Writing with chronic pain part III

A continuation of Writing with chronic pain II

It takes a miracle sometimes to make things happen. And, if you don’t believe in miracles, do you believe in science? How about an amazing doctor?

For years, I lived in a chronic hell, scorching every nerve and muscle in my upper back, shoulder, and neck. My body was a prison of pain. No ‘expert’ from Stavanger’s public hospital or private hospitals by my health insurance company could help me. When they couldn’t help me, they tossed me around to someone else, or they told me that my pain was not real. That was the past.

Today, I am recovering nicely, thanks to a gifted surgeon named Doctor Nils Åke Nystrøm. I am lost for words, except for one⁠—gratitude. Dr. Nystrøm is a medical expert and a professor with years of knowledge and experience desperately needed in the medical world.

About my illness

Entrapment of the spinal accessory nerve and/or chronic compartment syndrome of the trapezius muscle may cause chronic pain. In my case, surgical treatment was necessary to provide permanent relief.

Here’s a study about the illness.

In other words, Dr. Nystrøm has given me back my life. He has liberated me from an illness with symptoms including:

  • Horrendous headaches that lasted for days.
  • Terrible radiating pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder, down to my shoulder blade.
  • Numbness in the left arm and fingers.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Cognitive dysfunction.
  • Muscle weakness.
After the surgery.

I am so grateful to the team at Clinique Bellevue for being so supportive from start to finish. Everything went smoothly and I promised to send paperbacks of my next book when it is published and available.

And, thank you to my new friend, Karina. She is a brave woman and a strong soul whose story I initially found in the newspaper Stavanger Afterblad. It pivoted me to see I was not alone and motivated me to pursue my search for Dr. Nystrøm.

You can read Karina’s story in Norwegian and English here.

Patient Karina Illès, pictured above on the operating table under the care of Doctor Nystrøm. Photo courtesy: Kristian Jacobsen

Karina’s voice has empowered many patients. I write about empowered women in my books, so meeting this incredibly courageous woman was an honor.

Getting my life back

Life after the surgery.

My life is a healthier one incorporating light yoga, meditation, and walking. I started gentle swimming in a warm therapy pool yesterday as part of my rehabilitation. My lower back is another issue I have from the car accident I was in years ago, but my upper back is on the good path to recovery.

Readers can expect new books from me in the future. I can continue projects for both my publishers. Plus, I have other planned projects, all about women’s empowerment.

The surgeon who saved my life, Doctor Nystrøm, is a good man with a kind heart who gave me hope.

My children have a mother again. My husband, Geir, has a wife again.

Thank you, Doctor Nystrøm. Thank you, Bellevue Clinic. Thank you, Karina.

Image source: Pixabay.com

More on my (now healed!) condition: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864276/

This is part III of my ‘Writing with chronic pain’ series:

  • Part II (warning, images of my car accident and later, a burned back as a result of advice given by my local public hospital, may be disturbing to some)

Writing with chronic pain part II

A continuation of Writing with chronic pain

It’s been a year since I wrote about being an author with chronic pain, and life brought more challenges, and hope.

Warning: some of the photos in this article can be disturbing. Please do not go further if you’re sensitive about photos of physical injuries or vehicle accidents.

Chronic pain hell

Has my health gotten better? No, but there is hope.

Life before my body hell. I had so much energy and everything going for me – a career, travel, family.

Did I have to let go of a wonderful career? Yes. There was no way I could work with the incredible pain I endured.

Have health practitioners (neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physiotherapists, etc etc) tested me like a guinea pig?

Yes.

The work of top hospital healthcare workers.

I’ve been given a shitload of useless treatments by experts who believed they were gods. When the pain didn’t show in the MRI scan results, they told me that my body should not be experiencing pain and that it was in my head. There were at least two health practitioners whose patience wore thin, insinuating that this ‘pain in my imagination’ was my fault.

I went to two psychologists to explore the theory of pain being part of my imagination. The first one believed the pain was real and there was not much he could do to help me, except my anxiety of coping with pain, and also to shut the noise out – the noise of the world around me that was doing more harm than good.

The second psychologist spent a few sessions asking me all sorts of questions and she believed my pain was not ‘in my head’. I was encouraged to seek the truth – ah, medicine sounds like religion, doesn’t it?

Thank God, I have the determination to find out the truth, despite the lack of energy and weakness my body was experiencing, in addition to the pain.

I started to develop doubt on ongoing practices that had little or no effect, or worse. I wondered if I was being treated or assessed for the wrong thing. What if there was a different prognosis that the health experts had missed?

I needed to know more. Were there others who suffered like me? Or, was I alone, and had I gone stir-crazy mad?

I wanted to know the truth about my pain.

So, I studied and searched for an answer.

Nerve injury

I recently tapped into an area about chronic whiplash and the long-lasting effects that could be devastating. I was in a car accident years ago, and lucky to have survived it as the vehicle was a total wreck. The headaches, neck pain, etc, mirrored the patients’ symptoms. I did have surgery to remove a broken cervical disc a few years ago, so that may also have been something correlated to the accident from long before.

Never again! I’m alive to tell the story.

I read studies on the type of pain I suffered, and what was being done in the USA and other parts of the world. I spoke with a leading local chiropractor and took the discussion further with my GP, and then my physiotherapist. They explained the anatomy and the symptoms I showed, and two of the three mentioned at one point a Swedish surgeon who has helped patients in my shoes.

My appointments became more like Q&A lectures where I asked a lot of questions and took notes while the people I trusted passed down their knowledge. I found an article about how a Swedish surgeon had saved the lives of thousands of patients whose symptoms mirrored mine – he had taken away their pain hell and gave them back their lives. I wondered if this was the same surgeon my GP and chiropractor referred to.

I discovered articles about patients who had the same debilitating illness as me, and they described how the surgery had changed their lives for the best. The operation was performed by the same surgeon, and eventually, I found more journal articles on the topic of the type of chronic pain I endure.

So, I was not alone. And there was hope.

At first, I thought the surgeon was in the United States, and it all seemed all out of reach for me, being in Norway. Then, I stumbled across one of the clinics in the city I’m in, and lo and behold, it turns out he visits the clinic.

I brought this up with my GP, who wrote a darn good referral letter to the clinic. This surgeon – I could love to mention his name to give him credit but I need to ask permission first – is not only highly sought after by patients needing help, but he is a professor, a teacher, and one of Scandinavia’s most elite surgeons – a unicorn in his field with valuable knowledge to pass to medical practitioners on the area of chronic nerve pain.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Fast-forward to about a month later, and after meeting with my surgeon and undergoing testing and examination, I am in the category of patients who would most likely benefit from surgery. There is a good chance I will have a normal life again.

Now, I’m waiting for the date I go into the operating theatre.

While I wait for my surgery date, I still write when I can, and though it hurts to sit, I have an ergonomic desk that allows me to stand while writing. Linked to the pain, cognitive issues are affecting me but I soldier on. Right now I’m an author with a broken wing waiting to fly again.

Like I said before, all good things take time and I believe there will be better days ahead.

More on my condition: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864276/

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The story behind Flowers for Kate in Rainbow Desire

I enjoyed writing Flowers for Kate, a short story about a fictional character named Kate Calloway, who seeks true love in the late 1980s. No, her love interest is not a dashing man, but Dahlia, a stunning woman who would make your mouth water with desire.

The story is part of the Rainbow Desire anthology published by Black Velvet Seductions.

What is the story about?

It’s 1988, a decade after video killed the radio star. Disco’s out of fashion, and pop music dominates the dance floor.

At twenty-two, Kate Calloway is a bangle-loving university student finding her way in life with her friends. She’s allergic to pollen and hates flowers until she meets the mysterious Dahlia, a florist who takes her breath away.

Kate wants Dahlia, but does Dahlia feel the same for Kate? Will they forge an unbreakable bond of love, or will circumstances tear them apart?

>> Find out in this short story about finding true love.

How did I feel about writing an LGBTQ+ romance?

It was an incredible experience! I felt so free writing the story, and the flow was amazing – everything went smoothly. Flowers took an unexpected and eerie turn, with a surprising twist about 80 percent into the story when I was writing it.

I’ve written about characters who are heterosexual, pansexual, and bisexual, but Kate was the first woman I wrote about who had zero interest in men. A few people asked me if this would be challenging, but I shook my head and simply got to know Kate – she’s a welcoming character, bringing me into her world.

Pushing away people-driven doubt

Despite people-driven doubt on my ability to write Kate’s story, I immersed myself in her world as I burned the midnight candle. Of course, there is research in the stories I write (as a former journalist it’s important to get your information right). The fun part about going back to 1988 was listening to music from artists/bands such as Bananarama, Eric Carmen (remember Hungry Eyes from Dirty Dancing?), U2, Cyndi Lauper, and The Bangles.

What message does Kate bring?

Kate brings a message of empowerment (of course! It wouldn’t be me writing any other way), hope, and friendship. And, love is a given – always in my stories.

Kate showed me the power of friendship and how our friends can be the family we need in times of trouble. However, we need to pick our friends carefully – the true diamonds from the fairweather friends. You learn who your real friends are when you put yourself first – your physical and emotional health. Kate can count on three friends (Andy, Frances, and Jasper) who are her family by choice. Friendship works both ways, and she proves to be a loyal friend from start to end.

Friendship is such a powerful gift and we must always treasure our true friends.

Anyway, that’s it from me. You can preorder your ebook copy of Rainbow Desire, published by Black Velvet Seductions.

Book links:

I’ll leave you with an awesome tape mix – Guardians of the Galaxy, which features songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s – whichever decade you fancy. Yes, I’m a Marvel comics fan. 😉

Author interview: Eileen Troemel, USA Today Bestseller

Wayfarer series banner

Eileen Troemel, USA Today Bestselling Author
USA Today Bestselling Author Eileen Troemel.

I’m thrilled to welcome Eileen Troemel, a USA Today Bestseller author of action-packed and emotionally powerful fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. Eileen’s diverse books – such as Through Destiny’s Eyes and Paranormal Investigators – reveal her versatility in writing various genres.

Congratulations on becoming a USA Today Bestseller. How did you feel when you found out?

It was stunning, exciting, and surprising!  It was a day when everyone in the anthology was watching and hoping.  There was a lot of excitement.  I got it and did a little happy dance.  I texted my out-of-state daughters and let my daughter and husband know.  I texted all my sisters and I think my nieces and nephews. 

What 3 key tips do you recommend for readers looking for a good book?

Don’t look solely at the cover or the blurb – the quality of these is based on the thickness of an author’s wallet. 

Read a sample – if you have the ability to get into the book and can read a page or two that should tell you whether you will like the writing style of the author.

Try to overlook punctuation and simple grammar errors.  I know every author should make the best book they can but some authors tell a good story – they just don’t know all the comma rules or similar grammar rules.

What books do you enjoy reading?

I like the classics.  I’ve not read nearly enough of them.  EE Cummings is one of my favorites.  But I also LOVE dragon books – whether it’s a dragon shifter or a dragon.  You can usually get me to open the cover.  Thea Harrison – I love her books and wish I had more time to read more of them.  JD Robb – her in death series I’m usually right on top of them when they come out. 

I love science fiction and fantasy. I also like a good western.  Louis Lamour is amazing.  I like Shakespeare and I’ve read the Iliad and Odyssey a number of times.  I’m kinda all over the place. 

Is there a book you read that made a change in your life? How did it change you?

Life Magic by Susan Bowes  For most of my life, I considered myself an agnostic.  When I read this book I found my path for spiritualism.  The power in her words resonated deep inside me.   

When did you start writing novels and who/what motivated you to write?

In my late 30s, I found myself very dissatisfied with myself.  I’d had my kids, was married, and loved all of them but was very unhappy.  I hadn’t seriously written much since my late teens so I went back to writing.  I started with poetry, short stories, novel starts, and flash fiction. 

But I always knew I wanted to write books.  I think that started in grade school when I was given an assignment of writing a short story.  It was the first time I realized you could tell stories and have them published.  I was 8 but it took me a long time to get to a place where I was writing seriously. 

I was 50 when I published my first 8 books.  Poetry, self-help, romance, fantasy… all in my first year of self-publishing after years of attempting to be published traditionally. 

Books by USA Today bestseller Eileen Troemel
Books by USA Today bestseller Eileen Troemel.

Were there any major changes in your writing career? Highs and lows?

I don’t know about drastic highs and lows.  I tell my stories. I know that I’ve had weeks where I seem to get dumped on – comments from other authors, bad reviews, or even bad rejection letters… one in a week isn’t bad but when you get a bunch of them, it can be overwhelming. 

I’ve said more than once – maybe I should stop.  Then I don’t write for a couple of days (sometimes only hours) and I am reminded why I’m writing. 

I want to tell these stories that are in my head.  I remind myself no one has to like them.  I’d love for everyone to love them but the reality is not everyone will.  It’s okay for readers to not like my stuff.  I just have to keep trying to craft that better story.

What was your first published story and what is it about?

Secret Past.  It was my first novel I published.  I tried for years to get it published through a variety of different publishers.  I had interest from them but not a lot of follow-throughs.  It took me ten years to write so I was invested in the story and hadn’t learned a lot.  I’m not giving you a link – this book is in my pile to get an updated edit and new cover.  I love the story but I see too many flaws in it now. 

Secret Past is a contemporary romance thriller.  Dee has a past – one she’s not willing to talk about.  Nick is an ex-Navy Seal turned private detective.  He wants to know everything about her.  The more she says no, the more he needs to know.  His need to know causes her past to catch up with her in the worst way.  Rather than let her disappear from his life Nick opts in for whatever she needs to feel safe.  Dee wants the house, kids, and white picket fence but with her past doesn’t think she’ll get it. 

I think it’s a solid story.  It’s been seven years since I published it.  It needs a stronger edit to make it a better book. 

What advice do you have to new authors?

Lots… lots and lots…

I think first and foremost – write the story.  Write it your way, in whatever order works for you, in whatever manner works for you.  Get the story told.  Everything can be fixed in editing.  So just get it entered in the computer or written. 

There are four areas you almost need to be an expert in if you’re going to be a self-published author – Writing, Editing, Graphics, and Marketing.  If you aren’t an expert, then pay someone to do the job for you. 

Do not ever complain about the readers or the reviews you get.  One if you’ve got readers – YEAH!!!  Two if you managed to get them to write a review – thank them for their time.  Most books are not 5-star reviews.  Most books range from 2 to 4 stars. 

How do you get over writer’s block?

I don’t get writer’s block.  I have pauses in my stories.  I have pauses in my writing process.  In general, I don’t get writer’s block.  If one set of characters isn’t talking to me another set will.  I often have two to four manuscripts going at once. 

The one time I stopped writing was around my mother’s death.  As executor of her estate, I balanced the grief, the tasks to do with her funeral, the tasks to deal with her estate, and then family.  I stopped writing for almost a year.  It was bad for my mental health.  When I started back up again, I realized the lack of writing caused a lot of negativity in my life.  It wasn’t easy to start up again.  I didn’t like anything but… I started in and just wrote. 

How do you handle criticism, from beta-reading to after your story is published?

Whether it comes from a beta reader or a book review doesn’t matter.  I try to take in what they have to say, analyze whether it’s valid or not and then use it to make the book better.  It depends on what they are saying. 

That’s my grown-up response to it.  Sometimes when I get a negative review it throws me into a funk.  I really don’t expect 5-star reviews but at the same time, there’s the creative person inside me that’s going – What?  Wait?  I put my heart and soul into this… and well it goes from there. 

But then I put on my business person’s hat and analyze.  Is there something I can do without (if it’s published) drastically changing the story?  Is there something I can put in the blurb that will make people realize it’s “that” rather than having different expectations? 

Ultimately I attempt to turn the critique into something I can use to make my books better.

Have you ever dealt with rejection and how did you handle it?

I tried to get published for more than ten years.  I used to keep a file of rejection letters – yes actual letters.  I can’t tell you how many submission packets I’ve sent or how many rejections I’ve gotten.  I stopped counting. 

At first, it was all HOPE as soon as it was sent and then nerves about waiting anywhere from 3 to 6 months to get an answer.  Then a letter (or email) would come and dash my HOPE away.  Eventually, I just figured I’d get rejections.

I’ve gotten mean rejections – one said I shouldn’t write again.  That was for my poetry.  They did not like it apparently. 

If I actually got something more than a – thanks but no thanks – from them, I tried to use it to improve my books. 

What is the nicest thing anyone has said about your work?

One of my readers who had just finished reading my Wayfarer series told me she couldn’t put it down from the prequel to the eighteenth book.  That was wonderful to hear but then she took it over the top by telling me, even though she just finished the series, she wanted to go back and read it again.  I was over the moon with that. 

She recently told me she was in a book funk and nothing appealed.  She said she was looking for another Adara / Decker match and series but not finding it.  So she was going to read the series again to see if she could get rid of the funk. 

What is the one key takeaway advice you would give to anyone who wants to become a published author?

Being a published author is just getting started when you’ve finished the book.  There’s the production of the book and then there’s marketing the book.  So don’t throw something together willy nilly and expect to be a millionaire author.  It takes time and work.

What do you do when you’re not writing? (hobbies, e.g. crochet? )

Yes, though writing can become all-consuming, I do several other things.  I like to paint, craft and crochet.  In fact, I publish my own crochet patterns.  I also read when I get the chance.  Researching family history is another of my hobbies. 

Is there a particular book you would like to feature? 

The Moon Crossing which I co-wrote with Jan Selbourne. 

Eileen, thank you so much for your time and the great insight you have given both readers and writers. Eileen has shared a blurb and excerpt of The Moon Crossing, which she authored with another amazing author Jan Selbourne.

>> The novel is available on Amazon.

The Moon Crossing by Eileen Troemel and Jan Selbourne.

The Moon Crossing

Blurb

USA Today Bestselling Author Eileen Troemel and 2019 winner of Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the year silver medal for Historical Fiction Jan Selbourne present an alternate history, sweet romance of life after the Moon Landing in 1969.

In 2030, World Correction Center – the Earth’s most secure prison – is a miserable place to land. Since it’s on the moon, it’s inescapable. It contains the worst criminals Earth has ever seen. So why are the brilliant minds across the globe being sent to this black hole of the justice system?

When world-renowned archeologist Micky Cooper is charged with embezzling, his sister Susan knows it’s a set up. It’s up to her to prove his innocence. Susan thinks she might be paranoid but she swears she’s being followed and should she trust the nice man whose cousin has disappeared as well? Was it just a chance meeting or is he against her too?

Teaming up with Greg Tanner, a man equally resolved to prove the innocence of his cousin, Samantha Tanner – a world leading linguist. Susan and Greg seek clues wherever they can find them but they’re barely keeping one step ahead of those who want them to stop.

They begin to unravel the web of lies, fraud and cover up. Just when they start to put the pieces together, Susan and Greg are forced to run for their lives. With a nudge from Samantha, they find someone to help. Is this woman an ally? Or simply part of a greater conspiracy to hide the truth? What exactly is on the moon and why are the Earth’s greatest minds being sent there to serve time?

Excerpt

Finally at the front, she saw the little line on the sidewalk. The signs said no matter what, stay behind the line. Why? Did they think her powerful enough to break through a steel cage and bullet proof window? She forced a smile on her face as she fought her own rebellious nature. Putting her toes on the line, she raised her eyes to meet those of the officer.

The officer behind the window glanced her way. She flashed a sweet almost innocent smile to charm him. He paused momentarily, “State the name of the prisoner.”

“Micky… Michael James Cooper,” Susan heard the whir of the computer through the thick walls as the officer typed in her brother’s name. Biting her lip, she waited.

The officer stared at the screen, an eerie green reflection on his face. He glanced at her, frowned, and glanced back to his screen. “He’s not assigned,” the officer said.

“Can you tell me when he will be assigned,” Susan asked stepping closer to the window. She stepped over the line, but no one burst out of the doors to drag her away.

With his Adam’s apple bobbing, the officer looked into her pretty blue eyes. He licked his lips as he took in her tight sweater and her curves. Pencil skirts highlighted her narrow waist and flat stomach. Susan saw the desire she endured from men since she got breasts at ten. Men. She tried to keep the disgust she felt hidden.

“He’s been assigned,” the officer said reluctantly shifting his eyes back to the screen. “There’s no backlog of prisoners. They either get a prison in the US, or they go off to WCC.”

“What’s WCC?”

“World Correctional Center,” he informed.

“Sergeant Brady,” she read off his name from the tag on his gray uniform, “I know you get a lot of flak from people all day long, I don’t want to cause trouble. I want to send my brother some food and other creature comforts.”

Sergeant Brady adjusted his belt as he stood behind the glass and metal counter. “Most likely they sent him to the moon,” he said. “Those designations always take longer to get in the system.”

“May I ask you a simple question,” Susan said putting on her ‘I’m a dumb girl act’.

“Anything I can do to help,” Officer Brady said, grinning when she gave him a half smile.

“I thought they only sent the worst criminals there,” she said leaning forward to give him a better view of her cleavage. “I know Son of Sam and Charles Manson were sent to the dark side of the moon. Why would they send my brother who… well he did something with the computer, and they said he stole money.”

“It’s all up to the International Department of Justice,” Officer Brady said leaning towards the glass. “They assign the prisoners to the prison.”

“You’re so kind,” Susan beamed at him. “Who can I contact…”

“You can’t and you are beyond the line,” snapped an officer behind Brady, who jumped to attention.

“Oh, forgive me,” Susan said stepping back. This man was not swayed by her helpless girl act. “Thank you for your assistance.”

Turning away from the head of the line, Susan felt a flush rush across her face. How dare they? The dark side of the moon. Why send her brother? They convicted him of embezzlement. Murders, mass murderers, traitors were all sent to the dark side of the moon.

About Eileen

USA Today Bestseller Author Eileen Troemel writes action packed and emotionally powerful fantasy, scifi, romance. She’s versatile and writes in many genres.  She’ll try almost any genre if it means she can tell a good story.  In addition to her writing, she loves to read, crochet, and research genealogy.  Her best days are spent with her family of three adult daughters and her husband or writing. 

Author links:

Website: https://eileentroemel.com/ 

Twitter https://twitter.com/EileenTroemel

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/EileenTroemelAuthor/ 

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/eileentroemel/

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/eileen-troemel-6667825b/

MeWe https://mewe.com/i/eileentroemel

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7868345.Eileen_Troemel

Making the most of an Easter lockdown

For many of us, the Easter holiday gives us a bit of time off work or study to relax and spend time relaxing. During these COVID times, it may mean a different way of celebrating Easter.

My partner and I decided to stay ‘in town’ instead. We picked up our swags (bags) and slept in a hotel for a few days. Our time away from home meant that we let go of cooking, cleaning, or doing the laundry for a few days.

Celebrate a book launch

We also celebrated the launch of Cowboy Desire, an anthology of sweet to raunchy romances by 14 authors with romance publisher Black Velvet Seductions. It was a fun day of interaction with authors and readers, as well as old friends I hadn’t spoken to for a while.

Celebrating the Cowboy Desire anthology launch. Image: author’s own.

See a movie

My partner and I watched Gunda, a brilliantly constructed documentary directed by Viktor Kossakovsky about the circle of life in a barnyard. My partner didn’t quite enjoy it so much (he groaned loudly when I showed him this part of the blog article 😕) … Just as I don’t enjoy many popular films.

This is a poster for Gunda (2020 film), retrieved from Wikipedia, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rekindle the joy of reading

What else did I do? Yep, I read. And read. And read.

By the time this blog is out, I would have finished two books that I started a while ago but took longer than expected due to the busyness (and business 😂) of life:

  1. A White Knight Falls by Virginia Wallace. Oh my goodness, where do I start? This is the first rockstar romance I’ve (soon) fully finished reading. I can relate to the ferocity of the female main character, Kate, and was captivated by the ‘love/hate’ passion between her and fellow musician/love interest Alec. Virginia was smart with the way she weaved the reflective moments in the book. The descriptions were perfect, and the story had a great twist toward the end.
A White Knight Falls by Virginia Wallace. Publisher: Black Velvet Seductions. Cover designed by: Jessica Greeley.
  1. A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud. I haven’t been transported to the magical world of merpeople since I was about ten, pretending to be a mermaid and buying a ‘wishing’ bracelet that didn’t transport me to a magical place. Well, the author must’ve put a spell on me because I was transported to that magical place I’d wanted to be in years ago. Alice spun a wonderful story that made me feel I was really there with Yann, the gorgeous shape-shifting merman, and his lover Alex.
A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud. Publisher: Black Velvet Seductions. Cover designed by: Jessica Greeley.

If you’ve got time off this Easter or any holiday, I hope that you make time to rediscover the things you love most.

Don’t let anyone or anything steal your joy.

Have a peaceful, safe, and happy holiday. 😊

Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

Monday, March 8, is International Women’s Day in 2021.

According to UN Women, all women deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes, and violence. We’re talking about equal rights where women should have an integral role when it comes to decision-making.

The media empower our voices

The media play an important role in influencing our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors when it comes to perceptions of the roles women and men play at work, at home, and in relationships.

I am thankful for podcasts such as Speak Seductively, hosted by five-star romance/erotica author Kyle Canon and his partner Lilly. Lilly Canon is a model, narrator of audiobooks a naturist, and, with Kyle, a swinger. Their podcast explores relationships from a #sexpositive perspective.

The topics on their show include the ‘difference between art, erotica, and pornography’, BDSM, and bring up themes of empowerment in their interviews with various authors.

I was recently interviewed by Kyle and Lilly, and we had a wonderful chat about strong voices in romance novels. We also talked about my female character’s journey in embracing her femininity and emancipating from controlling relationships. Finally, we discussed the importance of trust and communication, which are empowering factors in relationships.

Recommended read (certified STEAMY!)

>> The Resort by Kyle Canon

Romance books influence empowerment

As a romance reader and writer, International Women’s Day is a personal reminder of the stories that made a lasting impression when I was in my teens and early twenties.

Back then, I was influenced by romance novels where the woman came second to the man. He was the rich guy. The smart guy. The strong guy. The playboy. He was the guy with a career, may it be business, law, or a hotel empire.

The female character would, of course, be a virgin or celibate. She would try to outwit her playboy love interest with halfwit jokes. She pretended to be dumb, played silly mind games, and came up with failing tactics. She was less powerful socially, depended on her hero financially, and her voice faded like wallpaper losing its luster as the story progressed. Ultimately, she needed him to ‘save’ her (and the story plot).

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels.

Right now, I feel angry at my younger self for being such a gullible reader. Yes, I admit that I wanted the hero to stomp into my life, throw me over his shoulder, and ‘rescue’ me. Back then, I was someone who accepted the status quo and took in all the kicks in the gut that came my way. Looking back, I’m glad I abandoned the books and waved good-bye to my old life.

I started reading a different type of romance book, thanks to a few good friends. I had never read an erotic romance until this point, and the books my friends put in my hands were eye-popping. The novels transported my curious mind to a place where women could dominate their lovers (both men and women) freely.

In addition to the BDSM books, I read other novels that had great messages on equal rights. These books helped me strengthen the voice I have today. I learned that the hero and heroine cooperated and communicated to achieve their journey together. These stories were enjoyable to read and I would read them again.

You have the power to empower others

I want to challenge every romance reader on International Women’s Day and every other day:

  • Are you willing to put aside stories that weaken our voices and diminish our role as equal human beings?
  • Will you read a book that portrays women having an integral role when it comes to decision-making?
  • Will you share with your friends a book you’ve read that portrays women having an equal future, breaking away from stigma, stereotypes, and violence?

International Men’s Day

Later in the year, on November 19, we will celebrate International Men’s Day. This year’s theme is “Better relations between men and women.” The day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families, and communities.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

I believe it’s important that men are portrayed accurately and that stories show their sensitive side. A man who shows empathy, kindness, and feelings is a man of great strength.

Let’s do both genders a favor and portray them as equals. After all, together, we are stronger.

Upcoming stories:

Loving Jack in Cowboy Desire, an anthology of country and western romances by 14 talented romance authors.

>>>Romance books that empower by publisher Black Velvet Seductions

Writing with chronic pain

What’s it like being an author, parent, wife, and full-time worker?

Anyone who’s wearing these shoes can tell you that it’s just part of life and you keep at it. I’ve always been running on a high metabolism, so I enjoy juggling a couple of balls in the air – it keeps my momentum going. I’m an introvert by nature, but once you get a conversation started with me, I can talk a million miles an hour and tap into all kinds of crazy topics; it’s like a multi-track where there are several trains running at full speed. Stories come to life in my head, and my characters urge me to write their stories – something I can’t resist.

But what happens when chronic pain strikes? How do you deal with it? How does it affect you? Do you get depressed? How do you live life with chronic pain? Can you still write?

I’ll answer the questions in this blog article.

What happens when chronic pain strikes?

Chronic pain crept into my life after I was in a serious car accident years ago. After the initial recovery, which took months, I suffered intense migraines for years. Then, I had cubital tunnel syndrome (like carpal tunnel syndrome), which I had surgery for, and the healing took six months in 2017. Thanks to exercise, training, and relaxation techniques, my arm is good now.

Just when I thought life would be pain-free, I was wrong. At the end of 2018, crippling back pain struck me like an insidious evil carving through my skin and scorching wildfire into my left muscles, nerves, and upper spine. At first, I thought the pain would go away after being prescribed anti-inflammatory medication.

The pain did not go away. In early 2019, an MRI scan revealed a prolapse that required immediate surgery. So, I had the surgery.

Things were meant to improve, but they did not. Now, two years later, I’m still living in pain. These ‘best-of-the-best’ private-sector doctors have all played roles of the gods – there was Apollo, then Asclepius, followed by Sekhmet, Wu Tao, Airmed…and the list goes on for the number of ‘expert’ doctors with numerous degrees and university teaching records who were haughty and oh so omniscient. They claimed to know exactly what’s wrong, but their advice and treatment did not work. What amused me was their arrogance when I dared to say I was still in pain!

Then, there were natural healing therapies by chiropractors, naturopaths, physiotherapists, etc. – including one who left me semi-paralyzed for a few hours and my whole left arm bloated in swollen pain – I had to take my wedding ring off because of the swelling that night and suffered from a blinding headache, attached to the nerve pain stemming across a gridlocked highway from my upper back, down to my arm.

My new local GP is fantastic. He’s like Dr. Gregory House from the TV series named after the character. He’s gone above and beyond the ‘expert’ doctors to try to find an answer and treatment. He’s called different experts in his network, and now, after a six-month wait, I’ll be tested for nerve damage and muscle damage by the head of neurology at a local hospital next week. They may not find an answer, but I live with hope every day.

Do I get depressed?

Of course, I get depressed and anxious. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel any sadness associated with the long-term pain. However, I live for a better day and try to do as much as I normally can without exerting myself. I make use of the outdoors and fresh air.

How do I live with pain?

I work in my day job as I normally would, with the aid of heat packs, ibuprofen gels, and a strong medication that I take for the worst of days – which I take in the evening as it knocks me right out and I wake up feeling groggy after about 12 hours. When I take that medication, I know that I won’t be writing, editing, or doing anything after work hours.

The other thing I do is switch off from social media when needed. I’ll do the best I can to promote my stories, prioritizing my publisher first – but everything else is placed in the ‘noise’ basket. There are so many social media channels and people with questions I don’t always have answers for.

I don’t answer all the questions – only the important ones and yes, I do connect with readers and authors who hold a special place in my heart. I prioritize them first when I’m well enough to be online socially.

I know my limits and switch off when I need to. I don’t give when I cannot give. I know when my tank is running on empty – so that’s when I say to myself, ‘stop now’.

Can I still write?

Yes. Of course! There are windows in my free time when I get a good stretch of minimal pain and that’s when I’m most productive – I’ll prioritize the tasks I need done first, and get these done. Everything else can wait.

I’ve learned to prioritize what I can take in, working with my strengths and weaknesses. As a professional author, the first writing priority is my publisher and activities around my published work. Everything else can wait.

I realize that the least painful days are like windows of opportunity that come – I’ve got a certain amount of time to really focus on completing my writing tasks before the pain intensifies again.

I also have an author PA who does an amazing job promoting my published book, and she’s wonderful. When my pain medication kicks in and it’s lights out for me, I can rest assured that my book is being promoted. It also means that I can use the “feeling well” days to write – again, a focused approach.

What have I learned from living in pain?

I’ve learned to put myself first – that means my health and my family. They come first and that’s not negotiable. We all have our challenges during these COVID times and I need to tackle these challenges with my family first. What would you do? Leave a crying child while you answer a message from a writer who needs feedback on their story? Of course, not! The kids always come first. 🙂

As I said earlier, I do get my ‘blue’ days but I take advantage of my surroundings. If it’s a sunny day, I go for a walk. If there’s a hailstorm outside, I watch my favorite TV show with my husband or read one of my favorite books – right now I’m reading A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud, one of the best fantasy romance authors in today’s world – her books are on Amazon.

Will there be better days ahead? Of course, there will be! I plan on doing so much more as an author. As for my health, I know I’ve got a good doctor who’s earnest and he does his best to refer me to the right people – even if it takes time.

I’m hoping for treatment to minimize/mitigate the pain after my visit to the hospital next week. Here’s hoping and praying for the best!

All good things take time.

Bad boys of romance

Bad boys of romance

What’s with the bad boys of romance?

Okay, so I’ve been asked a few times: what’s all the hype about bad boy characters in romance novels?

Well, it’s not news. The ‘bad boys’ have been around for centuries and they are appealing for various reasons. According to the Oxford Dictionary online, a bad boy is “a man who does not conform to approved standards of behavior, especially in a particular sphere of activity.”

In fact, they’ve been in literature for a while, including the biblical times. Let’s take Moses; I mean, c’mon—the guy killed a man, talked to shrubbery, turned his staff into a snake, and divided the Red Sea! Now, that’s pretty badass and impressive, if you ask me.

Let’s skip centuries forward to Dorian Gray. He was hedonistic, vain (yup, that portrait!), indulged in debauchery (oh, poor Sibyl!), and yeah, he killed a guy.

Dorian Gray in a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Okay, let’s travel to the twentieth century: Dirty Dancing. Wasn’t Patrick Swayze a dream? His character, Johnny Castle, makes me swoon. Who can forget the line “nobody puts Baby in a corner?”

Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze, in Dirty Dancing.

Today, we have characters like Christian Grey from the Fifty Shades series, Massimo Torricelli from 365 Dni, and Kylo Ren in the Star Wars series (yes, I’m a Star Wars fan!).

The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Next Film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64240288

What’s the appeal?

A study led by Gregory Louis Carter of the University of Durham (cited in Psychology Today) provided insights, revealing that women found men with dark personalities attractive. The results of the study offered two possible explanations. First, sexual selection might be at work; women responded to signals of “male quality” when it came to reproduction. With respect to short-term mating, women may be drawn to “bad boys” who demonstrate confidence, stubbornness, and risk-taking tendencies. Secondly, sexual conflict may be at play. 

Stories with sexual conflict, risks, and a bad boy sounds appealing, right? It seems to work for many successful romance stories. The bad boys are exciting and fun, according to psychologist Robyn McKay, author of Smart Girls in the 21st Century (quoted in Good Housekeeping).

A short-term fiction fling?

Can the bad boys have their happily ever after (HEA) in romance stories? Or will they end up like Heathcliff, Dorian, or some other kind of roadkill?

Carter and his team reported that there were limitations of their study, indicating that the sample they selected were likely to be oriented toward short-term relationships.

Moreover, studies by Urbaniak and Kilmann (2003) and Herold and Milhausen (1999) (cited in Edward Horgan’s Harvard University project “Exceeding the Threshold: Why Women Prefer Bad Boys”) indicate that women adamantly claim to prefer nice guys. Horgan further states that there is an apparent discrepancy within current scientific literature on the subject of female attraction, with regard to the bad boys.

Is there hope for the bad boys?

There seems to be hope, depending on the circumstances. Psychologist Forrest Talley, Ph.D. (quoted in Good Housekeeping) stated that women desired to have someone in their life who was tough enough to face the world and punch back when necessary.

In other words, we don’t mind the tough guys who have a protective side, when they’re on our side. They have an even bigger chance of winning our hearts for good if they are kind, sensitive, and romantic. Interestingly, niceness itself is not an unattractive characteristic but is simply insufficient to garner female attention on its own, according to Horgan.

In my erotic romance novel Lessons on Seduction published by Black Velvet Seductions, my male MC, Julian—a guy who sold his body to pay off his college debt—takes his new girlfriend, Sapphire, for a wild ride before he realizes just how much he loves her. However, he makes some pretty big mistakes. Is it too late for guys like him, though?

Well, not if he’s brave enough to punch back at the world, show his sensitive and sweet nature, and fight for his lover. However, if Julian continues taking Sapphire for granted, then there is no hope for him.

I’m proud of Jules for one thing, though—he’s not an abusive man. I’ve met abusive men in my life, and I can tell you firsthand that it’s not a pleasant experience. Abuse comes in different forms: mental, emotional, and physical. That is one thing no one should tolerate from any person, bad boy or not, in fiction or real life.

Who’s your favorite bad boy in literature?

I’ll admit my weak spot: I’ve always liked the vampire Lestat from Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. The Lestat I read in her books has more appeal and sensitivity than the movie version played by Tom Cruise in the 1990s film Interview with a Vampire (sorry!).

I also don’t mind hot and charismatic Dracula, played by Gary Oldman in the Francis Ford Coppola film version. While others might swoon over Keanu Reeves, who played Jonathan Harker, I’m more interested in none other than Vlad himself. Why? He’s enigmatic, dangerous, mysterious, and yet, he’s protective of sweet Mina—with all his heart. It’s his capability to love (some may disagree, but I believe Irish author Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a love story as much as it’s a horror fiction), his vulnerability, his protectiveness, and his hungry passion for his true love that I liked.

I can honestly admit I’m a sucker for bad boys who are sensitive, protective, and loving—as long as they’re not abusive.

Over to you: Have you ever imagined riding off into the sunset with a bad boy (or bad girl) character in fiction?

If you’re looking for a hot romance with a bad boy, or a hunky good guy, check out the diverse range of romance books, from sweet to erotic, on publisher Black Velvet Seductions’ website: https://blackvelvetseductions.com/

Resources:

Dispelling the myths of an erotic romance author

I’m enjoying the experience of authorhood with my publisher Black Velvet Seductions. As an avid reader who enjoys writing, I find writing mentally therapeutic.

However, I’ve also learned a few things about exposure and how to deal with it, especially in the erotic romance subgenre.

A number of assumptions come along with being an erotic romance writer. There are those who believe that erotic romance writers are open to illicit proposals, or that we aren’t as intelligent as MBA graduates, or that we write about unsafe sex. I’ve received a growing number of direct or private messages in different channels related to all the above-mentioned assumptions.

Well, sorry to disappoint, but these assumptions of erotic romance authors are usually just myths. Here are a few myths that I’d like to dispel:

1. Erotic romance authors are little vixens waiting for pleasure in our inboxes.

Um, no. We’re regular people who have ordinary lives and we don’t gregariously swing naked on chandeliers while sipping champagne. It does sound rather fun though, but no. In my case, I’m a shy introvert who loves to read books. I’ve been reading romance novels since I was fifteen. Like many erotic romance writers and readers, I also love other genres, including thrillers, gothic horror, classics, poetry, history, politics, and nonfiction books (biographies, business and management books, etc).

2. Erotic romance writing is easier than writing a college paper.

Nope. I can vouch for this one because I’ve done both. So have many of my other author friends. Many erotic romance authors I’ve met are highly educated people (both women and men) who have impressive CVs, broad and diverse. They are highly intelligent and can engage in just about every topic on the planet, from anthropology and sociology to psychology, politics, economics, and business.

I can tell you from personal experience that I found writing erotic romance novels to be harder than writing a Master’s paper. I have an MBA from a top Australian university and have had my academic work published on the topic of leadership. I apply the same analytical techniques of plotting a story as I did with outlines during my postgraduate days.

Strong emotions and character development are involved in writing a romance novel, and I have to admit that the sex scenes can be extremely challenging to write. When I start writing a chapter on the intimate parts, I procrastinate more than I did when I wrote economics or financial management assignments.

The frustration of writing love scenes.

3. Erotic romances don’t promote healthy characters and solid relationships.

I have had this debate with a few people, especially with regard to popular novels and movies where there are blurred lines, and in some cases, misrepresentation of communities. I remember the saying that it takes just one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel.

When I started reading erotic romance novels, I remember the feeling of disillusionment and the need to research the truth (that is a trait from my journalism days, when I was a newspaper reporter). So, I did my research and found documentaries by journalists, as well as other erotic romance novels along the way, where I learned new things on topics such as BDSM, voyeurism, ménage à trois, swinging, and other kinks that come in an erotic romance.

One author whose work I highly recommend is author Annabel Allan, who really knows her stuff when it comes to writing about BDSM and thrilling, suspenseful erotic romances.

Coming soon: Rigged, the third book in the Goode Pain Series by Annabel Allan.

4. Erotic romance authors want dirty private messages.

No. When I see these messages come through, they are often harmless. Still, there is no service to provide, except for the service of delivering enjoyable books to read.

We are writers of erotic content, which includes novels, short stories, prose, and poetry. We are not interested in engaging in personal sexual role play or any other kinky requests.

People who read books as a hobby do it because the stories are pleasant and interesting to them. Our stories are written to give people something of interest to them, which they can read and enjoy.

Looking for erotic romances to read?

My publisher, Black Velvet Seductions, has a wide range of quality romance novels on their website, which include erotic romances.

As of July 30, 2020, my novel Lessons on Seduction, will be available on Amazon and other places in ebook and paperback formats. Buckle up for a wild, emotional ride with a thriller plot.

Recommended resource:

Love Between the Covers, a documentary film on the romance fiction industry. It was recommended to me by @dlcroisette, award-winning Wattpad romance author of the Ruby Red series.