Sonia Solomonson on Loving Ourselves

On this patriotic weekend, I’m excited to welcome Sonia Solomonson, Life Coach, author and former editor, on the topic of loving ourselves. If you’ve read IN TIMES LIKE THESE, my latest women’s fiction, you’ll realize how her advice applies to Addie, the heroine. Love of country comes easily for her, but loving herself presents such a difficult challenge.

Sonia gives us step-by-step guidelines. And she is offering FIVE free forty-five minute life-coaching phone sessions to the first five commenters here. Wow! When you comment, please leave your e-mail address so she can contact you.

5 Tips for Loving Yourself

Even when we see ourselves as extremely independent and self-sufficient, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we desire to be loved.

To have friends, you have to be a friend, we’ve been told.  The same is true for love: To be loved, you have to love. And it all begins with moi! Start by loving yourself.

Some people think self-love is selfish and wrong. Dominican priest and 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas believed that self-love was akin to pride—or “the beginning of all sin.” However, the Bible does tell us to love God with all our heart and soul and “love your neighbor as yourself.” That little word “as” says that I start by loving myself. Then I have the conditions inside me to love my neighbor in that same way. It all stems from God’s love for us.

Psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm said in 1956 that loving yourself is different from being arrogant or egocentric. He said rather that it means respecting yourself, knowing yourself, caring about yourself and taking responsibility for yourself. I’m with him!

I’ve heard it said that you are the one person who will be with you longer than anyone else will be—and, therefore, it’s crucial that you learn to be your own best friend.

What does it mean to love yourself?

Here are five tips:

  • Accept yourself. If you beat up on yourself a lot, stop it right now. You wouldn’t do that to your best friend, would you? So why would you think it’s OK to beat up or ridicule yourself? You are unique and precious, a true one-of-a-kind. Accept who and what you are. Love and accept all of yourself, what you see as your special gifts and also what you call your flaws. Often, these are two sides of the same coin.

For example, I’m a sensitive person, tuned in to what others are feeling. That’s a good thing—particularly in my vocation as a life coach but also in my relationships. The flip side, however, is something about which I used to be impatient with myself: I am (overly) sensitive about things others say to and about me. I’ve worked hard to tweak that. I also accept that, to some degree, one goes with the other.

  • Take good care of yourself. It means seeing your body, mind and spirit as precious gifts that need and deserve nurture and attention. It’s all too easy to take our bodies for granted and not give them sufficient rest, good food or plenty of exercise. Sometimes we take better care of our cars than we do our bodies, doing regular maintenance checks and taking care of whatever needs attention!

Let yourself feel whatever emotions arise. Are you sad?  Feel it. Perhaps there’s some loss, whether minor or major, that you simply have to stop and grieve. Are you anxious? Stop and deal with it; don’t ignore it. Do deep breathing, yoga, meditation, prayer or whatever helps you. Afraid? Look your fears in the eye and see whether you can bring them down to size by injecting some realism into them. Are things really as bad as they seem? Can you do anything about it? If not, can you let go? If you can do something, can you find a first step and start moving?

Are you happy? Celebrate that. Savor the good moments. Be grateful for them. Remember it’s OK to celebrate your achievements—both small and large. You can have your own little party. Or you can invite someone special to celebrate with you. Share your joy.

Some of us learned at a young age to stuff down emotions—sad and fearful ones or even joyful ones. If so, you may want to do some work around that so you can experience the full range of emotions.

  • Set boundaries for what behavior you will and won’t accept from others. You have a right to expect to be treated well and spoken to respectfully. You do not have to accept put-downs and abusive treatment—and you certainly don’t want to treat yourself that way either. Remember, boundaries aren’t meant to be punitive or manipulative toward others. They’re simply borders you set for yourself to know what’s OK and what isn’t for you—and what you will do if someone crosses that line.
  • Choose life. Insofar as it’s possible given what’s happening in your life, choose happiness and joy. Choose to be positive. Sometimes you simply need to reframe what’s happening and see possibility rather than a problem. When I lost my job, reframing wasn’t easy. I was hurt, angry, and scared. Only when I could begin to see possibility, however, was I able to create a new dream. Mind you, that didn’t happen overnight. First I needed to grieve the lost dream.

I hope you get the idea. There are many other ways to show yourself love.  Whatever you do, let go of the idea that self-love is selfish or decadent. Self-love is really the start of a more joyful life and deeper, more fulfilling relationships. It’s also the way we teach others how to treat us.

scs.rose.smile.closeupBy Sonia C. Solomonson

A writer, editor and life coach, Solomonson writes daily blogs at www.way2growcoaching.com, where you can sign up for her monthly ezine.

 

 

The Calling of Ella McFarland

Now, there’s a title! Calling carries several connotations, and Ella’s cover photograph entices me, too. As the 2014 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis, debuted on December 1, 2015.

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Linda set this romantic historical set in 1905 Indian Territory, when women were silenced in public and often stifled at home, when illiteracy ran rampant and women could not participate in their governance. As  compulsory education, woman’s suffrage, and temperance debates rage, Ella Jane McFarland pursues her dream: a teaching position at prestigious Worthington School for Girls.

But scandal clouds her family name and may limit her to grueling labor on her family’s Indian Territory farm. Her fate lies in the hands of the male Worthington board. Will they overlook the illegitimate son recently borne by her sister
Viola? Might handsome Mr. Evans help her reach her dream?

As hope of Oklahoma statehood rises and the citizens anticipate a new state constitution, Ella comes to the rescue of a young, abused sharecropper’s daughter. Forced to make decisions about her faith, family, and aspirations, her calling takes shape in ways she never imagined.

With a new love budding in her heart, can Ella find God’s will amid the tumultuous storm that surrounds her?

This family-and-faith story explores one woman’s devotion to a serendipitous calling, the transforming effect of unlikely friendship, and the healing power of love.

 LInda, I’m hooked! Please tell us why you wrote this book. 

My Indian Territory grandmother and Oklahoma mother lived lives rife with hardship, trial, and grief. Rather than weakening them, such experiences empowered them and strengthened their faith.

My grandmother Ella Jane—Mama to me—had a 3rd grade education. She never drove a car, but could handle a team of mules just fine. She never shopped for the latest fashion, but sewed up a dress in a day. She never considered the benefits of tile over wood laminate, but made a home in a corner of a barn. She swept the dirt floor. She never worked outside her home, except in a cotton patch, picking 100 pounds a day. Mama buried 2 husbands and 5 daughters but never lost her faith.

My mother progressed only to 9th grade, and accepted nothing less than a college education for her children. Nor would she depend on a man to do something she could do herself. Mother buried a son, tended an ailing husband for 10 grueling years, and battled the weather and creditors to save the family farm, yet never blamed God.

I consider my ancestors’ stories treasures of which I am a steward. Hence, The Calling of Ella McFarland. While not the actual life story of any family member, this debut novel is saturated in reality. The writing represents my love and high esteem for two strong matriarchs, and reflects my longing for my granddaughter–also named Ella Jane–to believe in herself as a daughter of the King of Heaven and to cast herself upon the mercies of God to hold her up, make her strong, and give her His purpose.

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Thanks so much, Linda–you’ve piqued my interest. Please make a note in your comment that you’re willing to write a review, and Linda will provide you an e-book.

Purchase links: http://bit.ly/1NqmYtF

Email: linda@lindabrooksdavis.com

Website: http://lindabrooksdavis.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1QZSvoT

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1LsI19s

Pinterest: http://bit.ly/1Nj1oZX

 

A New Year with an Author From the Past

We remember Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish novelist, for Treasure IslandKidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But even a little research reveals another legacy this author left us.

Stevenson lived only forty-four years, became a literary celebrity during his brief lifetime, and ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world. Literary geniuses Hemingway, Kipling, Jack London, and Arthur Conan Doyle admired his works, and G.K. Chesterton declared that Stevenson “seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins.’

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Robert loved to travel, and fell in love with a married American woman in France. Eventually, she returned to the States, divorced her husband, and married Robert. He gained two stepsons in this marriage, and the couple continued to seek adventures in California, Hawaii, and Samoa.

Perhaps not the perfect example of piety, but neither was King David–and millions still read both men’s writings. Stevenson still exhibited faith. During these days between Christmas and New Year’s, I consider the winter storm bearing down on the route we’ll soon travel to Arizona, and his Christmas prayer informs me.

“Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake, Amen!”

Acknowledging the world’s hate and evil, Stevenson prayed for deliverance and “… to be merry with clear hearts …”  What does this mean? Perhaps to face evil and hate head-on, yet still find joy. RobertLouisStevens_3125983b

Stevenson knew pain first-hand, since he suffered from hemorrhaging lungs and lived only to the age of forty-four. He wrote many of his best manuscripts from bed, including Treasure Island, conjured after drawing a map for his son. First serialized in a magazine, this story captivated young readers’ hearts.

Since Stevenson’s death in 1894, evil and hate continue to have a heyday. But this author’s prayer still calls us to share the angels’ song and marvel with the shepherds and wise men.

As we enter a new year, his words fit this hurting world’s needs–and ours, to be realistic, prayerful, grateful and forgiving. To be merry with clear hearts–and to use our creative gifts to the best of our ability.

Sounds like a goal for 2016!    

December 7

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Seventy-four years ago, Americans woke to the horrible news of the Pearl Harbor attacks. I can’t let December seventh go by without calling attention to this significant event in our nation’s history.

Many young men went to war during the next months. My grandparents sent their two older sons to the fight, one still in his senior year of high school. The army drafted my dad, too, and my father-in-law. They all came home, but so many others didn’t.

Fifteen years ago, our family visited Normandy and stood in an actual Nazi bunker from which soldiers rained fire on the D-Day invaders. And we spent some time in Dachau, recalling what motivated the Allies.

Much of my writing research involves besieged London, southern France, where the Resistance risked everything to thwart the Nazis, and stateside. Everywhere, people sacrificed for the cause of freedom.

Today, I’d like to honor my father, my father-in-law, my uncles, and so many who waited at home (like my grandparents and my mother.) In This Together, my debut novel, honors them through the heroine’s loss of her son during the war, and her neighbor Al’s continuing challenges from his World War I service.

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The story of the long-range effects of the war on a regular, down-to-earth rural Iowa Gold Star mother takes us back in time. Hopefully, readers will resonate to Dottie’s sacrifice.

 

 

 

In this Together-Cover

Feelings….character depth – Shannon Vannatter

Welcome, Shannon, and guests! Here’s something special to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month. Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during my blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 22nd.

And now, here’s Shannon with some useful writing tips.

Baseball Memory Board

Feelings, whoa whoa whoa, feelings . . .

Anybody remember that song? Yes, I’m showing my age, but I thought it might grab your attention. The main way I add depth to my characters is through emotions. Feelings bring characters to life. I reveal feelings through reactions, both visceral such a jaw tic and physical such as clenched fists to show anger.

Another great way to reveal feelings is through internal thoughts—the things characters don’t say. So many times I think things I’ll never say. Often because my thoughts are rude, selfish, or too vulnerable to reveal. Characters need to have those thoughts too.

Our feelings, reactions, and internal thoughts are all shaped by our unique backstories. The people who raised us. The people surrounding us as we grew up. The things that happened—good and bad—in our lives. The place we grew up. Life-altering events—it all makes us who we are. Our backstories shape our reactions, emotions, and thoughts.

By basing a character’s feelings, reactions, and internal thoughts on their backstory, everything they feel, think, say, and do rings true. Yes, there are very writerly rules about backstory dumping. If you start the book with everything that happened to your character since birth, the reader won’t get very far.

We have to make the reader care about the character before they will care about what made them the way they are. The best advice I learned on backstory is to sprinkle it lightly like salt. A line or two here. A line there. Just enough to make the character reactions understandable.

Another great piece of advice—reveal your character’s backstory like you reveal your past to a new acquaintance—a little at a time as the relationship deepens. When you first meet, you reveal little, maybe your job, whether you’re married or not, and how many children you have if any. The next time, maybe you talk about your parents and siblings. It takes months to reveal some things about yourself, years for others, and some things you never reveal.

Characters should be the same way. Readers don’t need to know every little thing about them. Just the important stuff that shaped them and only over time as they get deeper into the book and in a deeper relationship with the character.

Here’s a fun way to tackle backstory form the movie, Tangled:

Rapunzel: “So Flynn, where you from?”

Flynn: “Whoa, Blondie, I don’t do backstory. But I am very interested in yours.”

But she doesn’t want to spill either. Later, after practically everybody in the kingdom is chasing them, Flynn fights off guards and a horse, and lots of destruction, they end up in a cave which is slowly flooding. Trapped and thinking they’re going to die, Rapunzel apologizes for getting him into this mess. In a vulnerable moment, Flynn reveals his real name—Eugene Fitzherbert and how he became Flynn Rider, the thief.

Characters don’t necessarily have to be trapped and on the verge of dying to get their backstory out. But their backstory should be revealed slowly as the reader needs to know it and organically to fit the story. Divulge the bulk of it well into the tale—after your reader is rooting for your character.

If every feeling, thought, and reaction the character has is shaped by their backstory, the character leaps off the page, three dimensional, and full of depth.

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Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows, and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award. 

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/.

 

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Connect with Shannon on Facebook: http://facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter, Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/29672798-shannon-vannatter, Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/, and Twitter: @stvauthor.

Rodeo Reunion: RAQUEL MARRIS NEEDS A MAN WHO’LL STAY PUT 

And Slade Walker’s not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son’s little league team. The single mom can’t risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who’s only passing through Raquel’s small Texas town.

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?

 

Purchase Links:

 

http://www.christianbook.com/rodeo-reunion-shannon-vannatter/9780373487851/pd/487851?event=ESRCG

 

http://www.amazon.com/Reunion-Heartsong-Presents-Shannon-Vannatter/dp/0373487851/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431697907&sr=1-5&keywords=Shannon+Taylor+Vannatter