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?
Or paperback from here for £8.75 with free delivery in the UK only. £3.99 postage for orders worldwide.
The Healing Touch – Paperback
“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.
How do you live in a world without your voice, without passion, and without James…?
Isabelle spent her career as an opera singer and her life married to an emotionally unavailable man. With the onset of the menopause, Isabelle loses her most precious gift – her voice. As time marches unforgivably on, Isabelle yearns to experience the love and passion she’d always dreamt of in her operatic roles.
Throwing herself into her work, Isabelle finds her soulmate in the least likely of moments. When James auditions for the lead in one of her shows, Isabelle discovers the one thing she has spent her life searching for – him.
But when James unexpectedly dies, Isabelle must forge a new life for herself in a world that is suddenly unfamiliar and forever cold.
Is it too late for her to find the love she craves or could Angelo be the healing touch to save her fragmented soul?
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.
Disclaimer: This novel is written in British English, contains some heat, a happy ending and can be read as a standalone novel. Don’t forget, it’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
Videos on The Healing Touch
Answering readers’ questions about my novel, The Healing Touch.
Is Sexual Neglect A Spiritual Issue – Readers’ questions on
my novel, The Healing Touch
Angelina talks to Elizabeth Dockrell-Tyler – part 1
Angelina talks to Elizabeth Dockrell-Tyler – part 2
Angelina talks to Elizabeth Dockrell-Tyler – part 3
“Heat in the Desert takes contemporary romance to another level – a real page-turner. Trust me – you’ll love it!” – a reviewer.
Saira and Gerhard live entirely different lives.
Feisty and ambitious, Saira reluctantly accepts an assignment to produce a TV pilot about weddings at the prestigious, romantic Desert Lodge. But when the small plane taking her there malfunctions, she finds herself stranded in the desert with sexy, muscular, mysterious Gerhard and his yummy German good looks.
Gerhard is everything Saira desires: he is regal, gorgeous, genuine. She cannot help but feel drawn to him.
Saira might just be the woman of Gerhard’s dreams, and now he’s found her, he doesn’t want to let her go. But there are things in Gerhard’s past that threaten to ruin everything…
Explore Heat in the Desert, a novel in the captivating Desert Love contemporary romance series, today.
“The way the author describes the characters’ emotions stood out for me as it made the story come alive. I could feel everything they felt.” – beta reader.
Disclaimer: You can read this novel as part of the series or as a stand-alone novel. You may enjoy a better reading experience by reading it in the series. It contains some heat and a happy ending. Don’t forget, it’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
Love In Modena
Love In Modena is available as an eBook and paperback here:
“Often I am left with a feeling of ‘what happened after’ in romance books, and it was really refreshing to read a follow-up story.” – Mary Anne Yarde, award-winning author of the Du Lac Chronicles.
Naomi has found her prince, her Luca, her soul mate. In Modena, she also found her place in the world with him. But she can’t let go of Namibia so easily, not now she’s become the new owner of Desert Lodge.
Luca, the heir apparent to the Armati supercar dynasty, understands Naomi’s dilemma. Their decision to split their time and responsibilities between the two countries seems like the perfect solution.
Theirs is a lifestyle others can only dream of.
But neither expects that an unforeseen foe in their midst would test their relationship to the limits.
If you’ve loved Luca and Naomi’s story in Under A Namibian Sky, then you’ll be thrilled by Love in Modena, the follow-up novella to that much-loved contemporary romance novel.
Get your copy of Love in Modena today to find out what happens to Luca and Naomi once they leave the desert.
Disclaimer: This novel contains some heat and a happy ending. Don’t forget, it’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
Under A Namibian Sky
Under A Namibian Sky is now available on Amazon as an eBook and paperback.
A beautiful love story that will capture your heart.
No one remains lost. Love is the deepest healer of all.
Desert guide, Naomi Smith, is an ordinary young woman – until her world is shattered by the arrival of Luca Armati, the heir apparent to the Italian supercar dynasty that bears his family name.
Naomi is appointed to look after Luca and his older secretary during their short stay at Desert Lodge. She suspects he’s a spoiled brat, like all the other ‘princes’ who come to vacation there and readies herself for his demands. But she soon realizes there is more to Luca than meets the eye. When Luca’s secret is exposed, the hurt he carries allows Naomi to share her secret heartache with him.
Will the pain of their past experiences prevent them from having the courage to admit their soulmate connection?
If you like novels by M. M. Kay or Mary Stewart, then you will love Under A Namibian Sky, an emotionally riveting love story.
Explore Under A Namibian Sky, the first novel in the captivating Desert Love contemporary romance series today.
“The story was so compelling, I simply couldn’t put this book down.” – Amazon reviewer.
Disclaimer: This novel contains some heat and a happy ending. Don’t forget, it’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
You can listen to Under A Namibian Sky here on my YouTube channel – each chapter read by me:
If you liked reading the stories in this series, I’d be delighted if you’d be so kind as to post a review on Amazon telling me what you thought. Reviews are really important. Not only do they tell other potential readers what to expect from a novel, but they also allow the novel to live in the world. It means I’ll be able to continue to write more stories for you.
You can also read more about Under A Namibian Sky here: http://circleofbooks.com/2017/09/05/under-a-namibian-sky-by-angelina-kalahari/
You can connect with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read and respond to every email.
UNDER A NAMIBIAN SKY LAUNCH
Hello, everyone! Welcome to the launch of Under A Namibian Sky. Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m excited to introduce Under A Namibian Sky to you.
I know this bit usually goes at the end, but I’d like to thank all the amazing people who have helped Under A Namibian Sky to become a satisfying novel for readers. It takes teamwork.
So, to my amazing editor, Christine, thank you so much. You asked all the difficult questions that made me dig deeper.
Thank you to my great beta readers for the amazing job you guys have done. Writing can be a lonely process and a scary one once you give your baby to someone else to read for the first time. Thank you for giving your honest feedback and notes in a kind and encouraging manner. It means the world.
So, what is Under A Namibian Sky about? It’s essentially a contemporary romance. It’s the story of Luca and Naomi and it’s set in Namibia.
Briefly, Naomi’s parents died when she was five. After being shunted from foster parents to foster parents, she was understandably traumatised, to say the least. No one had really taken the time to explain to her that her parents had died and no one had seemed to realise that she needed to grieve. As a result, she’d locked up her emotions and carried a deep and abiding fear of loving anyone else in case she’d again lose them to death.
But her grandmother’s best friend, Auntie Elsa, eventually adopted Naomi. She went to live with her and her husband, Uncle Wouter, at Desert Lodge. The lodge bordered on the Namib Desert and when she was old enough, Naomi was allowed to play with the San tribe’s children there. They taught her about the desert, about what plants were safe to eat and where to find water. This led to her working as a desert guide at the lodge when she became old enough.
Luca, on the other hand, comes from a very privileged background – the Armati supercar dynasty in Italy. He is the heir apparent. But Luca has other hobbies that he’s passionate about. One of which is photographing and painting elephants. His secretary, Santina, who has taken care of him since he was a child when his mother left them, arranged a holiday in Namibia so that he could fulfil his dream and take a break from work at the same time.
Luca immediately recognises how different Naomi is from the models he usually hangs out with. But she assumes he is just another one of the rich ‘princes’ who makes everyone’s lives hell for as long as they’re on holiday at the lodge.
I don’t want to give too much away but I will say this – Under A Namibian Sky has many twists and turns. A sneak peek is when Luca and Naomi come in contact with a tiny newborn elephant. They help to rescue her when her mother is killed by poachers.
Namibia holds a special place in my heart because it is where I was born. The setting is perfect for romance, danger, spirituality and love.
The original cover was designed by the multi-talented Sharon Brownlie.
Covers are really important because they’re “the picture that paints a thousand words,” as the lyrics of one of my favourite Bread songs says. Or in the case of a novel, thousands of words!
I saw one of Sharon’s pre-made covers with a couple that looked exactly like Luca and Naomi. I couldn’t believe it. Usually, it’s impossible to get a picture that looks exactly like the couple in your head. But there they were.
Luca, as he appeared to me, is tall, athletic and although aristocratic, has a somewhat devil-may-care boyishness about him. A kind of Richard Branson vibe, if you like.
Naomi, also tall and athletic, is independent and strong and I feel the figure on the cover depicts her somewhat stubborn streak perfectly.
Neither Sharon nor I imagined Luca and Naomi to be in silhouette, to begin with, but realised the night sky would have no light source to show them in any other way.
The picture of the sky that Sharon used, is an actual picture of the night sky over the Namib Desert. The fact that it has a purple tint, is a hint of the spirituality behind the fact that Luca and Naomi are soul mates.
In the distance, you can see the mother and the baby elephant that played such a big part in their relationship. Because Naomi had reluctantly allowed Luca to accompany her on the ellie’s rescue mission, he then invited her out for dinner. Perhaps without that initial dinner, who knows if they’d ever got together?
Again, I’d like to thank everyone who helped choose the elements for the perfect cover.
Unfortunately, this cover didn’t translate well into the paperback version and I felt a new cover was needed.
Stepping into the fray was my lovely niece, Mia Troost, a very talented artist, currently in her second year at University, studying for a BA degree in Graphic Design.
Mia’s brief, like Sharon’s, was for a romantic cover with a sky that takes your breath away, somewhere in the Namibian Desert, lovers, a tree or two, and elephants in the background.
Though I adore Sharon’s cover, I love Mia’s cover, too and I’m deeply grateful to her for stepping in at such short notice because I wanted the new cover to be available at the same time as the follow-up novella, Love In Modena, was launched. I feel Mia more than delivered.
Although I loved the cover Mia had created, I felt the novel deserved to live in the same space as other novels of its kind and I wasn’t sure that this cover did that job.
As I’m a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors, I checked their website for a suitable cover designer. I came upon the award-winning cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith, who took my covers under her wing and delivered the most beautiful and romantic covers to sit on the same shelves as other novels in the contemporary romance genre.
I’m deeply grateful for Jane’s amazing work. It was so easy to work with her and can’t wait for her to create the covers for my next novels.
As I don’t want to spoil it for you, I’ll talk only about Luca and Naomi. I may post something on another day about some of the other characters.
Writing her, Naomi made me feel compassion and fury almost in equal amounts. I was sad for her that she was so traumatised as a little girl by the loss of her parents and by being moved from foster home to foster home. She was unloved and felt like a failure when she couldn’t make her new families love her. She was too young to understand death and what was happening to her. But her deep-seated fear that everyone she loved would die, stopped her from loving others when it’s so clear that it’s what she craved.
When she developed feelings for Luca, she talked herself out of those. I couldn’t believe that she would be prepared to give up such a love for fear that death would take her from him. But she was stubborn! It would take another traumatic event in her life to let her see the light at last.
Luca, on the other hand, having been abandoned by his mother when he was eight, regarded women with a healthy dose of suspicion. What made it worse, was that the beautiful models who he was used to having in his life, were mostly after his money and fame. But he realised pretty early on, that Naomi was nothing like them. He saw her strength, her independence, her vulnerability and her genuineness.
But when he overheard her saying something to her friend that he was rich and could have any woman he wants, he freaked out. It was a phrase he’d heard too many times.
It took a very distressing situation for him to realise that he loved Naomi and couldn’t imagine being without her.
These characters never stopped talking. I had no choice but to write them down!
Namibia is very special to me. It’s the country of my birth and although I haven’t been there for many years, I know it’s the kind of unspoiled place – for the most part – that doesn’t change. It feels good to know that something can be that constant, especially in this crazy fast-paced world we live in, right?
Desert Lodge is based on a real lodge near the desert. The people and the place will always live in my heart, no matter where in the world I find myself.
Like Naomi, I was lucky enough to have had children from the San tribes to play with when I was a little girl. They taught me about the desert. About which plants were poisonous, which were good to eat, how to find water, which insects were a good source of protein, and which to avoid if you wanted to keep your eyes! So, these are the things I share with Naomi.
The Namib Desert is vast. It’s silent. It’s unearthly beautiful. Parts of it has featured in Hollywood movies, and parts of it have become a source of joy for people seeking action-adventure holidays.
It is this aspect that Desert Lodge eventually adopts as well. But until then, they offer only sunrise and sunset safaris with desert guides in a truck or the odd walking safari with one of the anti-poacher guards employed to keep the wildlife safe.
Here is a short video that shows how San hunter/gatherers find water in the desert.
Under A Namibian Sky is a romance novel and one I hope you’ll all enjoy reading. The funny things is, I never thought of myself as a romance writer. My staple go-to genres have always been science-fiction, fantasy, psychological thrillers and horror. Those genres, of course, sometimes include romance as well. Yet, whenever I sit down to write something, romance is what comes out. It puzzled me until I analysed it and the truth dawned on me.
This is where my thinking led me:
The point that immediately sprang to mind is that we all want love. I’d go so far as to say, we crave it. When we read a romance novel, we experience the feelings of love through the characters in a way that may not exist in our everyday lives. It gives us that high, that hope that the love we yearn for, is possible for us as well. It helps to renew our belief in love. We live in a world filled with pain, divorces, disasters, acts of violence and war. When we read a romance novel, we reconnect with the idea of 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 soul mate 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. After all, as one of my characters in Under A Namibian Sky says: “In the end, love is all we have.”
At the other end of the spectrum is the fact that human beings and human relationships are complex. Stories are a safe way to explore those complexities and can even help us to deal with our own issues.
There are many other reasons why romance novels are important, but the fact that it can also be a form of entertainment is not to be sneezed at. When a reader with a demanding job, or a mum who is pulled in many different directions, read a romance novel, it’s a great way to just relax, have fun and escape from the daily grind.
Of course, even though nowadays romance novels are widely accepted, there are still people who turn up their noses at the thought of reading one. The idea that these novels are unrealistic at best – 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 Austin’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 romance novels are important to you?
WHY UNDER A NAMIBIAN SKY?
Late one night, several months ago, I was watching a programme on TV about Mills and Boon (Harlequin to some of you.)
The programme looked at how difficult it is to write a good romance novel. How so many people have tried and failed.
The programme followed the journey of a traditionally published mystery writer going through the process of writing a romance novel. She went on away days with other romance writers, writer’s circles and writer’s workshops led by successful Mills and Boon authors at great settings. They filmed her at home making notes on her white board, writing, re-writing, getting frustrated and re-writing. Eventually, she handed in the manuscript to Mills and Boons offices here in London.
I never learned what happened to her novel. But having read a number of romance novels through the years, I wondered if I could write one.
I went on their website to learn more about what they’re looking for and discovered that they were actively looking for novels set in Southern Africa. Well, I was born in Namibia and while I’ve lived all over the world, the country of my birth will always live in my heart. There is a saying that once you have felt the Namibian sands beneath your feet, your feet will always walk you back to those sands. It’s a rough translation, but I think you get the gist. I’ll add to it that once you have Africa in your heart, she is a jealous mistress and will hold you to her bosom – you can never escape her arms.
So, it was a no-brainer for me to set my novel in Namibia. I know the place like the back of my hand. It’s one of the few places on earth where things don’t change, yet a desert is a place of ever-changing sameness. The sky over the desert, once you’ve seen it, will live in your heart and mind forever – it is breath-taking, yes, but more than that, it’s a most humbling experience. Its vastness reminds that we are a tiny part of something so big, we cannot comprehend it. The people are warm and friendly, and the animals are a reminder that the world offers more than concrete jungles and the rat race so many of us are only too familiar with. There is a deep peace, a unique calm that a place like Namibia offer, that you can’t find anywhere else on earth.
To cut a long story short, I wrote the required three chapters and submitted them along with a synopsis. A few weeks later, I received a long email from them, stating their interest in the novel and asking for specific changes. It was obvious from their email that they’d read the synopsis and the chapters. I felt encouraged and set about making the changes they’d asked for before running it past some of my beta readers. But after I’d re-submitted it, a few weeks later, I received a short email thanking me for my efforts but rejecting the novel. But rejection is a normal part of a writer’s life so it didn’t phase me.
By now, though, the characters lived in my head. They were talking to me, as characters are wont to do and they wouldn’t go away. There were other projects I wanted to work on but these guys wouldn’t let up. I had no choice but to finish the novel.
Luckily, the publishing world has changed so much now that Mills and Boon aren’t the only romance genre publishers.
That’s how Under A Namibian Sky came to live in the world today.
INTERESTING NAMIBIAN FACT #1
Namibia is a very large country – Namibia is more than a third larger than the UK and Germany combined or twice the size of California. It has rich deposits of diamonds, uranium and other minerals that are already being extracted extensively. There are 11 main ethnic groups living there.
INTERESTING NAMIBIAN FACT #2
What is a desert? To most people, it is a hot, dry area with little or no vegetation and often covered in sand dunes. Even though this may be an adequate definition of a desert, hot and dry are not specific enough to be scientifically accepted. Scientists use the measurement of rain, or rather the lack of it, to define deserts because water is the critical factor which controls all life and biological processes. According to such classification of deserts, the Namib is hyper-arid as it has a mean rainfall of less than 100mm per year. It is amazing that the Namib is a desert at all since north of it, Angola is subtropical and south, the Cape of Good Hope has copious winter rainfall. But the unique high-pressure zones and the cold ocean currents that border it has created the Namib Desert.
We know that the Namib Desert is old and could have been semi-arid to arid for about the last 80million years with true desert conditions predominating the last 15 – 20 million years.
INTERESTING NAMIBIAN FACT #3
Fairy circles – there is a peculiar unexplained phenomenon along the edge of the Namib desert commonly known as fairy circles. Unusually named they occur on sandy planes and on vegetated dune slopes. Scientists suggest that the fairy circles may, in fact, be termites which have eaten all the grass seeds in the vicinity of their nests.
INTERESTING NAMIBIAN FACT #4
What is the origin and meaning of Namib? The word is of Nama origin. It translates literally from Nama as “a bare plain” and means “the vast place of nothingness.”
Thank you so much for joining me today. I trust you enjoyed the launch of Under A Namibian Sky as much as I have.
I’m currently writing a novella in the Desert Love Series telling of Luca and Naomi’s life in Italy. It’s called Love In Modena, and you will receive a free copy when you sign up to my email list when it is finished.
I’d be very interested to know what kind of stories you would like me to write? Let me know what kind of characters you’d like, what obstacles and what setting – I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you again so much for spending time with me.
The Moon crossed her arms. She nearly stomped her feet but refused to be so crass. “That Mercury!”
The Sun couldn’t resist the hint of intrigue. “Why? What has he done now?”
The Moon’s voice was filled with frustration. “He is so full of himself, strutting around like he’s something special, just because he rules two Signs. I can’t stand it.”
Mars inserted himself into the conversation. “Well, he does. It’s a bit of a trip.”
The Moon and the Sun both swivelled round to look at Mars, annoyance clear in their eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that. I understand perfectly what it feels like to rule two Signs.”
The Moon was just about to complain about Mars’s interruption and attitude when Pluto stepped forward.
“That’s right. Mars did rule two Signs. He ruled Aries -”
“And I still do,” Mars interrupted.
Pluto smiled. “That’s true. You do, Mars. And you also used to look after Scorpio.”
Mars still resented Pluto, even after all this time. Pluto wasn’t even a real Planet, for heaven’s sake. “Yes, I did, until you suddenly appeared out of nowhere.”
“Not out of nowhere, exactly. I was here all the time.”
“Yes, but why would you hide like that? No one saw you for ages.”
Before Pluto could respond the Moon spoke again, her voice whinier than she would have liked, but she didn’t seem to be able to help herself. “What has all that to do with Mercury? His arrogance is beyond words. I don’t care that he is the only Planet to rule two Signs.”
The Sun tried to get next to her, but Mars blocked his path. The Sun had to crane his neck to look past Mars when he spoke to her. “I don’t understand why you’re so riled up about Mercury. What does it matter to you that he rules two Signs.”
The Moon pouted. “It’s unfair. All of us have only one Sign to look after, but he has two. And that makes him utterly insufferable. He’s always darting about, never still. It’s so annoying.”
Mars had always thought the Moon to be the most beautiful, but she had always scorned him. He was as curious as the Sun about her sudden outburst and hoped that she would confide in him, at last.
“Why? What happened?” he asked.
The Moon dropped her head, suddenly shy. “Nothing…”
Jupiter, who had overheard the conversation, came to stand next to the Moon and placed a comforting arm around her shoulders as he came to her defence.
“It doesn’t matter what happened. It’s between the Moon and Mercury. I’m just grateful that I don’t have to look after two Signs like he does. I can still remember the stress of having to do so. Long ago, I was responsible not only for Sagittarius but also for Pisces – nightmare – those two Signs couldn’t be more different. It was quite the juggling act! Probably similar to what Mercury has to deal with from Gemini and Virgo. I’m grateful that I have so much more freedom now that I have only Sagittarius to look after.”
Jupiter seemed utterly oblivious to the poisonous glances from Mars who was trying to reclaim his place beside the Moon.
Pluto was aware of Mars’s interest in the Moon and his jealousy aimed at anyone who got too close to her. But he chose to ignore it, and instead, nodded. “I agree with you, Jupiter. Not only about the freedom…also about the stress. Having only Scorpio to look after is quite enough, thank you. It’s a complicated Sign and takes up all of my time.”
Neptune had walked up without being noticed, meanwhile. “Why are we all standing here? What’s happened?”
The Moon shook her head, close to tears and unable to speak.
The Sun and Mars spoke simultaneously, “Mercury has done something again.”
Neptune immediately focused on the Moon’s distress. He went to her and took her hand to comfort her. “I’m sorry to hear that Mercury has upset you. Don’t mind him. He can be a bit…well…mercurial. It’s just his nature…nothing personal. Let’s go dancing, instead. I know it will cheer you up. You’ll forget about Mercury soon.”
The Moon swallowed harder at the tears that threatened to spill down her flawless face. How could she ever forget about Mercury?
Uranus, who’d overheard Neptune’s suggestion to go dancing, quickly took the Moon’s other hand. “Oh, yes! That sounds fabby. Let’s go dancing. I know just the place. It’s modern and hip and has fantastic music. You’ll love it. Let’s go.”
But just as he was about to drag the Moon off, Saturn appeared and they had to take a step back from his imposing form barring their way.
“Where are we going?” Saturn asked.
The Sun explained everything to Saturn, beginning with the fact that the Moon was very upset about Mercury’s attitude towards her. He ended by agreeing with the Moon that Mercury’s attitude probably was as bad as it was because he ruled two Signs and therefore felt superior, somehow.
Saturn took a moment to think things through. Everyone waited patiently. Even though in reality Jupiter was the eldest of the Planets, Saturn was the father and founder of civilisations, social order and stability. Everyone, including Jupiter, relied on him for his guidance and words of wisdom. Saturn always seemed to know the answer and he always spoke the truth.
He stroked his beard thoughtfully before speaking. “First of all, it’s not true that Mercury is the only planet to rule two Signs. Mars -”
Before he could complete his sentence, Mars interrupted. “Yes, we’ve been through this. I used to rule two Signs too until Pluto, here, came along and took one away from me.”
Pluto’s intense eyes cast daggers in Mars’s direction.
Saturn held up a hand to stop Mars from starting an argument unnecessarily. “Alright, alright. Yes, true. Mars, you did rule two Signs until Pluto relieved you of Scorpio, for which you should be grateful and thank him instead of trying to start a war. The same happened to Jupiter. He is responsible for Sagittarius only because Neptune now looks after Pisces.”
Mars was becoming very impatient. “Yes, yes, we know all that.”
Saturn didn’t allow Mars’s interruption to flummox him.
“But do you remember that I used to be responsible not only for Capricorn as I am now. I also used to look after Aquarius until Uranus came along to relieve me of that responsibility.”
The Sun clapped his hands together. “Oh, yes. I’d forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder, Saturn. So, actually, those of us looking after only one Sign are the special ones.”
The Moon looked up, hope shining in her eyes. She had forgotten that there were more Planets who once looked after two Signs. Perhaps Mercury wasn’t deliberately ignoring her. If what Saturn said was true, then looking after two Signs simultaneously was not a walk among the stars. Perhaps she was being unfair towards Mercury. But why was he forever on the move, unable to sit still even for a second? He always seemed to be in two places at once. If he would just stay still for a moment, perhaps she could talk to him. How else could she make him understand how thrilling she found him, how exciting, and how much she loved him?
Again, Saturn didn’t allow the Sun’s interruption to throw him off his stride. He continued as if he hadn’t heard the Sun’s comment. “Also, it seems to me you have all forgotten that Venus is still taking care of two Signs herself. She looks after both Taurus and Libra.”
The silence that followed as everyone processed this information, was suddenly shattered. Mercury and Venus arrived arm-in-arm, laughing and skipping as they came to join the others. They stopped in their tracks when the weird atmosphere hit them.
The Moon shook her head. She could not believe that Mercury would be so friendly with Venus. And that after she was prepared to forgive him. See? It’s probably because they’re the only two Planets who have two Signs each to look after. They have things in common that she couldn’t hope to share with Mercury. She blinked back more tears. Crying in front of the others was not an option and especially not in front of Mercury.
Mercury pulled his arm from Venus.
“What’s up? Why do you all stand here like someone’s died? Has someone died?”
Venus laid a restricting arm on Mercury. He could be very blunt. He turned to cast a questioning look at Venus. When she smiled at him, deep dimples in her cheeks made her even more attractive. She gestured for him to stay silent. She had immediately noticed the Moon’s tearful eyes and the hostility from Mars, especially, towards Mercury and understood exactly what was going on. But she didn’t care about Mars. Her focus was on the Moon and Mercury. She knew her friend could appear uncaring and preoccupied, but she had known him for many years. His heart was true and loyal and he had confided in her recently that it belonged to the Moon.
The Moon, meanwhile, wanted to run and hide. She didn’t want to have to witness Mercury’s happiness with Venus. How could she blame him? Venus was stunning. She always behaved with such decorum and diplomacy. She acted with wisdom and taste. Who could resist her beauty and charms? As these thoughts swirled in her mind, the Moon felt even more upset. But how could she escape without drawing more attention to herself?
No one responded to Mercury’s question but all for very different reasons. The Moon was too upset to trust her voice. Mars was too angry with Mercury for upsetting the Moon. Pluto and Saturn were watching Mercury, wondering what he would do or say next. The Sun, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune and Venus got that Mercury was only trying to lift the heavy atmosphere. They knew he was trying to use his usual shock tactics, which didn’t shock them at all. But when he pulled the biggest ruby they had ever seen from his pocket, everyone caught their breath. They parted to make way for him as he walked toward the Moon, his hand held out to her.
“I know this is your birthstone.”
The Moon looked down. A blush crept up her cheeks. She couldn’t believe that he was standing in front of her with such a huge ruby in his hand.
She cleared her throat and whispered, “But it’s not my birthday.”
Mercury moved even closer to her. She could feel his breath on her cheeks. His voice was soft and melodious as he spoke. “I know. I tried to find something that could adequately express my love for you, but this is the best I could find.”
The Moon gasped. She had not expected those words to come from his mouth. But she had longed for it forever. Once again, Mercury had more than surprised her. Her heart overflowed with happiness. He must have known that the ruby wasn’t only her birthstone, but that it also promised love, integrity and passion.
His embrace was gentle but firm. His kiss was soft and passionate. She didn’t care that everyone witnessed it.
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Some days, she was herself again. Some days… What happened on the other days, the days that she was gone, she had no idea.
On the days of clarity, it felt as though she had been away on a long journey, only coming home now. She loved the feeling of coming home. It felt good to be home. It was such a relief. She felt as though she could breathe again. She wanted the feeling to continue, so this is where she would start. Here, where she was sitting in her living room, with her things around her. Here, where she felt safe.
Music lived here. It had lived here for many, many years. She would play, and they would dance and sing. Well, in the beginning, when they were too young to sing, they danced. She would be over there, by the piano, playing. He would be here, sitting on this sofa, watching them, his little family. They would be dancing: her little boy and his two younger sisters. They made up their own steps and danced with such joy, such abandon, such enthusiasm, as only small children could.
It was love at first sight. She had been around six or seven, and she knew immediately, irrevocably, that music lived in her soul. She did not know how she knew it, but she had been certain of it. As certain as the sun that smiled on the exotic, yellow African Daisies outside her mother’s bedroom window. As certain as the music that poured from the record player in the corner of the room.
The first time he had heard her play was when she was twenty years old, petite, and quite beautiful. It was a knowing within her then, her beauty. Not something she ever shared with anyone else. It was enough that it belonged to her. Like her music. But unlike her beauty, the music wasn’t hers alone. It had to be shared. She remembered well the feeling of sharing it. Of seeing the happy smiling faces around her at the hearing of it. Her feelings of satisfaction.
The beautiful dresses she could choose from, the expensive jewellery. But no rings. She had loved rings. But never any rings. Or bracelets. They clincked on the keys.
The travel: New York, Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Paris, Saltzburg, Milan, Rome, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, St Petersburg, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boston. Exhausting, thrilling, consuming. The audiences. The applause. One performance blurred into the next as she travelled from country to country.
“So exciting, darling!” “So glamorous!”
But it wasn’t. It was work, work, work. She never felt more alive, more vibrant, more herself. Music opened her soul. It allowed her to see for herself, her path ahead. She was doing the thing she had been born to do. The thing that eluded so many others. That caused so much frustration and unhappiness as far as she could tell. But not in her. Each day was a new opportunity to explore more music, to live her purpose.
And her hair… She had been enthralled with her long dark hair. It highlighted her flawless pale skin. Well, it did then. The person staring back at her from mirrors now was a stranger. A stranger she met anew each time she looked into a mirror. She met many strangers these days. Some insisted that she should know them. That she had known them. Others carried that hurtful look in their eyes when she did not recognise them. She had come to know that look well.
Thoughts… Many thoughts. Maybe memories. Maybe dreams. They lived at the edge of her memory, teasing her with their presence. Thoughts of music. Thoughts of family.
When her babies came, she had stopped travelling. She loved her babies. But they never asked that she give up her music. He and her babies and her music lived together. He would stay with them at those times when she played. The musicals, the recitals and concerts. Accompanying other soloists. The huge old pipe organ in church. These had become her outlets for music. She was grateful. Grateful that her purpose still lived alongside her family. These were her passions. These fed her soul.
The organ extended the music. Now there was Handel’s Messiah, too, and Bach’s toccatas and fugues for postludes. Practising in the beautiful old church was an opportunity to dress up, as much out of respect for the church, as for the music. Sunday dresses and the spiked shoes she would remove and replace with soft black slippers that would glide over the pedals as she played.
Some days, she was here. With her music and her young family and him. But somehow, they weren’t here. She could not find them. She was alone. They were gone. It was terrifying. She looked and looked but she was too tired. She felt too slow. She thought about taking a short rest. She would try again tomorrow. Now there were only strangers. What did they know. Of her music. Of her family.
But on the days of clarity her life was intact again. Connections made sense. Then, there were no strangers. Only her family that she loved. She recognised them. She knew them. They were all adults now, of course. And he was there, too. Older, gentler, familiar. It felt so good. She felt good. She would walk to the piano and sit down, her fingers already reaching for the keys.
I Could Have Danced All Night. Isn’t it odd that her fingers played that song in particular. She had not meant to play it. But that’s what came out. She tried again. There was so much music. Classical music. Ah, the Romantic Music she loved so.
Stupid, stupid, STUPID fingers.
Her daughter was here. Beautiful, talented. Her youngest. Christine sang. Christine sang the last song she could play.
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.
In 2011, I posted a blog on my blog site, The Sound Bath, called The Mystery of Music, which was intended as a response to the question,
why is music so important to us?
I’m re-posting that blog here because it’s a question that keeps coming up, not only in conversations, but also from my students.
So, why is music so important to us?
Let us begin by investigating where music comes from.
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.
Many of us aspire to loving ourselves more. It may even be one of your new year’s resolutions. But what does loving yourself actually look like?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I had good role models for this growing up. Sure, I was surrounded by inspirational, hard-working, honest people. But I don’t believe any of them actually showed me how they loved themselves other than the things we usually associate with it, like earning your own money, being clean and healthy, having a home of your own, etc. but these are simply things we need to survive and fit in with society. It didn’t tell me anything about how to actually love myself.
Surely, there’s more to it than that?
So, I’ve been thinking… and for me, it means having the best, most positive and joyful relationship that you can with yourself. It means not being a bitch to yourself or to others, not putting yourself down, or killing yourself with work, or giving your power away in relationships, or expecting others to make you feel good about yourself. It means being kind, giving back or paying forward, helping others when they need you, being vulnerable, open and loving.
Pretty much what I’ve been doing for most of my life anyway, so maybe I am on the right track.
I found this blog post by Dr. Margaret Paul recently – it’s a great read:
Why are romance novels so popular? According to book seller statistics, romance novels are the most popular genre ever. Period. But why?
I’ve been asking myself that question for just over a year now, ever since my novel, The Healing Touch, was published and, for a brief moment in time, rose to within the top 100 in its category on Amazon.
The funny thing is that I never intended for The Healing Touch to be a romance. Yes, it’s about love, and a man and a woman fall in love with each other, but it’s not a romance novel in the truest sense of the genre. The love story, however, are what readers of the novel loved.
As I’ve been advised to listen to my readers and give them what they want, I’m now writing the next novel, following those characters and their relationship. The novel, Forever And Ever Love, is set over three lifetimes and will be published in 2017.
Meanwhile, the question of why romance novels are so popular had been haunting me. Late one night I watched a documentary on BBC 4 about literary novelist, Sally Duffy, taking on the challenge of writing a Mills and Boon romance novel for their 100 year anniversary. The programme was illuminating as it soon became clear that, no matter what non-readers of the genre may think of it, it is not easy to write.
But very interesting to discover, was that romantic fiction is written for women by women. Does it therefore fulfil some kind of yearning within women? I would suggest that it goes further than fulfilling any kind of romantic fantasy or fairy tale. Romantic fiction is very important because it may be the only art form developed for women by women. Think about it. Other art forms have been fashioned and developed by men. But romantic fiction looks at the world only through the eyes of women.
Why are romances so popular? There are as many answers as there are readers. And there are a lot of readers—RWA’s (Romance Writers of America) 2005 study showed that 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance in the previous year.
Half the readers are married; almost half are college graduates, and 15 percent hold graduate degrees. Women between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four make up more than half the romance-reading audience, but readers range in age from their preteens to over age seventy-five.
A fair number of men read romances, too—22 percent of all romance readers are male, according to RWA—but not many are willing to talk about it. (Some even subscribe to by-mail book clubs in their wives’ names to keep their secret from the mailman.)
Romance is just as popular in other countries as it is in North America. Harlequin Books publishes in 25 languages and in 120 nations, and counts its readership at more than 200 million individuals worldwide.
…Romance novels are the best-selling segment of the paperback fiction market in North America. According to statistics compiled for the Romance Writers of America (RWA), romance novels account for well over 50 percent of mass-market paperback fiction sold in the United States each year. More than a third of all fiction sold in the United States (including mass-market paper, trade paper, and hardcover books) is romance fiction. Paperback romances outsell mysteries, literary novels, science fiction novels, and Westerns. More than two thousand romance titles are published each year, creating a $1.2 billion business in 2004.”
In a very interesting conversation with a good friend this week, we discussed her epiphany question – can healing emotional pain also heal physical pain? With her permission, I would like to explore that a little here today.
Very few of us traverse this life without some kind of emotional pain, from a boyfriend or girlfriend dumping us, or some kind of betrayal, or hurt, etc. We all carry our scars safely tucked away in our bodies. Many of us even pretend that we’re okay for years and years, and then suddenly, something happens or a light bulb goes on, as it did for my friend.
In her case, she had had an accident in which she broke her wrist at the same time as having the new, raw wounds of the ending of a very difficult relationship inflicted upon her. As a professional pianist, she thought her career would be over. It nearly was. She was unable to play the piano for many years. Gradually, her wrist healed but it was never quite the same and she has endured continuing pain there all this time. Luckily, she could save her career. But the emotional pain of the failed relationship continued to live in her body, as well. Lying in bed one night holding her painful wrist, the thought suddenly appeared that the two might be related.
I’m so grateful that she shared her epiphany with me. Emotional pain is such a deeply disturbing thing because there are no tablets we can take for it.
What struck me is the idea that our emotions and our memories live in the cells of our bodies. We’ve all heard or read about someone who’d had an organ transplant, only to start behaving differently than they had before their operation, or craving food they had never eaten before. When they investigated, they found that the person whose organ had been donated, had those character traits, or they liked those foods. We hear and read of people who are able to shrink cancerous tumours by talking to their bodies, thanking their bodies for keeping them alive.
But how many of us ever thank our bodies? We tend to criticize it, instead, wishing we were thinner, bigger, taller, shorter, had bigger/smaller boobs, or bigger/smaller other bits if we’re a guy, a different colour, straight/curly/more hair, etc. We cut bits off when we have operations and never give a second thought to thanking the part that was removed for having been a part of us until it became ill.
So, I feel my friend has a very good point, and we wondered what a possible perfect blue print for our bodies might mean? When we take the courage to heal our emotional pain, when we’re able to banish it from our bodies with love, perhaps our physical pain can be healed, too.
Years ago, I read an amazing book, called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom – Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing in which the Author, Christiane Northrup, MD, talks about our bodies as our allies and how important it is to thank your body for carrying you through life in the best way that it can.
I’ll let you into a little secret – I start every day off by looking into my mirror and telling myself that I’m awesome, I’m enough, I’m a goddess and that I love myself. Then I give myself a hug before I start writing my happiness journal that used to be my gratitude journal. But now, I may also thank my body for helping me to be here for another day!