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In my happy place

I put the finishing touches on Cant’ Be Tamed last week and I am now immersed in research for the next book in the series, Remains to Be Seen.

There is nothing I like better than digging in and learning new things.

Cerridwen Moore is a forensic anthropologist who works out of the Medical Examiner’s office. I bought Anthropology for Dummies, Sapiens, Forensics, and I’m making my way through Working Stiff,  a book written by a medical examiner. It’s an interesting take, well-written and I’ve got sticky tabs hanging out of the pages that contain mind-set, descriptions, and autopsies. I’ve also done some reading on archeological sites, in order to understand the life Cerri would have led had she stayed in the field. But tragedy struck and she had to shift gears.

I spent time over the weekend, creating more fully developed characters. Jotting down emotions, quirks, attitudes, fears, and strengths of both Cerri and Zain Bishara, the new hire. I tweaked the plot a bit as I went, creating a better way to bring them together.  It was the aha moment I needed to smooth out the story line.

I promised myself I’d take my time with this but eager to get started, I’ve already typed away on a first chapter. It’s the trickiest one. I’ve got work ahead of me, but for now I’ll stay in my happy place, where I can envision, imagine and develop complex people, learn where they came from and where they are going.

I’m sure there’ll be some surprises along the way, as always.

It happened to me in the last chapter of Can’t Be Tamed. I never saw that end coming.

 

Can’t Be Tamed

“Write what should not be forgotten.”  Isabel Allende

This quote resonated with me. Some days it feels right, some days it feels like a heavy weight I carry to the page every day.

I’ve read my share of excellent books, written by the likes of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Shalvis, Kristin Hannah. These authors develop great characters, quirky, believable, and real. There’s humor, lightness, and they take me away from the world.

There are some days that I wish I could follow suit but for some reason I’m compelled to write about those things that should not be forgotten. Homelessness, bullying, treatment of immigrants, civil rights, violence against women, inauthentic representation. I wrap these issues in the tissue paper of feelings and emotions, always creating strong women, with fierce voices, and men who love and respect their strength.

My new series Everyday Goddesses, raises the volume. I’ve gone back, as if around the spiral, where I delved into ancient burial sites, explored artifacts that support the belief that woman was all there was, in the beginning. She was seen in every part of the natural world, life and death, the trees, sky, sun and every golden ray.  It’s one of those things that should not be forgotten. We need to tap into our cellular memory, where she still resides, rooted in all that is numinous.

Lilith, according to ancient scripts, was Adam’s first wife. Made at the same time, from the same substance, not from his rib, equal to, not inferior in any way. She left the garden when Adam tried to exercise his dominance, free to reclaim her independence. I chose Lilith as one of the goddess archetypes to develop in the series, and her essence shines through the main character in Can’t Be Tamed.

Lilith Varsela reflects traits such as intellect, logic, compassion, and independence. She allows no man to control her, and can’t be tamed. But one day she comes to believe that there can be an equal sharing, a collaboration of efforts toward a common goal and with the right man beside her, she can become more than she could ever be alone.

 

A tiny step back to normal…

This morning I sat at the window seat at KJ’s cafe, which opened up limited seating just yesterday. It’s my favorite spot to work uninterrupted, and still hear and feel activity going on around me.

I saw some familiar faces, chatted with friends and family, (while wearing masks), and then went back to work, sipping my large iced coffee. Ah! Heaven in a cup.

Although I’m still in edit mode for the book just finished, I’ve set out on a marketing spree, checking out websites that will “shout out” my newest book, enrolling in promotions, one specifically that’s highlighting sports romances, creating new posts using Canva, and making a list of  “tweets” so I’m ready to put something new out there every day. This is the most difficult part of the writing process for me. I become so engrossed in the story I forget about the other pieces I should be attending to in order to make sales. I’ve often said I’d do this for nothing, and have some months, but it’s always gratifying to see that someone purchased one of my books. (I actually do a happy dance)

Today I’m strategizing on how to get my new series out in the world. It’s close to my heart and I believe it contains an important message.

Everyday Goddesses, is more contemporary women’s lit than romance. Drawing on the sacred images of the ancient world, each story is designed to capture the essence of the most prominent goddesses. My intent is to show that every woman, living thousands of years ago or today, embodies the same qualities that were once honored and respected. According to history, and the discovery of artifacts that date back to the Paleolithic period, humanity’s first image of life was the mother. It was a time when children considered themselves part of the natural world, in kinship with all of life, a part of the whole.

It’s one of the reasons I chose Rhea to go first. She was daughter of Gaia and considered “mother of the gods”, Zeus her most famous son. She was the creative source of Life, not of the world, but the world herself.

In Magic Bean Cafe, Rhea is mother to Willow, keeper of the hearth, owner of the best coffee shop in town, where all are welcome. She’s a natural caretaker, representing maternal instincts, and is nurturing, responsible and compassionate. Women like Rhea  always run the risk of neglecting their own needs in service to others.

How many of us have neglected out our needs, at one time or another, to take care of others? How many of us have birthed a child or a career, and nurtured it, sustained it, and protected it?

In the second book, Once There Was a Tree,  I’ve chosen to illuminate Gwenhywfar, a Celtic goddess, ferocious warrior and co-ruler of Britain. She had a fierce spirit, a dragon’s fire, and with spear in hand, a face painted for war, she went into battle armed and ready.

Gwen, the character in this story, is disciplined, and competitive, an ex-army vet whose  fighting spirit was on full display when stationed in the Middle East. When she is air-lifted out with an injury, she totters into “maiden” territory, where she becomes more passive, reluctant to accept she is more than what she thinks. By enduring emotional and physical loss, she’s propelled forward and is able to reclaim her warrior identity, that of a creative and passionate woman, who displays profound inner strength.

How many of us have gone through hardships that seemed unsurmountable and had to work our way back? How many of us have defeated the foe or demon, usually through resilience and persistence? How many have found that once they had, they were stronger for it?

As women, we shape shift through all the archetypes at one time or another, encompassing them all over the course of our lives, be it Lover, Mother, Maiden, Queen, Huntress, Sage, or Mystic.

We are all everyday goddesses, goddesses in some form every day.

 

What else do I need to know

As I head toward the finish line of Can’t Be Tamed, I’ve come to realize there’s a piece missing from the story.

Lilith Varsela has gone cold, and marriage is now off the table. She loves her unpartnered way of life and she’s not changing that status for anyone. As captain of her own ship, she works at a job she loves and has made a name for herself. She has her own home, and is surrounded by women who support and empower her.

But she didn’t always feel that way. In fact, she was once engaged to be married but that ended in a debacle and a complete alienation from her family. Of course, that’s the underlying reason she’s given up on those kinds of dreams.

Today, her ex is married to her sister, Veronica, and four years later, Lil is still carrying around her resentment, and it’s become a bitter kernel that’s hardened her heart. It’s not that she lost the love of her life. The third time she postponed the wedding, everyone knew it was only a matter time before she called it off completely. That her sister stepped into the void shouldn’t have made her so angry, but for some reason, she can’t seem to move toward forgiveness.

Veronica has appeared a couple of times to this point, but only superficially, and even I’m not sure who she is. There are questions I need to answer before I can move the story forward. Why did Veronica insinuate herself into Hugh’s heart, even though she knew it was wrong? Did she know it would cause the kind of explosive reaction that it did? Was this a first, or did she always try to take what was Lil’s. Which leads me to pose the question, what was their prior relationship like? What roles did they play in the family and how did their parents influence the dynamics?

I need to go back and dig deeper into Lil’s childhood, uncover the sibling rivalries, flesh out the parents who were quick to forgive the betrayer, while allowing the betrayed to stand alone.

I usually have all this down before I begin, but in this case I neglected to do so, so focused on the story between Lil and Niall. But as Niall inches his way into her heart, Lil wants resolution with her family. The only way she can heal that rift, is if she understands Veronica’s vulnerabilities and her motives, and admits to herself that it all worked out for the best. She can’t do that, until I clear the path for her.

It only proves that secondary characters can be as important to develop as primary ones. Where a person comes from, is an important piece to understanding where she’s is, where she’s going, and how she can get there.

It’s my job to get Lil where she’s meant to be.

 

 

 

 

Sharing thoughts

I’m always looking for new and fresh ideas to bring to my novels. And it seems I’m always pointed in the right direction, one I might call a synchronous direction, to fill in some of the blanks. In Once Upon a Tree, I found this wonderful book whose cover was Gwen made manifest in tree form. The book itself suggests that some trees grow in isolation, living a proud but precarious existence, a description that might fit the ex-vet, who lost a limb fighting on remote mountainsides. Her beauty comes from her courage, her fierce protective spirit, and in time she will rise, like the mighty tree and touch the sun.

While writing Can’t Be Tamed, I found an old film I saw in college that resonated. History was always my passion. I loved learning about people, times and cultures. I remember being entranced by the movie, haunted by the images and the meaning of what it represented. It stirred the first flickers of feminism, and those flickers have grown stronger with age. The Burning Times is one segment of a trilogy that separates the history of women’s spirituality into long-past, past and present. The pre-history speaks to the Feminine Divine ‘s existence, and how it was subsumed over time by the “sky”. (a reference to male power and domination). Where women were once the healers, the leaders, the planters, the wise ones, they were reduced to nothing; their way of life exterminated during what has come to be known as the witch trials. These executions didn’t only occur in Salem, Massachusetts, but all over the world. The Spanish Inquisition, another method used to diminish what women brought to the earth, and in the process, destroyed the organic way of life.

Thankfully, the feminine divine is reemerging. After centuries of oppression, women are offering inspiration, courage and community, something desperately needed in today’s world. Through myth, we see her as goddess, an archetype that lives within us all. It is spiritual in nature, the sacred center of our being, and it brings us to life. Many have been caught up in this movement of celebration, reclaiming their true selves, reaffirming their powerful energies, and connecting them to something bigger than themselves.

My series, Everyday Goddesses, explores the aspects of this archetype; nurturer,  warrior, protector, wise one, healer, story weaver, planter, and one who studies what remains after death. Each is a fragment of the whole, and when brought together, are able to exhume the long-forgotten awareness of who they are, strengthen their individual gifts, and foster the type of community that enriches them.