Minor Characters

During my publishing journey, I discovered a divide between readers who like minor characters to have a more active role in the plot and those who don’t. Many times editors advised to decrease the page space given to said characters in favour of the protagonists; whereas readers expressed delight in the minor characters and their relationship to the protagonists.

Sometimes when reading a great romance, minor characters seem to get in the way. As a reader, we want to solely follow the hero and heroine because the story is so juicy! However, I notice that I tend to gravitate towards books that establish a world for the characters which includes other important people in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoy the relationships the main characters have with others. Siblings, parents, best friends all help me to perceive the main characters deeper – they don’t seem so one-dimensional. After all, no one exists in a vacuum. We all have people we interact with at different levels of intimacy and, in my opinion, showing a protagonist in the same light makes them more real.

Also, I find it difficult not to indulge particularly fun characters. Or, to set up their own stories for future books. It’s as if the protagonists of future stories reveal themselves slowly and it’s too much fun not to listen.

What side of the argument are you on as a reader of romance? Do you enjoy the development of minor characters and their use in adding context and texture to the story, or do you find them annoying and wish to solely focus on the hero and heroine when you’re reading?

Five Years of Writing

The seed for Capturing a Countess’ Heart was planted late one night when I finished a swoon worthy Amanda Quick novel. I researched the author for a few minutes and realized how very normal her start was. My immediate next thought was, “I can totally do this”. Within minutes, I had my protagonist, Charlotte, and I knew I wanted her to be the one with the title. And, I wanted her to struggle with the idea of giving herself up to love.

The next morning, once I did the morning routine with my two small children (at the time) and did the daycare and school drop-offs, I drove to work in silence. Except, my mind was filled with colourful thoughts and images of how I would bring my Countess to life.

Within that short twenty minute drive, I made up the basic plot for the novel, developed the title and the title of the entire series, The Chronicles of the Heart, because the other three books would also have Heart in the title.

All of this happened within a day. Five years ago.

The next four years were spent writing whenever and wherever. Mainly, that meant during my daughter’s nap times (she was little then and still napped) and once the kiddos were in bed. I completed three drafts this way.

Then, I put the novel away for a month while I sent it to dear friends to give me any feedback they could to help improve it – advising them my feelings would not be hurt. Because, as any writer knows, I need time away from my project in order to come back to it with an objective mind. I was very clear that I didn’t have a budget for an editor, so I had to approach each draft ruthlessly once my friends gave their honest reviews.

Each time I saw an area for improvement I loved it so intensely because it meant I would be able to elevate my work. And, each time I hit a roadblock, the universe would inadvertently answer my question by bringing me the information I required. It truly was inspirational.

By draft five, my children were older, and I started to bring my laptop to soccer practices, gymnastics or dance classes, to piano lessons…anytime there was a block of time available to me, I took it. So, I never waited for inspiration to come, I became disciplined to write what needed to be written, to edit what needed to be edited in the time I had, not when I felt I could do it.

At this point, I had the confidence to start sending out my manuscript to agents, publishers and a few contests. And, it would go through a few rounds of “send us more”, but ultimately was not accepted by agents or publishers. And, while it didn’t win any contests, it would come in the top half of all submissions and be returned with tonnes of coaching from the expert panel of judges. Each rejection from publishers and agents also came loaded with questions and ways to improve the novel. I took every single comment as free editing and gleefully set out to write the best novel I could with all of this free advice from people in the industry.

Drafts six, seven and eight were edited in this fashion. Then came, the now what? I knew I wanted to publish, but I was so overwhelmed because I didn’t know where to start.

Then, as seemed to be the case with this entire journey, divine intervention came to help me and the universe brought me this post by the author who reintroduced me to my love of historical romance, Claire Delacroix, who also writes under Deborah Cooke. Find her blog at Deborah Cooke & Her Books. I couldn’t believe that the author whom reawakened my love of historical romance eight years ago had now written a step-by-step outline on what to do to publish your own work exactly at the moment I needed said list.

Talk about universal guidance!

The past year has been focused on following that list. I have learned so much about formatting and book covers to the myriad of tiny details required for every single step and every single platform. I’m still navigating publishing on Apple Books – you’d think it would be the most user friendly one!

And, now, here I am. A book published and currently writing book 2. The second book in the series is already easier to write because of everything I learned during the writing of book 1. It has been an absolutely incredible journey and one I am so happy to have said yes to.

My hope for you, if you are someone who is toying with entering any kind of creative/artistic endeavour, is that you take the plunge and answer the call of your creative soul. The universe will provide the answers as you go, as it did for me, and you will have fun every step of the way.

Historical Romance and Women

I am a feminist at heart. In my soul, I believe the female form is sacred and is therefore equal to the male. Therefore, I have struggled with my love of the romance genre.

As an English teacher, I studied many, many classics and works of “literature” – no commercial fiction, and certainly not works that followed a “formula”. During that time, I learned so much about writing and the beautiful ways in which words strung together illuminate the soul.

How then, could I reconcile loving a genre that was supposed to be formulaic, that put men and women in rigid roles and the core of which was something as mundane as romance and love?

Because romance written by women, for women, is sacred. The stories of women learning who they are so they expect to be loved on their terms is exactly what we need.

Romance was tarnished for me by the typical fairy tales of my childhood where the damsel was saved by the dashing prince. As an adult woman, I didn’t wish to be saved. But, I believe we have all collectively felt the change of direction in modern day fairy tales for little girls which show empowered young women taking ownership of who they are in order to achieve the life they want. Which is great for the generation of girls who will be growing up with different stories as their foundation and mothers who give them the foundation to truly be themselves.

But, what about us? The women who were fed the bogus stories as little girls and now yearn for stories of women being themselves and knowing in their core they deserve a life that honours every one of their desires?

Enter Romance being told by these very women, for every woman.

Modern storytellers provide us with rich characters who know what they want (and, if they don’t, they discover it), and refuse to compromise on their worth and how they deserve to be loved. They provide us with characters who access both their divine masculine and their divine feminine. Strength and softness – physical and emotional.

I’ve read that the reason Romance was not given its due is precisely because it was for women, and therefore the holders of the keys to literary greatness (white men) scoffed and belittled it, thereby relegating it as a lesser genre of writing – as a fantasy of how men and women can never be.

Romance inspires more than feelings of lusty, love (although, those are fun too) – it really showcases how deep emotional intelligence can significantly improve the lives of individual people. The characters in romance novels experience loss, grief, fear and shame…and they overcome these through relationships. Through communication that is open and honest, they thrive and rise and are willing to be open to love. These characters are willing to face their fears and be vulnerable. They believe in the power of love so fully, they fearlessly jump in and feel all of its glories.

Historical Romance then becomes tricky because there are so many entrenched gender rules that characters must abide by in order to be historically accurate. However, any kind of knowledge about women in history shows that women in every time period struggled with and against the norms set out for them by society.

I love historical romance because even though the characters know the rules they must follow, their human spirit – the need for connection and vulnerability and love – is so strong, that most times the rules need to be broken in order to achieve that. Therein lies the fun of historical romance. Modern women can read about women in a different time period whom were not free to be themselves, and yet find a way to do so and be loved on their terms.

We seem to be very accepting of the tales and love stories of witches, wizards, shapeshifters, vampires, soul-finders, etc. each time we read a work of fantasy or dystopian literature. So, why is it so difficult to accept that true love, vulnerability and an elevated unbreakable connection can exist between two human characters?

What has your experience of reading romance been like?

A Writer’s To-Do List

This list is made doubly-difficult because it is my life-line to staying emotionally and mentally well during my journey to physical health. I wrote about this journey – which now seems like it will extend into the rest of this year – here. However, due to said health journey, time & energy to do all of the above is significantly lessened. My passion for writing is not my career – it’s something I do to stay afloat…however, it comes with a to-do list that the above barely covers.

The desire to do all the things is strong with me. As soon as I’ve accomplished a new goal or task, I don’t rest and take it in and simmer with the feel good of accomplishment. I’m off to the next goal. (Which could be why I’m in this health predicament in the first place – but that’s a musing for another day.)

So now that my first book has been released…what next? While most indie authors work diligently and focused on establishing their on-line presence because that is what drives book sales and gets their beloved work into the hands of readers – which is the aspiration of all writers, it’s a rabbit-hole that can be deep and distracting from why we originally started writing in the first place – to tell great stories!

I try to limit my time on Insta and FB and Twitter. It might not drive sales or expose me to as wide an audience as possible…I’m one person. One wife, one mama, one woman trying to heal her body. Writing is what I love to do. It’s not my life.

Social media and graphic design are super fun and a great distraction when I hit a snag on the writing. Reading steamy romances are fun and inspiring – interestingly enough, some of the medicine I’m on reduces my ability to focus, so that can be limited, too.

So, while the above To-Do list can be daunting…it does help to keep me focused on what I’ve always loved to do…make-up characters and their stories and see it all fall apart and come back together…

Book 2 of The Chronicles of the Heart Series is therefore underway, and it’s so juicy! Book 3 is starting to talk to me. Capturing a Countess’ Heart is out now. You’ll find me on social media once a day and occasionally trying my hand at graphic design (for which I love Canva, great for newbies like me!)

And, when I whittle it all down to the simple fact that I just love to write…it all seems to fall in place without the crazy of having to do more, or do it all.

Are you an indie author who feels the pressure to do all the things? Maybe, we can do things differently and still manage to get our stories into the hands of readers!

Capturing a Countess’ Heart

Two more sleeps and my work is out in the world ~ what a lovely thought.

Pre-order on Amazon and Kobo.

Hope you love reading it as much as I loved writing it. Here’s a short “what’s it about?”

Illness: A Blessing in Disguise?

In November of 2019, my body gave me lots of signs that I needed to pay attention to my health.

I had two choices: succumb to fear and the very dark places your mind likes to go or realize…I have no information other than they’re running some tests and I need to go on with my life. I chose the latter. I lived in this weird state of “it’s probably nothing, it could be somethingbut my kids need a snack and help with homework right now so I need to be a mom and not freak out. Besides, there was a birthday and Christmas to plan.

My husband became unusually quiet and more helpful than he usually is – which was a bonus. Extra help? I’ll take it.

I will always remember that in between time as a loop of go to the doctor, get some more information and then wait for another test…go to the doctor for results, but they need more information so wait for another test…and so on. In the meantime, I focused on my mental health, my emotional health and my faith in order to truly complete each step of my physical health journey in a way which would ensure to bring my body back into balance and ease.

I am recovering from surgery and waiting for more results to see what happens from here. I have a general overview of things – but in this process I’ve learned specifics come when the time is right. Talk about a lesson in SURRENDERING!

So why am I sharing something so intimate about my health? Because I cannot believe what I have learned!!!

This time at home has offered me the opportunity to writeCapturing a Countess’ Heart is up on Amazon (.com and .ca) and Kobo for pre-order and will be live on April 28!!!

I have time to read and to meditate – to learn about my spirituality in ways I hadn’t been able to before. For once, I don’t feel like I’m stealing time in order to do the things that fill my cup. I am being cared for by all of the people I love and most of all I am learning compassion and self-love in a deeper way which I will take with me for the rest of my life and hopefully pass on to my children.

My physical yoga practice is so different. I have been on my mat every single day since my surgery. I have modified my practice and I have been in the asanas I struggled with the most – stillness in savasana? Camel that is merely looking up without the effort to reach my heels? And I have learned that ease, love, compassion, and breath will bring my body back into balance. (I am aware that I will probably keel over the first time I attempt a power yoga class when I am well…but that’s a problem for another day).

I have learned gratitude; to ask for help; to receive help; to receive the outpouring of love with a feeling of worthiness.

Each moment has become more sweet. Losing my father in my twenties taught me to always appreciate and enjoy life…perhaps, somewhere along the way of having kids, managing a career and a marriage some of that lesson was lost…Life has a way of making sure we stay true to the lessons learned…

This time at home has afforded me so much on my path to full health, and I can’t help but think, perhaps this forced journey to health was a blessing in disguise.

Finding Ease When Things Get Difficult

Yet, again, I find myself taking a lesson from my yoga mat and applying it to the real world.

In yoga, we refer to Sthira/Sukha. How strength and softness can exist simultaneously. You can feel both the hardness of a pose and you can melt into it’s difficulty with breath. With softness. With ease. And, voila. You’re not struggling any more. Difficult pose…muscles not happy…and you’re just fine.

Well, I’ve taken this concept and brought it to my writing life. As a soon-to-be indie author, there is so much I’m learning. And, so much, I know I don’t know, as I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past.

One of the things which I was doing a very good job avoiding was marketing. And, while I know nothing about marketing, I know enough to understand I need a platform through which I can communicate with lovers of historical romance. Enter Facebook and Instagram.

The trouble is…I really struggled with how to go about it. I normally use these two platforms as ways of keeping abreast with the lives of my family and friends. Not for building an audience or a business.

I’m not a business executive. I have no idea how to do this or where to go! I’m just a woman with a book who thinks other people will enjoy reading.

So, I whittled my immense fear of marketing down to this simple and basic concept: I just want to meet people who love to read, write and discuss historical romance, whom might hopefully enjoy reading my book too!

It is a good place to start. The other marketing stuff will come when it is time for it to come. So far, I’m happy to say, I’ve met some lovely people on-line whom I hope will one day enjoy my book. In the meantime, I’m enjoying communicating with them and trading stories about our reading and writing journeys.

Suddenly, it doesn’t feel so hard. After all, it’s just about people. People reading and writing great historical romances. And, now I am one of those people.

Find me on Instagram @carynemme

Find me on Facebook Caryn Emme

Find me on Twitter Caryn_Emme

Hope to connect with you there too!

Saying Yes to My Goal

I’m happiest when I’m creating. The after part…editing, polishing, perfecting…that’s fun too because I’m making my story come alive for future readers.

But, the business side? The blurb…oh goodness the blurb…the social media campaign…the learning of each and every platform… It has taken the wind from my sails and made the publishing of my first novel come to a halt.

I am a writer at heart. A lover of stories. A whimsical romantic whom loves happy endings…or at least, neat endings. This whole other side is slowing me down and making me doubt my intentions…my goals…

Then, I remember why I started. I come back to the absolute certainty that my work will be read and enjoyed (of course! …hopefully?) by readers. I wanted to read about a strong heroine who was emotionally broken…yet, still managed to find her happily ever after. I wrote her story and I’m excited to bring her to the world.

I will continue this journey with my heart leading the way. I will stay true to the love I have for this project and my desire to have others engage with it. Perhaps, I should express gratitude to the procrastination and fear because in recognizing these feelings, I have been able to ascertain that I absolutely want for this to happen.

Are you an indie-author? A person with a side-hustle or passion-project you have difficulty finding time for? How do you keep on track and say yes to your goals?

Fidgeting and Fussing

At yoga practice, the instructor made a comment about the ways we tend to distract ourselves on our mat when we find a pose difficult or challenging or perhaps, in our perception, too easy. If we pay attention, we can see these tendencies off the mat.

Now that my understanding of yoga practice and philosophy have deepened, I understand that whatever I face on the mat is exactly what I need and where I need to be.

My mat reminds me to stay when things are difficult. My mat reminds me to rest and be kind to myself when things are easy.

This is a valuable lesson for my writing life. I am currently overwhelmed by all I’ve discovered about what I don’t know. And, I know, there is still so much I don’t know that I don’t know…yet.

I fidget and fuss by researching and researching and researching some more. When in reality, I just need to go through this step-by-step and address issues as they come up. I fidget and fuss by not allowing myself to absorb the small victories in this writing and publishing process. I read and re-read, edit and re-edit, go into highs and lows of this is awesome! to what am I doing?

As a first-time writer of historical romance, and long-time lover of reading it, I am proud of the way my book has fared in contests. I have received incredible praise and feedback from judges. I am proud of the incredible and detailed rejection letters I’ve received. I’m proud of having worked with an editor from Harlequin Historical because she loved my book. All of this from a question late one night a few years ago after finishing one of my many regency novels…I wonder if I can do this?

I am just about finished the final edit. And, I know it is the final edit because it feels right. It has been through multiple reads from friends to complete strangers to editors and all feedback and research I’ve discovered about historical romance and editing fiction along the way has been applied.

Capturing a Countess’ Heart is ready.

Next steps: continue blogging, formatting my book…and something I’m really excited about, commissioning my cover! I’m sure I’ll find ways to fidget and fuss throughout each of these processes – but, my process is my own. And, in recognizing my tendencies, I can use them to my advantage instead of letting them deter me.

How do you fidget and fuss to avoid accepting where you on your journey?

Every Little Bit Counts

Regardless of how much or how little is accomplished, I do something, anything, every day which gets me one step closer to my goal.

The list is long and it is absolutely a labor of love…of passion for writing and working on getting my work out into the world.

I could spend entire days after days on amping up my social media presence…preparing future blog posts…finishing the final read through of my present MS…completing the next MS in the series….

The truth is, I can’t.

I beg, borrow and steal time to chip away at this monumental dream I have of publishing my first novel. And, while some days feel like this is impossible…I may as well give up….on most days, I know I can’t.

Giving up would mean waking up in ten years and thinking why didn’t I just try? It would also mean a lot more sleep and time for my family…but I’m prepared to make sacrifices, to let go of the small things which need to be done in order to focus on this huge thing which needs to be done. For me. For my soul. For reaching readers who like me want romance set in the Regency which focuses on smart, whole hearted heroines and dashing, strong heroes – and, whom are both vulnerable and real.

I make a commitment every day to engage in action which will lead me to my goal – I write or edit or blog or tweet or post or research or simply manifest the day it happens and what it will be like.

One thing I know for sure – every little bit counts. The universe understands my goal and is in creation with me.

Capturing a Countess’ Heart will be in reader’s hands and I absolutely can’t wait for you to have it!

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