Happiness

Last weekend I read and reviewed a book by a woman, about my age, who lives with Bipolar. We exchanged a few emails. The weekend before I tweeted to a woman who has been a ‘mum’ to a child who has grown into the body of a man, but with the mind of a toddler.

These are remarkable heroines with incredible strength and I am blessed to have their lives intersect with mine, even so briefly. I am changed just by knowing them.

Everyone knows that likes attract so I humbly pondered how I got here.

Long ago, I remember my first foray into goal-setting. I had chastised a younger worker for his shoddy work on the repair of a video tape machine. My boss figured I needed a few lessons in how to deal with people and sent me off to a Dale Carnegie course. About the same time, the company decided we needed to be more productive, and a few of us headed off to NYC for a course in Time Management.

Of course, they sent me home with brochures to buy tapes, (it was the eighties), and more self-help tapes. I gobbled everything down because I was starving. I was thirty, stuck in a job I hated, had two young kids, a mortgage, and no way out. I cried a lot.

It took a lot of hard work to change my thoughts but I did. After my thoughts changed, my life changed, and here I am.

Believe

Where am I? Content. Not complacent, by any means, but most of the time, pretty happy.

When I need to ‘pay it forward,’ I write about strong women, facing adversity. A romance is the perfect place to do it. If thoughts become reality, (and I believe they do), then my life’s goal is to empower women as they imagine themselves as my heroines.

That makes me happy.

Lady Ann Defends Damaged Heroines

As a dutiful author, this morning I did a Google search using the key words: ‘Romance Novel Review Requests 2015.’ ‘How to Train Your Knight’ needs to get to fifty reviews to gain in the Amazon rankings.

I read through one reviewer’s likes and dislikes, and she fumed inside my head. “What does that mean, she doesn’t like damaged heroines?”
I tried to calm her down and stopped typing. “I’m sure she meant no offense. There’s lots of other-”

“Stop right there, Stella, Put me down for review. I am not damaged.”

I sighed and went to make my oatmeal. This could be a long conversation. “Technically, getting abused by your first husband, almost to the point of death, counts as damaged.”

“Not so. I am completely healed. And happily married with two children and one on the way.”

“Yes, yes. I agree, but not at the start of the book. Don’t you remember?”

“Well I think that’s just wrong. Characters who grow strong through the course of a novel should not be called damaged.“

“I agree.” I read forward a bit on that same page, glad we’d settled the issue

“Wait a second… She likes damaged heroes? How in God’s Blood is that fair?” She virtually screeched inside my brain.

“Listen, everyone’s entitled to an opinion.” I quickly went to the next site and began the process of filling in a form.

“But it’s downright insulting. She allows Marcus his bad dreams but not me?”

“Now, now. You’ve got lots of excellent reviews, Ann. Many women applaud your endless energy, devotion to your town, and the way you handle Sir Marcus. We’ll find some more accommodating and understanding reviewers, okay? Some people just don’t get the courage it takes to be truly happy and content despite adversity in the past, but I do.”

I looked at the clock. I still had to get dressed and ready for work.She snorted and left my head.

Thank God.

Read about Ann in ‘How To Train Your Knight’

Help Me Find A Title

Year of our Lord 1283
England

A naked goddess, she arose from the top pool in the Roman bathhouse. A Venus in a fountain, her melon breasts dripped with water and rosy nipples pointed where they met the cooler air. She took a linen from the ancient mosaic floor and dried herself inch by inch with her eyes closed.

From the bottom tier, hid safely behind one of the thick marble columns, Sir Thomas D’Agostine could not make his legs move, nor divert his eyes. He hoped it was of him his lady dreamed as she touched herself. Did she remember her promises to him?

The lady Meredith, with lips the shade of poppies in spring, pouted, and let the towel drop from between her legs. Her gray eyes, that he’d once known so well, lowered towards the pile of clothing that lay beside her feet. Look up.

One thick lock of burnished gold hair escaped the mass tied to her head. The length twisted past a full breast, beyond her navel, and just above a thatch of curly hair. There, he had almost known her. Would she take him back? She’d haunted every one of his dreams, followed him like a wraith from London, to France, to Italy, the Holy Lands, and by God, back again. She would marry him. This time he would insist. He cleared his throat and stood out in the open, on the lowest tier of bricks.

Eyes wide, her mouth dropped open, and she screeched with hands covering her nakedness. “Thomas? Is that you? Haunt me not. Be gone. Damn you.”
He put melody to one of the hundreds of poems he had composed as his lower appendage swelled for her. “Merry, Merry. So very ever fair-ye.”
“Good heavenly Father above. Now it sings?” She picked up a scrubbing brush lying beside a pile of her clothing. Fire from the hearth reflected red into her crazed eyes.

Jumping up three stairs, he stood at the second tier of pools. Water gurgled from the top tier and dribbled out the other side to the bottom in perfect harmony, granting him the peace he needed to continue. He opened his arms wide with his best smile. “Nay a ghost, love. I have come back for you.”

A small nugget of soap whizzed by and would have grazed a cheek had he not stepped aside. She dropped to her knees with what he thought was a prayer, jostled in her belongings and rose with the vicious edge of a dagger. She hissed and jabbed in his direction. “Nay. Be gone ghost. You cannot be you. They said you were dead.”

“They? Who are these they, dearest? There is only I, your love. I have come back for you.” He jumped up three more stairs until only an arm’s length separated them and reached with palms up.

With her un-daggered hand, she finger-poked at him and her gray eyes went wider still when she hit the mail under his tunic. She paled. “Why did you never send word? Did you eat all your pigeons? Your messengers all up and died? It matters not. You cannot be here. You’ll ruin all I have planned. Go away and remain dead.”

He inched forward and the sweet smell of lavender lay siege upon his already assaulted senses. His already thick lance swelled under his tunic and fought forward to find a sweeter sheath. “Dead? No, not dead, love. Wed. A better option. Besides, how can I remain dead when I have never yet visited in that holy place?”

“Holy place? Nay, Sir Thomas. You’ll be dancing with the king of darkness by tonight, if I have any say.”

The love of his life lunged at him with her dagger, he twisted, and she splashed into the baths. She came up for air with long angry snake-like locks surrounding her head.

He squatted and pushed the top of her head under the water. “Drop the dagger.”

When blade drifted to the bottom of the pool, he let go. An angry maiden with a sharp object was not of his liking. Whatever happened to the giggling maid he had all but bedded five years ago? Who was this cantankerous creature? Where was his merry maid? His Merry of all days? Merry, lovely, Merry who had laughed at every one of his jests. She’d claimed the sun rose and set on his bidding.

For years he had dreamed how he would twist these golden locks between his fingers. But not thus. Oh no, but to them to bring close her lovely lips and claim them until she moaned and begged. Only then, would he thrust and pump and lay back spent. Gird up your loins, sir jester-knight of lost loves, life is full of disappointments.

It was then he noticed a boy of about five seasons wielding a sword half his size. The warrior with dark locks, dark eyes, and tiny penis, charged up the stairs with his sword steady. A good lad. “Let go of my Mama, you horse’s arse.”

Mother? So that was it? Five years of longing twisted his gut into a knot. She must’ve married another before he’d even set sail for France. Thomas howled within. “Now you work with your legs open, you, you, Magdalene?”

“What? How dare you? I’m no harlot.” She clawed her nails down the center of his face. The bloody wounds could not match the one tearing at his heart. He strode out, and swore when a brick of soap struck the back of his head.

“He is your son, you dolt.” Her words were plain as the unique shape of the boy’s nose. Thomas turned, put a hand to the rising bump on his daft noggin, and for the first time in his life, could find naught to say.

Midwest Book Review

MidwestBookReviewHow To Train Your Knight
Stella Marie Alden
Soul Mate Publishing, Macedon, NY 14502
ASIN: B00WRNKOOU $2.99 Free with Kindle Unlimited
www.stellamariealden.com http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WRNKOOU

D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Most medieval novels don’t offer up a steamy romance theme; but then, How To Train Your Knight isn’t your usual historical novel, but offers a gripping love story set in 1276 that opens with the bang of a screaming woman accosting Sir Marcus Blackwell, a holy crusader forced into a marriage with a foul-tempered widow.

Lies, ladies, she-witches, murder and love are vividly portrayed as characters are well-developed and dialogue and description nicely done to capture the sounds, scents, feel and lingo of Medieval times (without resorting to confusing vernacular, which makes for an exceptionally smooth read).

Where other romances would fall into modern description, How To Train Your Knight stays true to its times, tailoring its graphic sexual encounters with a sense of the decorum and trappings of Medieval times. From the period clothing of the era which is removed with a different touch (“…finally he undid the leather ties holding the three sheaves, and her knives clunked to the floor.”) to a woman’s acceptance of the pleasure involved in making babies (which doesn’t translate to the usual confession to a priest if a husband is involved), Stella Marie Alden excels at presenting powerful protagonists who both express their sexuality and discover riches of the heart in the process.

Because romance is the key, binding factor in How To Train Your Knight, audiences should be genre readers looking for a healthy dose of history to spice the steamy interludes. These factors contribute to a powerful story line that is as much about sexual awakening and love as it is about the process of becoming a powerful partner and surviving the medieval world.

Midwest Book Review

How To Train Your Knight- credit to D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

MidwestBookReview

  • Stella Marie Alden
  • Soul Mate Publishing, Macedon, NY 14502
  • ASIN: B00WRNKOOU     $2.99  Free with Kindle Unlimited

Most medieval novels don’t offer up a steamy romance theme; but then, How To Train Your Knight isn’t your usual historical novel, but offers a gripping love story set in 1276 that opens with the bang of a screaming woman accosting Sir Marcus Blackwell, a holy crusader forced into a marriage with a foul-tempered widow.

Lies, ladies, she-witches, murder and love are vividly portrayed as characters are well-developed and dialogue and description nicely done to capture the sounds, scents, feel and lingo of Medieval times (without resorting to confusing vernacular, which makes for an exceptionally smooth read).

Where other romances would fall into modern description, How To Train Your Knight stays true to its times, tailoring its graphic sexual encounters with a sense of the decorum and trappings of Medieval times. From the period clothing of the era which is removed with a different touch (“…finally he undid the leather ties holding the three sheaves, and her knives clunked to the floor.“) to a woman’s acceptance of the pleasure involved in making babies (which doesn’t translate to the usual confession to a priest if a husband is involved), Stella Marie Alden excels at presenting powerful protagonists who both express their sexuality and discover riches of the heart in the process.

Because romance is the key, binding factor in How To Train Your Knight, audiences should be genre readers looking for a healthy dose of history to spice the steamy interludes. These factors contribute to a powerful story line that is as much about sexual awakening and love as it is about the process of becoming a powerful partner and surviving the medieval world.

Writing and Yoga

Yoga becomes art.

 

My good friend, Jennifer, is a yoga instructor, we’re both about the same age, and have a lot in common. She stopped me as I walked by her cube, and said, “I was just talking about you.”

“Oh yea?” I raised my eyebrows and smiled. “All good I hope.”

“I was remarking with Jean how much we admire you.” Her eyes were direct as always, unashamed to be sincere.

I tried to be the same, but blushed. “Thank you. Truly? But why?”

“We were talking how dedicated you are…getting up every day at five thirty to write, entering contests, and finally getting published.” She knows of my yoga journey. How when I started, my toes were so far away, I thought them another universe. Now I can put my hands flat to the floor, even after recovering from a herniated disc.

“What is harder, to do your first backbend in your forties or write a book?”

“Some would argue the latter.” She swiveled in her chair so as to turn and face me more.

“But it is the mindset. The idea of change, of growth that yoga brings that is so important. Yoga has taught me that all things are possible with practice, and belief, and incremental change; to try new things, whether watercolor painting, or replacing windows in my house, or writing. Our possibilities are unbounded. How can you know what you might be good at if you never attempt new things?”

She laughed. “So many people practice yoga for the exercise, or to relax, or for a myriad of other reasons. But you know? It doesn’t matter. Because eventually, if they stick with it, they will reap that benefit, whether they intend to or not.”

“So true.” I walked back to my cube, my day job, and dreamed of more possibilities.”

 

yoga

Writers must write

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Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into?

I started writing a novel about three years ago for my own amusement. I didn’t want to be rich, well-known or famous. I just wanted to have a little fun in my mind’s eye; a challenge, if you will.

When I let my husband read what I was doing, he encouraged me to do more. What more? At one point in my life I had written several small things and sent away to editors in high hopes only to be dashed by hundreds of rejections. I remember thinking I would never go to that place again; slush pile hell. The place where all manuscripts go to die and egos get crushed into tiny bits of dust.
But, it would be nice to have someone besides a few friends to read my work. But how? I certainly didn’t know any writers. Contests. Hmmm… Sounds kind of fishy, doesn’t it? You pay some money and win? Big deal. That was how my thought process went. No insult intended. My mind runs with constant conspiracies.

I don’t know where or how I came across the RWA,(Romance Writers of America), contests online. Well that looked more interesting. Critical reviews that came as a result of entering the contest. Makes sense. I could get someone to read my work, and tell me if I was full of sh*t or if I might be a writer. Thus my thoughts ran. I really didn’t believe I had the right to call myself a writer. I still have a hard time with it. Even after being an Amazon bestseller.

I placed in two out of three of my first contests. Wow. Talk about validation. I did everything that the contest people recommended, ruined my writing, and stunk big time for almost a year. It didn’t really matter, though because I was having lots of fun and little by little figured out what happened to my voice.

By year three, I had three manuscripts that were pretty solid, and another on the way. On my summer vacation, I entered perhaps ten contests, with my two best works. One was a winner. It won the molly, the show me the spark, and was a finalist in three others.
Several editors asked for full manuscripts, but none more serious than Cindy Brannam with Soul Mate Publishing. She got back to me in less than two weeks and I had a contract.

I have to say, I was more frightened than ecstatic. I have a fulltime job. What do I know of marketing? Now my playing at writing was going to be real. Would it ruin everything? Would fun turn into work? What if no one liked it or bought it? Jeesh, and I didn’t know a tweet from post.

Fast forward to May 25th. My book has been on Amazon for almost three weeks. I did make the Best Seller lists for about two weeks, and its ranking is still in the top ten percent of all books. Not bad for a first book.
Do you know what the hardest thing is? To focus on book two. Not Facebook, Not twitter, Not Pinterest, Not Tumbler Not to a myriad of posting on blogs. To write. Because that is what I love to do. That’s how all this started. I’m not a rock star. I’m not a marketing genius. I am a writer.

And writers write.

My Mind Grid Interview

Here is an excerpt from Adri’s interview:
FULL INTERVIEW HERE


First off, introduce yourself – Stella the person vs Stella the Author.

Stella is a pen name. Why? Because there was someone already writing romances under my legal name. I chose Stella because it’s so fun to say. Everyone goes Steeellllaaaa, the first time they hear it. I always laugh. Marie is my middle name. Alden is interesting. I am descended from the Pilgrims.

John Alden was a cooper; someone who repaired the barrels. Good for Priscilla for choosing the man who could make her a house as opposed to the leader, Miles Standish, the man with a gun. I’d like to think I’d be that smart.
I was born in Vermont, a small state in New England just south of Canada into a family that still doesn’t get me. I am all about the highs and lows of life. I love the ocean and painting with watercolors. For a while, I flirted with being a professional musician. I had a career in the eighties repairing recording studio electronics. Now that is a story for another day. I sing, I Zumba, I yoga, and I love life to its fullest. I believe, as Stephen Covey did, that one should live life in crescendo.

I have a day job as a software architect which feeds the other side of the brain. In case you haven’t noticed, I hate being bored.
I must mention, too, I have two grown daughters, one lives in Rome, the other in Brooklyn who come from opposite sides of the spectrum. We talk often and share our ambitions as if the same age.

2. Now, tell me about your writing Stella.

I’ve only been writing for about three years. When I was a kid, I worked in the local public library. Often, when I was supposed to be straightening shelves, I read. When I found the fairy tales in their original version, I was shocked. They’re perfectly gruesome. Do you know that one of Cinderella’s sisters cut off a toe, the other a heel to fit into the slipper? They were found out because there was blood left on the road. There can be a gory road to a happily-ever-after and maybe we need that.
This is the strangest thing about why I started to write. I was looking at my credit card bill for Amazon and shocked to see it had gone close to two hundred dollars when I was trying to be frugal. I vowed I would spend less and then my heart sank. What would I do? I figured in the morning I could spend less, if I started writing my own romance instead of reading. I kid you not. So now I write every day from 5:30AM until I need to leave for work around 8:00AM.

3. About your book “How to train your Knight” – how on earth did you come up with that?
Oh my God. Do you know its original title was “Dyed in the Wool?” hahhahah. Gah. What was I thinking?
But as for the genre? I remember thinking, after reading a particularly insipid whiney romance, that I would like to read a book where the concept of “romantic love” was not so fully ingrained into the human culture. That was the spark, the rest came from that. My thought process always starts with a “what-if.”
What if that key I found was to a safety deposit box? What if some people were hiding in society with just a little magic? What if a woman wrote an intelligence program far beyond what is known today?

4. What are you working on now? Can we expect more? When?

I am about two-thirds done with book two. Not sure of the title, but in it, Sir Thomas comes back from his travels as a merchant to find out he has a son, and some land near the border of Scotland. The giggling girl he fell in love with, has grown up, and her heart was broken when he left. It will take some doing to win her back. I’m working to have this book done in six months. There. I said it. I’ve set a goal.

5. Do you have a ritual, or a strange habit before, after while you write?

Hahahah. Lemme think.

My brain is most creative first thing in the morning. So I’m oft times writing in my pajamas with a cup of coffee. I write until I’m almost late for work. So snack food is usually oatmeal while my cats whine to lick the bowl.
I write at what used to be the dining room table. My husband usually sits kitty-corner, studying online to be a holistic nutritionist. He gets the groceries so my days of chips and cookies are long gone. I love fresh berries, though. We eat paleo, but I have been known to sneak out for warm bread, like a crack addict.

6. Now, I verbally kidnapped you for a few minutes and you mentioned your hubby helping you out with your editing & you have an editor on hand too – does hubby write too?

Hee hee. I am published by Soul Mate Publishing, a small but growing house, and Cindy Brannam is my editor there. She pushed me through a lot of the new-writer issues and I am so in her debt. The funniest was how many times I address people by their given name in conversation.

“I say, Thomas, what goes?”
“It is naught, Marcus”
Get it? Oh my God. There were hundreds of instances. I actually rolled on the floor, laughing, as I began to mock myself.
Now my husband-editor knows me best and fixes my quirky misspeaks and plot holes. He started out by editing a king-fu scene in my first book, (contempory, not yet published.) and then it went on from there. He is not a writer, but his brilliant ADD brain catches the smallest of dots and quotes missing.
The sex scenes, which might be embarrassing to some, or perhaps kindle a need in others, we treat like other scenes. For us, having been married so long, in a healthy relationship, sex is just another way that couples communicate. That’s why I don’t skip those scenes and put them behind closed doors. How people make love is important to see, because it shows the growth of the relationship. I don’t equate gentle love making with porn.


I would love to know how we can stalk – I mean, uhm, follow you – so could you please provide as many or as few social media contact links as you wish?

BUY
Facebook
Twitter: @stellamariealde
Goodreads

————******* Please add in ANYTHING you think is relevant [education etc,] or simply ignore questions you do not wish to answer. Write this out as little or as long as you wish… We’re easy going!!

Thank you again for taking part in this, and for sharing your time! I really appreciate it!

Interview with Stella Marie Alden

Hi, Stella. Tell us a little about yourself.
Uh, hi. This is awkward. I mean everyone knows I am interviewing myself, right?

No, they didn’t… but now they do.
Okay. My bad. What now?

Try starting with where you were born.
Let me think. I was born in a small city in Vermont where most the people I ran into thought the world was like those airport mugs? There is a HUGE picture of the city you are in, and then the rest of the globe is tiny. Now I live about an hour outside of New York City where people pretend it is like where I grew up. We have a little downtown with an old movie theater, a historical-looking train stop, and fancy shops.

What do you like to do?
When I am not working or writing or marketing or working on my house or mowing the lawn, I like to work out with Zumba and Yoga.

Heh. I guess you keep busy. Do you have any children? Pets?
My two daughters are grown. One in Rome. One in New York City. They still call me Mommy when their heart gets broken… or they need a little monetary help. I got two cats that think they own the place.

You mentioned a day job.
Yes, I am a senior principal software architect.

Whoaa…. sounds impressive.
I guess. I started out writing code, now I do more of the design and technical management of multi-million dollar projects. It’s always challenging and changing, which is what I like best. I don’t like to be bored.

Great. At what age did you realize your fascination with books?
I could say I grew up in the local library. My mother read to us every night and went to the library every weekend with us. I worked there from age twelve until sixteen. I still dream of that place fondly. It was an old courthouse. It even had jail cells in the basement.

So tell us a little about your Medieval Novel.
It’s about a woman, Ann of the Meadows, born in an era right before the plague hit Europe during the time of a mini-Renaissance. At thirteen, Ann’s father sold everything, abandoned his estates, and headed for the Holy Wars. Her mother, so full of grief, was unable to run the estates. However, Ann has a brilliant, forward-thinking mind, and turns the land into a wealthy town. Eventually the king finds out there’s no male running the land and sends our heroine a husband, his good friend, The Beast of Thornhill; a renowned warrior, but a gentle man under the surface. She wants nothing to do with a husband, and he’d prefer a dutiful wife. She has a lot of secrets which, if found out, could be deadly.

I like writing about strong heroines who overcome adversity. When my readers finish reading my books, I want them to sigh, put it down, and think, “I could be like that.”

What is it like? When you write?
It’s like when I was young, and used to have all these pretend friends, and we would play cowboys. We never killed anyone. Just rounded ‘em up for the sheriff to put into jail. I can remember elaborate scenes that went on for days.

How long to did it take you to write?
Gosh. I write for about two hours a day and have finished four books in three years. I don’t have a calculator handy…Can I add something else?

Sure.
I really appreciate everyone who has gone out and bought my book. To do any art, and not have it appreciated, can be disheartening. To have it hit the Amazon best seller list is a dream come true and make me want to finish the next in the series. Thanks for stopping by.

STELLA: WINNING RWA AWARDS

Hi

YUP, that’s me. (btw? I tiled that fireplace, all by myself)

How do you get published by Soul Mate Publishing without ever sending them a query or attending a conference? Go out there and enter #RWA contests, and listen to the honest feedback, edit, and enter again and again until you win. Make sure you have several genres written and enter them all. Maybe one book is more appealing than another?

I’m going to boast for a moment, although my mother always taught me it wasn’t nice so I’ll be brief:

  •      Won the coveted ‘The Molly’ Contest
  •      Won the ‘Show me the Spark’, too!
  •     Came in second for RWA’s Heart2Heart contest
  •    Third place in the “Melody of Love Contest
  •     Finalist in Joyce Henderson contest.
  •     Finalist in 2013’s Golden Acorn contest

Thanks for stopping by. I don’t release until May 6th but you’re more than welcome to preorder. Then the book just magically shows up in your kindle, ready when you finish what you’re reading now.

Year of our Lord 1276

“By God, drag her down here! Naked if you must! Bread and water from now to eternity if you can’t!” Sir Marcus Blackwell slammed his fist on the well-worn table and the sound echoed back from every direction. Of all the bad luck. Forced into marriage with a foul-mouthed, murderous widow.

He clenched his teeth when the next bout of high-pitched screams and curses exploded from the floor above. Crashes, clanging, and banging followed. He cringed as the Lady Ann’s strident screaming rang throughout the stone manor and probably into the courtyard.

“He can’t steal my lands this easily. He’ll live just long enough to rue this day. I shall never, ever, turn my people over to a blood-thirsty, gold-grabbing beast. I’d rather be cursed to hell. Nay, verily, I’d rather marry the devil himself than see myself married to him.”

Beast? He’d strangle the minstrel who’d taken his sword’s moniker and baptized him with it instead. He was a holy crusader, deserving of respect, not an animal.

Crossing himself while counting to ten, he paced the dark hall lit by a single weak torch. Shadows danced across dark tapestries, beyond a hearth the size of two horses, and over enough tables to feed a small army. Thatch crunched under his boots, releasing a perfume of lavender and grasses. He stopped for a respite of blessed silence. What in God’s creation have I stepped into?

When the mayhem started up again, it was from his first-in-command, Thomas D’Agostine. “The devil take it, watch out. A knife!” A dagger fell upon stone with a metallic clatter.