SPUR of the Moment

When it comes to animals, I tend to be very softhearted. As a child, animals included insects as well, but I have pretty much gotten over that part. I can still remember at a very early age tattling on one of my older brothers for killing, “God’s creatures,” when I found him and his friends destroying anthills in the backyard. He tended to do things like that when I cramped his style by trying to tag along. The typical sibling love/hate relationship.

In the big Dog vs. Cat debate, hands-down I have always been a dog person. It was really a no brainer after a friend’s cat took a nasty swipe at me when I was a child. Truth is I just never understood cats. They do not like to play like dogs, they do not come running with tail wagging when you walk in the door and frankly, half the time you do not even know they are around. Always seemed like a lot of work and expense for an invisible pet. 

Dog fan or not, I am pretty much over being a dog owner. I become so attached that after losing several dogs in a short span of years, I cannot bring myself to own another. I say that, but if one of my friends came to me with a hard luck story, I would most likely cave…again. It is also how my family ended up with the majority of our dogs.

Being the mom of a young son, I knew the day would come when he would ask for a pet. Smooth as I think I am sometimes, I was prepared. This is why I now find myself taking care of four hermit crabs. Still, I had every intention of standing firm when it came to anything bigger.

Unfamiliar with cats, I actually had to do some research while writing, Spur of the Moment. Cats were mainly used as rat catchers in Europe during the Middle Ages. Knowing this, however, did not exactly endear me to the furry felines. Since a cat fit into the story, in went a cat named, Ceinlys. The name Ceinlys comes from the Gaelic word for cat. Original I know, but that should tell you something about my ambivalent feelings on the matter.

Less than a week after I signed the contract for Spur of the Moment with Rhemalda, I found myself in what I like to call a fated moment. My personal motto has always been to live and let live and I am a big believer of paying it forward. So far, the blessings in my life have outweighed the shortcomings and I like to think this philosophy has something to do with it.

While in an office at the Pompano Beach State Farmers Market, a friend came in and showed me a photograph on his phone of a small filthy kitten looking through the glass lobby door at him. He told me the kitten was still downstairs trying to get into the building. Of all the places for an animal not to be is a busy truck terminal.

Intending to find a home (that was not mine) for the kitten, I should have known my good intentions would be tossed aside the moment my son got a glimpse of her. The look on his face was so priceless, I felt fortunate to have captured a picture of it. Who am I to deny him a cat? After all, he could cheer for the opposing team.

Hundreds of dollars in cat care later, I find myself chuckling at the irony of it all. Sometimes the unlikeliest things tend to happen to me. In this case, it was a small kitten named -Spur.

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Do Soul Mates Really Exist?

Web Definition “Soul Mate”: Someone for whom you have a deep affinity.

The debate regarding the existence of soul mates is not a new one. In his work, The Symposium, Plato had Aristophanes present a story about soul mates. Written somewhere between 380-385 b.c., the play touches on the idea of soul mates by having a group of men discuss the nature of love and knowledge.

While skeptics may dismiss the concept of having a predestined mate, the more open- minded people among us may entertain the idea. The belief in the existence of a soul mate is certainly a romantic notion at the very least. I think everyone would agree that sharing a romantic spark with someone is an amazing feeling. However, sexual attraction alone does not always make for a successful relationship. If compatibility ends at the bedroom door, the relationship itself does not have a solid foundation to build on. Given that, what woman, or man for that matter, would not want to believe in the possibility of finding the perfect mate – one with whom you can relate to on all levels?

The only problem with this line of thinking is the expectation factor. We live in an age where image is favored over substance. Doctored photographs aside, magazines and movie stars may wreak havoc on people’s self-esteem as we are subliminally taught to search for perfection. If we are attracted to a person by looks alone, how then can we recognize someone who would be compatible with us in every way?

In my novels, Spur of the Moment, and its sequel, Wicked Embers, I touch on the subject of soul mates. Being a romance novelist, I find the idea of a perfect someone for everyone extremely appealing. That is not to say it is true. Whether there is a predestined mate for each of us comes down to our individual beliefs on the subject.

Based on the standard definition, a soul mate is someone for whom a person has a deep affinity. If that is the case, then lifelong best friends could technically be considered soul mates. Although debatable, I think even skeptics would agree that some people just seem to “click” upon meeting. Whether platonically or romantically, we somehow recognize a kindred spirit in the other person.

Platonic relationships lend credibility to those who believe in the existence of a romantic predestined partner for each of us. People who have at least one friend like this will understand. It is the friend you might not see or talk to for any given length of time, only to find it feels like no time has passed the moment you are reunited.

If we can have such an affinity for a friend, then why can we not have the same affinity for a romantic partner?

The debate continues.

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The Dangling Participle

Dangling Participle – Definition: (n) A participle intended to modify a noun that is not actually present in the text.

During the editing process for my novel, Wicked Embers, I had one of those cringe worthy moments when I read a comment from my editor. Right off the bat, she recognized my Achilles heel…the dangling participle. As much as I wanted to take offense, I couldn’t. Not only was she right, it is her job to point out my grammatical blunders.

Years prior to this, my best friend, who also happens to have a degree in English Literature from the University of California, has been pointing out the same flaw to me. As much as I appreciate Albert’s help and adore him in general, I cannot tell you how much I dread listening to his grammar lectures. Seeing my eyes glaze over on these occasions, he attempted to fix my grammar deficiency by bestowing upon me Strunk and White’s Elements of Style – and not just any edition, but the specially bound 50th Anniversary edition. This beautiful little book has graced my bookshelf for two and a half years now. I would love to say that I found it helpful and the grammar problems I have struggled with since I began to read and write were somehow miraculously fixed simply by following the rules within it. Sadly, that is not the case.

I wish I could explain why I can look at an inspiring picture and create a story around it, yet be very perplexed after reading the definition above. It is almost as if there is a block in my mind keeping the technical aspects of writing from getting through. One mention of a dependent clause or adjective and my mind starts to wander.

As proud as I am of my accomplishments, I am embarrassed to say that I had to look up the definitions for the grammatical errors my editor pointed out to me. If that were not bad enough, I had to call Albert to have him explain the definitions to me. Familiar with my quirky thought process, he always manages to give me examples I can understand.

I currently have five books in various stages of being published. I received a contract for my first ever attempt at writing, A Knight of Silence. How can I not understand the rules that make up the stories I create? It is beyond frustrating for someone like me with the obsessive need to create the perfect story to have this major flaw. After years of struggling to understand grammar, I think that is the reason why I tune out when Albert tries to help me. No matter how hard I try, I just do not get it.

Thanks to Albert, I do recognize some grammatical errors while I am making them. If I force myself to focus on the mechanics of writing instead of storytelling, I do not make any. However, if you ask me what type of error I avoided, I would not be able to tell you if it was a dangling modifier, split infinitive, possessive adjective, or my main nemesis….the dangling participle.

 

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The Curse of Thunderfoot

In past blogs, I have mentioned that I am a visual person. I have also mentioned that I have been going through some personal drama of late. Although I have faltered on occasion, through it all I have managed to remain on the high road. Having a strong belief in karma, I recently found myself not only rewarded for refusing to be dragged to the level of petty vindictiveness, I received a bonus.

My home is decorated in the European Medieval style, complete with replica weapons. While this is not your typical Florida décor, I find it very inspiring. Several years ago, I happened to mention to a person I was legally connected to that I was looking for an old trunk to place beneath my Edmund Blair Leighton tapestry, The Accolade. Still in my favor at the time, this person’s father recalled that his sister had an old trunk in her basement. After the rest of his family turned down the offer of the trunk, it was gifted to me.

The trunk fit perfectly into my home. I was elated by its presence; however, after the drama of ending the relationship with the person I was legally connected with commenced, the trunk became a constant stark visual reminder of the negative influences in my life. I had placed the trunk in a prominent place in the living room and it was impossible for me not to fixate on this last object connecting me to the painful and vexatious relationship I was trying to move beyond. However, knowing well who I was dealing with, I knew it was only a matter of time before the trunk was mentioned. Having already emptied it of my beloved grandmother’s handmade blankets, I waited. When the email came from a third party requesting that the “treasured heirloom” be returned, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. In fact, I felt so relieved that before I replied to the third party email, I directly texted the source of the request to expedite the trunk’s removal from my home.

I am telling you this story because I learned a valuable lesson from it. You cannot be hurt by someone unless you choose to be hurt by them. It all goes back to one of my favorite anonymous quotes, “In order to insult me, I must first value your opinion.” I do not value someone’s opinion who intentionally attempts to hurt me or those around me. By demanding the trunk back, his intention of hurting me failed miserably, I was more than happy to see it go. 

Despite my rapid response via text message, I had to wait weeks for the trunk to be picked up. The bonus came as I stared at the now-abhorred trunk during my wait.  Where my grandmother’s lovingly crafted blankets had been, the trunk was now infused with the petty vindictiveness of he whom I sought to be rid of. I have been considering writing in a different genre. As I stared at the trunk, the perfect horror story formed in my mind.  The horror story revolves around a treasured family heirloom trunk passed down through the generations, which also just happens to carry a curse. Keep an eye out in the future for my tale entitled, The Curse of Thunderfoot.

I believe inspiration is everywhere, only you can see it better from the highroad.

 

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Renewing Myself

I tend to be a nervous person when it comes to certain situations. I suppose most introverts usually are. So long as I am not the center of attention, I generally go about my daily life as if I were a normal person. Yes, you read that correctly. I do not consider myself to be normal by any standards. The day I began my first novel, A Knight of Silence, was an eye-opener for me. Through writing I had finally found a way to express myself. The feelings I bottled up for years flowed through my fingers onto the page. You can find some of my innermost thoughts and musings within the pages of my novels. However, if I were asked to voice my feelings, I would shut down and withdraw into myself. In the past there has been some debate within my inner circle about whether I am just quirky or flat out eccentric. Since I think of the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes when I hear the term eccentric, I steadfastly claim the quirky label for myself. As my writing career began to pick up speed, I felt liberated by having an outlet to express myself. My only regret is that I did not start my writing career years earlier. The satisfaction and joy I feel at seeing one of my books listed for sale is a feeling I hope every aspiring writer feels one day. However, these feelings are often countered by the nervous anticipation I feel wondering how well one of my novels will be received by the reading public. The anxious feelings tend to remain with me until I receive my first unsolicited review. It is only then that I feel free to release the novel from my mind and move to the next story waiting to be written.   Along with my innermost thoughts, my moods are often reflected in my writing. Unfortunately, that is not always a good thing. Immediately prior to my going through an acrimonious divorce, I received a contract for my novel, A Knight of Battle — The second book in my Knight Series. Although I had previously worked out the plotline to the story in my head, when I sat down to write the novel, I realized I was missing the passion necessary to write a romance. I knew my first attempt had fallen flat even before it was brutally critiqued by my greatest fan and toughest critic, Mom. Letting go of the vortex of negativity overrunning my life, I managed to recapture my spark for writing, scrapped my first draft, and crafted a true romance. Despite all odds to the contrary, I finished the novel a week ahead of deadline and knew even before my mom gave it the coveted thumbs-up that she would approve. Regardless of nerves and stress, I had once again created a story that I could proudly put my name on — my recaptured birth name, Candace C. Bowen.

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~PAYING TRIBUTE~

September 11, 2011, will mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. While choosing not to give a moment’s more thought to the hate that drove a group of people to do such things, I know I will never forget the acts of heroism exhibited that day.

Like so many others, the attacks themselves have always had a profound effect on me. In my case, I believe this is because I happened to be out of the country and so far from home at the time. Enjoying a highly anticipated Baltic cruise with my mother, we were on an excursion touring Berlin when the tour guide and bus driver began speaking in hushed tones. A fellow traveler who spoke German informed us that America was under attack. The World Trade Centers were gone, the Pentagon sustained severe damage, and a passenger jet had nosedived into a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. As I sat there listening, I thought these attacks were not possible. With all of our defense measures, how could this have happened?

Not only did the tour operators refuse to answer any questions, they continued with the tour as if nothing horrific had happened. It was not until we arrived at the train station for the ride back to the port that I understood the reason behind their actions. Fearing that we, as Americans, would be targets, German soldiers bearing assault rifles lined our short walk from the tour bus to the train. Standing at attention, staring straight ahead, not one of the soldiers met my worried gaze. In that moment, it all came crashing down on me. It was true. Jetliners like the one my mother and I would be boarding in a few days time were used as weapons against the country I loved. Absorbing the magnitude of what had happened, my grief turned to anger as my pride in being an American took over.

While writing my novel, Spur of the Moment, I specifically chose New York City as a destination for my heroine, Bronwyn Chase. Albeit small, it was the only way I could write a scene in which my character pays her respects to those lost that day. To the reader it is but a small mention in a lengthy book. To me, it is a heartfelt tribute for what America and its people stand for. You can bend us, disrespect and dislike us, but you can never break us.

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~ GIVEN THE CHANCE ~

Since this is the first blog I am writing for Seven Realms, I would like to reach out to the unknown authors out there going through the tedious submissions process. With the queries, synopses, sample chapters and waiting, I understand how overwhelming and frustrating it can be. Even though my story may appear unique and my first attempt at writing was published, I too went through all of the processes leading to publication.

As I type this, the next “big” thing is most likely sitting in a slush pile somewhere just waiting for the right person to discover it. It may even have been rejected numerous times. Not because the story lacked merit, but because it just wasn’t what the editor was looking for at that particular moment. When this occurs, it can be disheartening. Trust me, I know. When I started the process, vampires were the “in” thing. An historical romance filled with suspense and intrigue based in the twelfth century was the last thing publishers were looking for.

I was fortunate to have stumbled upon the Seven Realms website and I was brave enough to send them a query letter. It was the quickest reply I had ever received. Opening the email expecting another polite rejection, I was amazed to see a request for the first fifty pages of, A Knight of Silence. Since it was my first positive response, I cannot tell you how anxious I was to see if they would request the full manuscript. If you have already made it that far in the process, you can understand the feeling of validation I experienced when I opened the request. If you are an author like me, you pour your heart and soul into your writing. To have someone acknowledge that is an incredible feeling I hope you will all get to experience.

Seven Realms not only gave me my start as an author, they gave me the confidence boost I needed to pursue a career in writing. To date I have written three complete novels, one published and two scheduled for release. I have come a long way in a few short years and given the opportunity, combined with a good measure of “stick-to-it-ness,” you will too.

 

 

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