Twenty years ago (1999), I completed the first draft of A TIME TO LOVE (originally named "The Reunion" and written under a different pseudonym). It was the first novel I had ever finished, and it took 3 years. The reasons for that are varied, I may write about it in another post, but today I wanted to discuss believing in your dreams. Even though I'd spent 3 years of my life writing the story, I didn't think of myself as a writer (sounds insane, I know!).
Who was I to dream such a thing?
In 2011, I started writing a new, highly personal novel that, ironically, came to me via a dream. It took 1 year to complete. At the end of that year, I had a decision to make: did I want to try and get the story published or did I want to hide it away in the writing box I shoved every half-finished thing I'd been scribbling for over a decade? I went with the former. Two years of constant rejection, honing my craft, and persistence paid off. I signed a contract with Pan Macmillan's now-defunct Momentum Publishing division. SEE HER RUN was released to the world in 2015.
That was when I began to think of myself as a writer.
In 2018, I couldn't get the memory of my first novel out of my mind. I pulled it out of the writing box, polished it off, and voila! Part of me still can't grasp that it is finally being published. It will be book number ELEVEN for the world even though it was book number ONE for me - something I never dared to dream when I first started writing that story. :-D
Keep dreaming. Believe in yourself. No matter how long it takes.
A.K. Leigh/Leigh Hatchmann/Alicia Leigh xo :-)
Trust Her Heart is a romantic thriller, showcasing the effects of small-town prejudice versus the healing power of love.
Fresh from a broken engagement, reluctant heiress, Cindy Brown, arrives in Smithfield, North Carolina, looking for the ‘something more’ she couldn’t find in her native New York. She’s ready to shake up not only her life but that of the town.
Half-Cherokee police officer, Brad Collins, is used to his organized daily routine. He loves his job, his family, and helping his best friend run the local martial arts studio. Nothing could make his life more complete.
When Brad saves Cindy from drowning at the local waterfall, everything changes. They are unprepared for the far-reaching effects their growing connection will have. Cindy finds herself torn between the man she has come to know and the unsettling rumors she has heard about him.
As a division between the town increases, a dangerous battle begins. One that will either bring them together or tear them apart. Forever. Will Cindy learn to trust her heart in time?
Meet Cynthia (Cindy) Brown!
This reluctant heiress, and new arrival to Smithfield, is a fire-cracker set to shake things up. Not only for the divided town, but for one seriously stuffy police officer, Brad Collins, too!
Set before the events of SEE HER RUN and CRAVE HER TOUCH, TRUST HER HEART is a romantic thriller showcasing the effects of small-town prejudice versus the redeeming power of love. . .and the strength that comes from trusting your heart.
Release date: 21st June 2018
Pre-orders coming soon!
My romantic suspense novella, 'The Venus Cure', has undergone a face-lift! It is the latest of my back catalogue to receive a revamp. What do you think of the new look? A.K. xo :-)
Links to claim your copy (only $1.99USD!):
Barnes & Noble
Create Space (print copy) - coming soon!
To celebrate the One year anniversary since Triple Threat was released, I am giving away 3 X $20 Amazon Gift Cards. For your chance to win, enter via the link below. Good luck!
So, you’ve finished your novel. Congratulations, it’s a massive achievement!
But, now the real work begins: the redrafts. Once you start the subsequent versions of your book, you may find yourself getting stuck on certain scenes, and asking, "Should I keep it, or should it go"?
The answer to that rests in the purpose of the scene.
All of your scenes should have at least one purpose from the list of twelve below. They will not only tighten your writing, but will also ramp up your scenes, making them more engaging and interesting. In other words, move them from blah to ta-da!
Ask yourself the following questions.
Does the scene:
1. Show the reader something about the character?
2. Give the reader an insight into the relationship of one or more characters to other characters (and, therefore, drive the plot and overall themes forward)?
3. Move the plot or subplots forward?
4. Show the reader something about the world the characters come from/why they make the decisions they make?
5. Set a specific mood for the plot/s, character/s, theme/s (i.e. suspense, compassion for the main character, outrage at the powers that be)?
6. Hint at themes, a bigger picture meaning, sub plots that are yet to be revealed etc?
7. Give the reader necessary information (even if they know it at that moment or not) about the character, their background, a plot or sub plot etc?
8. Create a bond/emotional connection (positive or negative) between the character/s and reader?
9. Introduce or intensify conflict?
10. Build suspense?
11. Set up the stepping stones for character growth, or plot development, later on?
12. Provide resolution?
You must be able to say ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions for EVERY scene in your book.
What if you can’t?
It’s that simple––and, yes, I know, that hard too. It takes practice and determination and a certain level of detachment. Once you learn to be ruthless with your rewrites, you will find your scenes instantly improve.
So, chop, chop! :-)
What do you think? Is there anything you would add to the list?
People often say how fun it must be to be an identical triplet. Of course, there is always the expectation that you will reply, “It is”! And, it is (at least, I think so, I don’t know anything different) . . . but, there is a dark side too. Here’s why:
1. The Creeps
These show up early. And, I mean: ‘before-you-understand-half-the-words-coming-out-of-their-mouths’ early. The creeps would say highly sexualised things, or make crude insinuations. The fact that most of these men (not one woman has ever done it to me) would have claimed to be against pedophilia shows the extent of the socially acceptable sexualisation of identicals.
I would also say that roughly 75% of the men I’ve dated (aka ‘creeps’) have done it due to the novelty of dating a multiple. Many brought up having foursomes and/or various fantasies they’d had about my sisters. None of them saw anything wrong with that––even when I flipped it and used their own siblings as examples. As an aside, this is one of the reasons they are now ex’s!
Which leads me to another creepy aspect. The movies, magazines, books (there are A LOT in the romance genre, which aggravates me to the bone – but, that’s a topic for another day!) – TV shows, and advertisements that promote having sex with twins/triplets etc, often at the same time and/or with the other siblings watching. There’s even a term for it. Twincest. I wish I were kidding. I’m not. Twincest is an outright offensive stereotype. It is damaging to self-esteem, identity, and sexual security. Whatever erotic fetishes you want to play out in your head is fine. But, STOP publicly normalising the sexualisation of identicals in popular culture, and don’t include me in it. I don’t respond as politely to it these days as I did as a child.
2. The Gossip
Do you remember what it was like in high school? How awkward and unsure you felt all the time? Try being an identical triplet on top of that. There is nowhere to hide, everyone knows who you are, and the gossip can be awful. One story has always stood out in my mind.
I was in grade ten (so, around 14 or 15 years old) and I was doing volunteer work as a teacher’s aide at the local primary school once a week. I struck up a friendship with a volunteer who went to another school and was one or two years older than me. She found out what school I was from, and the first question out of her mouth was whether I knew ‘the triplets’. Naturally, I said I did. With no prompting from me, she started telling me the rumours she’d heard. All of them were sexual; all of them were obscene; all of them were false. I sat there, mouth gaping more with each word she uttered. I saw the moment flash in her eyes when she realised why I wasn’t saying anything. She swallowed hard then said sheepishly, “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”
3. The Family
Unfortunately, the dark side to being an identical triplet has extended to members of my family. I’m only going to brush over this topic, because I feel like it isn’t my place to talk in-depth about it.
What I will say is that I know it impacted the lives of every one of them. Stereotypes, constant attention, time and effort in raising us, and the financial strain are all issues I am willing to cite.
The fact that I grew up aware of these different factors also played on my psyche, sense of self, and self-esteem.
4. The Scapegoat
Oh, this part is fun. Cough. *insert sarcastic tone*
Being blamed for things one of your sisters did, and people not even bothering to check if it really was you (because near enough is close enough, right?!) is one of the suckiest aspects to being a multiple.
Teacher’s, friend’s, and even family members have done it to us. You get to the point where you don’t correct people, because it takes too much effort, and they don’t really care anyway.
By the way, I am aware there is also a massive benefit to this! See my vlog, “How to get away with murder . . . if you’re an identical triplet” for a light-hearted take. (Click here.)
5. The Roles
Being forced into roles that suit other people is something else that comes as a side effect of having the same genes as two other people.
I was the ‘smart one’ – with the insinuation that I wasn’t the ‘pretty one’ or the ‘cool and fun one’ further implied. This shuts down individuality, removes personal choice, and turned me into a people-pleaser.
Let them sort out who they are themselves. You know, like you do with other people.
6. The Comparisons
The constant comparisons of physical, athletic, academic etc attributes becomes exhausting. People sometimes talk about how competitive multiples can be . . . yes, because other people force us to be!
Why do we need to be identical in every area of our lives? We are not clones (technically, we only share 99.99% of our DNA), we are different people, with varying tastes, likes, and dislikes. The same as any other siblings.
7. The Freak Show
‘The freak show’ is a term I coined to describe what happened when my sisters and I went out in public. Strangers would stare, whisper, and point at us. It made me feel uncomfortable, abnormal, and self-conscious. It got to a point when we were teenagers where we didn’t enjoy being seen together. Even today, it is rare to spot all three of us at the same time.
My point being, if you see multiples together, it’s fine to notice, but pointing, staring, and whispering is rude. Remember how your mother told you that when you were a child? Yep, it extends to identical triplets too!
My aim in writing this blog was to get people thinking about the way they view and treat multiples. The stereotypes are often wrong, harmful, and offensive. If you’d like to know more about what it’s really like to be an identical triplet, you might like to read the first book in my ‘Farris triplets’ series – Triple Threat – available now from the Mills and Boon Australia and Escape Publishing websites. Click on the links below to grab your copy.
Thanks for reading, A.K. :-)
Mills and Boon
The end of August 2015 marks the 11 year anniversary of my father’s death. It is always an unusual time for me. I’m never quite sure how I’m “supposed” to feel. You see, I loved my father, but I long believed that to be a consequence of my nature rather than anything he’d done. In fact, until recently, I thought he’d taught me nothing about love.
Let me explain further.
My father suffered from serious mental illnesses (bipolar disorder and mild schizophrenia). Although he was prescribed medication, he rarely took it. To the outside world, he appeared to be fun-loving and carefree. To myself, and my triplet sisters, he was moody, demanding and volatile. I was a sensitive and shy child. As you can imagine, this was not a combination that resulted in closeness.
I know my father was aware of the lack of connection between us.
I know this, because, four months before he passed away, he came to me and apologized for being a bad father. He said if he could do it all again, he would have done things differently. When he asked if I forgave him, I said, “Yes”, and meant it. My father passed away, and life continued.
Events of recent months have made me reassess many issues from my past, including those related to my father. From what I understand, both of his parents were violent alcoholics, who smoked more than two chimneys could have. The parting gift they left him was lung cancer caused by years of passive smoking. He had his own unresolved emotional baggage due to his upbringing. I understand why he wasn’t able to love the way I needed him to. I’ve also come to understand that my father did teach me some valuable things about love.
He taught me:
*That understanding another, by seeing their wounds instead of their behavior, is an act of love.
*To never get to the end of your life and wish you’d loved differently.
*To tell people you love them before it’s too late.
*To show people you love them.
*That you cannot love others if you don’t love yourself first . . . and you cannot love yourself when emotional scars brick up your heart.
I am grateful for these lessons, even though it took me a while to notice them.
R.I.P. Vernon Douglas Crawford xxoo
I was 24, psychologically decimated from leaving my long term relationship, and living with my parents. For the first time in my life, I’d given up on the idea of true love. I retreated to a world that had always given me solace: the world of books.
Strolling through the aisles of a local book shop, none of the books appealed to me - another first. I was about to give up and leave, when I caught sight of one called, A Walk To Remember. I picked it up, flipped it over to the blurb, and realized it was a romance novel. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for love.
Or, so I thought.
As I was putting the book back on the shelf, I noted something else. The name of the author. Nicholas Sparks. A man. I stopped in my tracks, astounded. Since when did MEN write romance?
That intrigued me enough to buy it.
Later that night, I snuggled up in bed, hot chocolate in one hand, Nicholas Sparks in the other. By the early morning hours, I’d finished the book. It gave me hope, inspired me. I wanted more. I have read every one of his books since then (except The Notebook, but that's a topic for another blog).
Over the years, every time my heart splintered, and I wanted to give up, my faith in true love was restored by Nicholas Sparks, hot chocolate . . . and me.
I have reflected more on my time in an abusive relationship over the past 11 months than I did in the years that came after it. This has happened for various reasons, the most obvious being: writing and talking about my experiences after the recent release of my debut novel, See Her Run. Because the topic of domestic violence––an underlying theme in the book––was in my head so much of the time, I realized there was still emotional and psychological baggage to deal with. That is why I am writing this blog: in the hope that it will aid in healing that chapter of my life once and for all, as well as assist others reading this who might be going through a similar situation.
So, what have I learned from my reflections thus far?
First of all, I will never get that girl back. The one I was before him. The one who was too trusting for her own good with a lollipops and unicorns view of the world. For the most part, she is gone . . . and that is okay. I had to change. That relationship gave me a more balanced outlook on life and the world. A world that isn’t always fluffy, kind and well-intentioned. There are some people that will never have positive intentions toward you no matter how “good” you are to them. Sure, it was a hard way to learn that lesson, but, looking back, I’m not sure I would have learned it any other way. Having said that, there is one thing I still share with that girl: the belief that love can change the world, and the people in it.
Secondly, I cannot emphasize enough how vital it is that you keep your voice. I was rarely “allowed” to voice my opinion, needs or wants. It was all about him, all of the time. I became so used to it, I forgot I had my own. After leaving the relationship, it took years to figure out what I believed, and even longer to feel comfortable expressing those thoughts to other people. This is what it taught me: once somebody controls your voice, they control you. Speak your truth. Loud, proud, and often. Some people won’t like it, some people will outright hate it. Speak it anyway.
Thirdly, always believe what your heart tells you about your dreams. I hadn’t told anyone about my dream to be a writer. It felt like the holy-grail to me: a perfect and unattainable treasure. Yet, my heart refused to let it go. I finally worked up the courage to tell my ex-partner. His response? The PG version of what he said was, “Who do you think you are? Only smart people write books”. I was devastated. It seemed like the axis of the world had shifted and I was standing on the wrong side. I tried to persist with my dream, but his continued interference in my attempts at writing made me give up. Well, at least that’s what I made him believe. In reality, whenever he wasn’t home, I would write. I hid the pieces of paper in a box underneath the bed. He never knew. As you are reading this on my blog, you can see that I have indeed become a writer.
That leads me to my next point. Vulnerability. By confiding my secret dream, I opened up and exposed myself . . . and was shut down in the most humiliating way. It was not the only time. I could not cry, be sensitive, or show any hurt feelings in a way that was considered acceptable to him. Writing and speaking about my experiences has forced me to let go of the need to appear strong and unaffected in each moment. Even so, something I’ve noted that still needs work is knowing who to trust my vulnerable side with. I am confident I will get there.
Another issue I am still working through is the fact that somebody else’s opinion of me is not my business. My ex-partner said many nasty things about me––both privately and in front of others––and I took each one as gospel. I never thought to question his motives or the truth behind the words. Sometimes these memories are activated by the interactions I have with other people. I am learning to see them as opportunities to practise self-acceptance and discernment.
There have been many more things I have come to understand as a result of my reflections over the past 11 months, but the one that has shocked me the most is this: I forgive my ex-partner. For everything. There is not one cell in me that wishes him ill. In fact, wherever he is, I wish him well on his journey through life. I hope he learns to love himself, and others. It is the same wish I have for everybody.
P.S. Yes, I still have that box of papers J
About A.K. Leigh
A.K. Leigh is an international-selling romance author, identical triplet, writing instructor, incurable romantic, love guru, self-love advocate, amateur mystic, mother, sometimes blogger and vlogger, and trauma survivor.