what happens to us when we listen to music. We all know that our heartbeat and breathing changes with different types of music, and that our eyes’ pupils dilate. Music also affects our skin temperature. But we lose music’s true power by not letting it through our bodies, and by restricting the pleasure and healing power of music, for example by sitting still in a classical concert when our body is aching to move with the rhythm of the music. The body has become so abstracted from music that we do not do the right things with our bodies and end up having not only problems with weight for example, but also with sex, energy and body dismorphia, rife, especially among younger people.
When we wilfully restrict our body’s natural movement in response to music, we’re damaging ourselves. We know this because the effects of music on the body can be measured. For example, measurements have been taken of the sensation of music in the human brain. Music can also significantly affect blood cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, secreted by the adrenal glands. In certain circumstances, for example, competing as an athlete, elevated cortisol levels, easily obtained by playing loud, strident music, is desirable, but it is not usually a good thing. When cortisol and adrenal levels remain high with no outlet, it could cause stress, which could lead to high blood pressure, strokes and even heart attacks.
We should perhaps ask whether certain types of agitating music, such as rock or heavy metal may therefore induce excessive cortisol over extended periods of time which would become addictive, in a similar manner to the adrenal rush one gets from drinking coffee.
A French ear specialist confirmed that the same frequencies and musical styles of Baroque or classical composition that has proved beneficial for plants were also beneficial for humans. Especially those compositions rich in stringed instruments, such as violin, viola, cello and harp.
Numerous other studies from hospitals and medical schools have demonstrated the effects of music on human behaviour and physiology. For example, melodic intonation therapy, which involves speaking in a strongly musical manner, promotes recovery in stroke patients and helps those who stutter.
Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos, specifically, has been shown to reduce total seizure activity in epileptic. And the music was effective even for epileptics who were comatose at the time.
Spatio temporal math reasoning ability in second graders are significantly enhanced by musical keyboard training.
Music has also been shown to help reduce post surgical stress and pain, to reduce symptoms of depression in home bound elderly people, and to aid children who are developmentally delayed by enhancing hand-eye coordination.
Further research has shown that regular vocal toning of only ten minutes a day, is equivalent to taking ten milligrams of valium.
We all know about the proven effects of Baroque instrumental music on our memory and its aid in learning new languages. That is because music and language are inextricably linked through the interconnections in our brains. Therefore, musical and linguistic intelligence are highly correlated.
We also know about the Mozart effect. Yes, it even has a name. It is the theory that listening to Mozart’s music is supposed to enhance deep rest and rejuvenation, intelligence and learning, and creativity and imagination. Claims have even been made that listening to Mozart’s music for fifteen minutes, would improve our IQ by eight to nine points.
And then there is the effect of music on the unborn baby. Although sound is greatly distorted because of the liquid and tissue surrounding the foetus, there is more than sufficient musical stimulation to be heard in the womb. Some studies suggest that prenatal exposure to music, assist infant development and therefore may one day serve to improve certain developmental delays in some children.
Ultimately, attentive and sensitive listening leads us to the music inside ourselves, to the magic in music.
Of course we now know that not only music is composed of vibrations. Supposedly solid matter and all forms of energy, including ourselves, are also composed of vibrations. The only difference between each of these phenomena is their frequency of vibration. Each merges into the other at a certain wavelength, which obviously means, when one gets down to it, that they are one and the same thing.
When this vibratory activity occurs at a frequency of around 600,000 billion waves per second, it becomes particularly interesting and accessible to us in everyday life, for this is the frequency at which our eyes have been designed to sense the vibrations and transmit them to our brains in the form of visual perception of light and colour and sound.
We now know that all matter is made of molecules. The molecules are made of atoms. The atoms are made of electrons, protons, and neutrons. The electrons, protons, and neutrons are made of quarks. The quarks are made of sub-quarks. And the sub-quarks are made of vibrating strings of energy. In fact, scientists have proved that everything is in a state of vibration, by demonstrating that atoms and sub-atomic particles are themselves composed of nothing else but energy in a state of vibration and oscillation. And one of the experiments’ conclusions proved that atoms are harmonic resonators, just like humans. This resonance principle effectively disintegrates the barriers between physics and music. The principle is rapidly establishing the concept that not only the atom, but all sub-atomic particles, can be theoretically considered as being nodes of resonance. In other words, some scientists are beginning to regard the atom as a kind of tiny musical note.
Scientists have also demonstrated that the structure of the atom contains ratios and numbers which resemble to a degree impossible to account for by chance, the harmonic principles of music. The intervals and harmonics of music, mirroring the geometry of the heavens, may also be present in some mysterious way not only within the physical form of man, but also within the patterns of his psychology.
Data thus far suggests that the entire universe may then be based upon vibration, that vibration may be the fundamental nature of each and every energy form currently known to science. The vibrations could be likened to playing a note on a guitar string, then hit a fret and pluck it again. You get different notes. When these incredibly tiny strings vibrate in different ways, different forms of matter appear.
This opens up a possibility more incredible than we could have imagined. The potential of a grand unified field theory. For example let us note the interesting fact that ultrasonic sound vibrating a glass rod causes the rod to emanate both heat and light, a demonstrable example of sound energy becoming the energies of both heat and light.
And even more astonishing, sound vibration could therefore mean that the entire Universe may be nothing more than a song.
Come and see my guest post about my children’s novel, George And The Gargoyle Who Lived In The Garden, on the wonderful Mary Anne Yarde‘s blog, Myths, Legends, Books and Coffee Pots.
Mary Anne Yarde is the award winning and best selling author of the Du Lac Chronicles – great stories about Lancelot Du Lac’s sons a the time after King Arthur’s reign. I cannot recommend them highly enough!
My guest blog is about the inspiration behind writing my children’s novel, George And The Gargoyle Who Lived In The Garden.
I feel with the world in its current state, many of us experience fearfulness. But fear is the mind-killer. Fear paralyses us. Fear makes us smaller than we are. Fear tramples on our dreams.
I am a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune, from where the phrase, Fear is the mind-killer, originates.
So, I was excited when I came across this blog post by the amazing Kristen Lamb, in which she quotes Frank Herbert, and talks about this topic much more eloquently than I ever could, so I’m sharing her post here. Even though Kristen is talking about fear from the point of view as a writer, I feel it affects us all and is therefore relevant to all of us.
If you want to visit her website, here is the link to her blog – https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/fear-is-the-mind-killer-in-control-of-your-life/
The single greatest challenge you will face in trying to accomplish anything great is FEAR. FEAR is nothing to be underestimated and we need to learn to manage it if we want to succeed. I remember being a kid and Dune was one of my favorite movies. At the age of ten I memorized Paul Atreides’ mantra:
At the time I just thought it was a seriously cool movie line. It was only when I grew older that I began to truly understand how powerful these words were.
Fear IS the mind-killer. Remember last time we talked about how vital it is to make sure we have our heads in the right spot. Where the mind goes, the man follows and if we are scope-locked on all the stuff that overwhelms and terrifies us? We are doomed before we start. Our head is not in the game.
I find it so fascinating that Frank Herbert called it the “little-death” but isn’t it? Fear is not real. Fear is the work of imaginations and yet those small cracks are what can bring everything crashing down.
Words have tremendous power and we as writers are wise to appreciate this. We might be sinking into despair. We are anxious and can’t sleep. We can’t focus and so we say things like, “I am tired” or “I’m depressed” but by using these blanket statement copouts we are only feeding the very thing feeding on us. We need to face it. NAME IT.
It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to give that fear a name because until we know what it IS, we can’t fight back. What is the first thing any doctor does when we come into the ER? He finds the thing’s NAME. Sure our chest hurts and we are sweaty and dizzy and our blood pressure is wrong but that could be anything from cardiac arrest to a panic attack. NAMING what is going on is vital for any kind of treatment.
Do we really want a doctor cracking open our chest because we are having a panic attack? Conversely do we want the doctor to recommend yoga when we have a blocked artery?
Feel the emotion. Don’t stuff it. No I don’t need a sandwich, a drink, a nap, a trip to the mall, or yet another pass through Facebook. I need to feel what is going on instead of self-medicating or avoiding it. It’s like a squall line. Just let it pass over and beyond.
Here is the deal, fear isn’t (often) real and even when it is? It isn’t permanent unless we permit it to stay. We will still be here.
So why do I talk about all of this? Because we have to face and conquer fear every single day and maybe you are experiencing symptoms of fear but you aren’t aware of it. Time to peer down that dark alley of the soul…
I can raise my hand and attest I am guilty. I have too many things that I start and I don’t finish. Is this because I am lazy? Hardly. Is it because I don’t love what I do? Not at all. If I get really, really honest and make a list of all the things I have left undone, I can often see fear staring back at me.
A quick story to illustrate…
I remember being SO confident when I scored my mega-agent out of New York. He thought I was brilliant and fresh and my book was sheer genius. I was on CLOUD NINE and bulletproof. I was so sure that I’d have a book deal instantly because Russ was that powerful of an agent.
I remember when I signed with him talking on the phone and he said, “Okay, here is how it is going to go down. Once I get your proposal I am going to make a few calls and then things are going to happen very fast. Are you ready for this?”
GOD YES! Put me IN Coach!
So a month passes, then two, then six and all this time my confidence is leaking out like air from an overfilled balloon *Kristen’s ego makes long farting sound*. After a year and a half?
I had avoided talking to my agent because I just couldn’t bear being a failure. Finally, I had to do something so I emailed and he gave me the news I knew was coming but had avoided. NY didn’t want a social media book. They believed my teachings were the tip of the spear and were afraid of it.
And I know all of this sounds seriously weird because every publisher at the time was requiring social media for all of its authors. I had many long and grueling conversations with authors who are household names who’d come to me vexed out of their minds because their publishers wanted to know why they didn’t have a million FB fans. They were desperate for help.
But these same publishers that were requiring social media, didn’t want the manual.
I was crushed. I didn’t want to be self-published. I wanted to be legit. I wanted to be a Random Penguin but it wasn’t in the cards. So, I gathered what was left of my ego and self-published Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World because my ego was not as important as you guys’ futures.
But how long did I sit on that book?
Too long. Too long would be the answer.
I was terrified of failing. I was terrified of being grouped in as “one of those self-published hacks” even though I knew (in my mind) that self-publishing was just as viable as legacy and in many ways MORE viable. My head and my heart just could not get on the same page because I was afraid.
So fast-forward a couple more years and I have finished this AMAZING romantic suspense. I send it to an agent friend and she loved it…but didn’t rep the genre. She told me the book was awesome and to just query publishers direct and she would handle the contract. I got rejected. Then a publisher accepted (then they were no longer financially solvent so I didn’t feel good about signing). Then another rejected. So about this point I am batting 500. 50% love the book and 50% don’t want it.
I couldn’t leave the book unpublished any longer even though it was tempting. All the voices were there.
You teach writing, so if your book sucks you are FINISHEEEEEED.
Why can’t you get a real publisher?
Maybe you should stick with social media.
And what did I do? Again, I sat on a great book…because I was afraid. I was afraid of failure, of you guys tossing digital tomatoes at my work. Even though I know there is NO way to write a perfect book. I have read reviews for every book I adored and thought was perfect and someone else hated it. I knew this. I know this. But I was still scared sh….. witless.
But I have learned that when I feel fear that 1) it is often BS and nothing to really be afraid of and 2) it is generally a good sign I am going in the right direction. So I made some more connections and now my book is with a new and amazing publisher who I think is a great fit. Maybe the book flops. I dunno. I won’t know until I put it out there.
I was afraid of failure but also afraid of success.
What if it does well and it is the only book in me? And I can’t do it AGAIN?
Yeah well we will cross that bridge when we get there.
So if you have things you are NOT finishing, ask yourself WHY? What are you afraid of? Then do it anyway.
I can always tell when I am operating in a place of fear when I pay attention to what is on my mind. What am I constantly complaining about?
***Which first of all, ditch complaining. Complaining alone is a BIG RED FLAG something is wrong.
Often we will fixate on the things we can’t control at the expense of things we can because it offers us a handy excuse if everything craps the bed. If I spent my time moaning about how unfair it was NY didn’t want my book instead of hustling and figuring out how to unleash my book onto the world?
I’d still be complaining. Then, when I never published the book and my career as an expert withered and dried up, I would have someone to blame other than myself. I sure wouldn’t have the single most popular book on branding for authors.
Same with the fiction. I had a choice. Whine about the rejections and shelve the book and hide as a blogger or suck it up and step it up.
Well, I would have been a huge deal if only someone else had done X.
Here’s the deal. No decision is still a decision. But often when we are scared we hem and we haw and we fail to ever decide because deep down we know if we put it off long enough? Someone else WILL decide for us. Then, if it goes badly, we have an out.
Early in my writing journey I bounced from genre to genre to genre. Maybe I was a romance writer, no a thriller writer, no science fiction. Notice how this looks a lot like never finishing. Decide and commit. Do it afraid.
There are a lot more symptoms of fear but these are the three BIGGIES. Remember that nothing great is ever going to happen in your comfort zone. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is doing X in spite of fear.
This business is really really hard and it requires us being so vulnerable and it is super easy to get kicked in the confidence. Rejection sucks. It hurts. But failure isn’t permanent. Neither is success. All of this will pass over us and through us and…
ONLY WE WILL REMAIN.
A huge way to combat fear is like I said, we gotta name it. Then we need to make a decision and if it still scares us? Get help. If you are afraid your book is crap? Hire a pro to look at it, be honest and tell you how to fix it. Heck, email me kristen at wana intl dot com. If branding scares you? Take a class. Got a bunch listed below and anyone who has taken my classes will tell you I move heaven and earth to help you. I can be that big badass sister you need to help you sleep at night.
Get a mentor to guide you.
I have a handful of things on the business side or publishing that are freaking me out right now. Why? Because I don’t yet UNDERSTAND them. Bookbub? How does it work? So what did I do? I called in favors from people on-line, people I have served and asked, “Hey I am freaked out. Can you help a Sistah OUT?”
WE ARE NOT ALONE.
What are your thoughts? I have been struggling with confidence lately. Off my game, out of my groove. I know it is because I am doing and trying new things in new areas where I am NOT the sole reigning diva and that scares me. But I am here. We are here. We have each other.
Do you succumb to your fear too easily? Maybe spend too much time with distractions? Or complain and whine about stuff you can’t change? Hey we ALL do it. No shame here, my kiddos. Write down what you fear. Here, in the comments and we can bond.
I fear that none of what I do matters. That I am really not making a difference and I really didn’t earn any of my success. It was all a fluke or an accident and one day people are going to wake up and see I have no idea what I am doing.
There, got you started 😀 .
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses!
All you need is an internet connection!
One of the most disturbing elements of ageing is the idea that we become invisible after a certain age, usually after fifty.
We all age and most of the features of aging sneak up on us. We may notice a few extra lines, a few extra pounds, our eyesight may not be as perfectly clear as it once was, we may have a few aches and pains, and don’t get me started on menopause. But none of these things generally disturb us too much because they happen gradually, giving us the opportunity to get used to our changing bodies.
I assumed becoming invisible – the dreaded concern I’d heard so much about – was also an element of aging that would sneak up on me. But I’ve been told it is very different. Apparently, it is the sudden realization of the feeling that you are no longer attractive to others, no longer considered vital and useful, no longer considered sexy and desirable. And it often comes as a result of others’ reaction towards you.
A few years ago, I was very ill and ended up in hospital. I was fifty years old at the time and relegated to the geriatric ward where – I kid you not – most other occupants were one hundred years old or older.
After I got better and left the hospital, I promised myself that I will never be treated again as invisible just because of a number that makes up my age. Sure, I don’t have my skinny, toned, youthful body anymore, my face no longer carries the glow of youth, but I’m happy in my skin. I keep my body healthy by eating properly. I exercise as much as I want to by walking and swimming weekly and I generally look after myself.
So what if twenty-five year olds don’t fancy me anymore. Do I really want them to? No. I like myself and I make the most of myself. I dress well, wear subtle make-up daily and I feel good about myself. I feel confident, and I enjoy my life. And guess what? Younger guys still look at me, and younger women appreciate my style and ask for make-up tips.
I don’t think we have to become invisible. I certainly don’t intend to, and I urge you not to either. You are still valuable, you are still useful, you are still vital no matter your age. Your mere presence in this world is a blessing to those who know you and to those who meet you.
Some of the most interesting, inspirational, glamorous, confident, funny and stylish women in my life are all much older than fifty.
In my novel, The Healing Touch, Isabelle is already over fifty when she attracts the attention of a Greek Adonis, the man with whom she falls in love, and he with her.
It is time we honour ourselves and each other, and not allow labels to affect who we should become as we age.
I have been listening to Ed Sheeran’s new song, Castle On The Hill. It’s not the first time that he struck me as a very modern Troubadour.
Here is a singer/musician who gives us songs about love and tells stories through his songs that we can all relate to. He does so in a simple yet sophisticated manner. His songs convey sincerity and realness, which his voice is effortlessly able to communicate. Often, it’s just him and his guitar, performing whilst wearing jeans and a t-shirt, hence my reference to him being a modern day troubadour. I feel this is most likely why he has succeeded where others have not.
You may well ask why I’m blogging today about Ed Sheeran and music. Many of you may well know that in a previous life, I worked as an operatic soprano and that I continue to teach. The voice has been, and remains, an obsession and I cannot help but notice when I come across a voice that touches me, that stands out in its ability to be the musical instrument it is, to convey its messages clearly and with sincerity. Ed Sheeran’s voice is one such voice for me. But by his own admission, he didn’t always sound like he does today. It took incredible hard work, tenacity and deliberate practise to get to where he is today, and for that, I admire him even more.
His new song, Castle On The Hill has a great message for us all, don’t you think?
When I was six years old I broke my leg
I was running from my brother and his friends
And tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass I rolled down
I was younger then, take me back to when I
Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home
I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Fifteen years old and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes
Running from the law through the backfields and getting drunk with my friends
Had my first kiss on a Friday night, I don’t reckon that I did it right
But I was younger then, take me back to when
We found weekend jobs, when we got paid
We’d buy cheap spirits and drink them straight
Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long, oh how we’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home
I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
One friend left to sell clothes
One works down by the coast
One had two kids but lives alone
One’s brother overdosed
One’s already on his second wife
One’s just barely getting by
But these people raised me
And I can’t wait to go home
And I’m on my way, I still remember
These old country lanes
When we did not know the answers
And I miss the way you make me feel, it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill