Teaser: Be Still, My Heart

Here is another excerpt from Be Still, My Heart (yes, I’m adding in the comma now). I’m more than halfway through the first draft. Right now, if I don’t go astray from my plot outline, I have about six-ish more chapters to write before I can type the words: THE END. The thing is, it’s the six most dark and emotional chapters. So this will be a challenge.

If you don’t have time to read the excerpt, skim down and read my thoughts on themes in stories. I’ve always wondered how writers moulded their story around a theme of their choice, or whether it just emerged as they wrote on. So I’ve written my take on this question.


Excerpt from Chapter Eight.
Henrietta and Lord Carlyle at a
dinner party

Being a poor relation, it was her duty to be invisible to the party, so Henrietta retreated to the far corner of the room and pulled up a chair by the window. Sitting back in her seat, she watched everyone around her. She half wished she could join the card game. What would it feel like to laugh, gossip, and be so carefree? For the several years after her father’s death, she had neglected her social life, for she‘d always been with her mother, keeping the recluse company, feeling guilty each time she left her—for she was all her mother had, after all. Then, after her death, living with Rosaline had not given her any further opportunity.

Henrietta was cut short from her train of thoughts when a gentleman called out: “Here at last, Carlyle!” She glanced up. Her heart slammed against her chest when her eyes clashed with a pair of green eyes. Quickly, she dropped her gaze and stared at her hands. Looking at him—she felt as if she’d been caught committing a crime. However, driven by curiosity, she watched him from beneath her lowered lashes, as he moved towards the table where whist was being played. And then he paused. His hesitation spanned so many seconds that someone asked if he was going to join the game.

If you will excuse me,” came his lowered voice, as he bowed out from their company, and began walking towards her. Her hand became clammy with anxiety. Her confusion only accumulated when the Earl pulled out a chair and drew it right next to her. And there he sat down. Henrietta could not help but frown as she peered up at him. His muscles were tense, his face expressionless, as he stared out the window.

Why are you alone?” he asked.

For an odd reason, she found his question very humiliating. “Why should you care?”

You’re right,” he murmured. “Why should I care indeed.”

I hope you know that you’re not doing a very good job at ignoring me.”

He glanced warily at her. “I beg your pardon?”

You have been ignoring me all evening. Why the sudden attentiveness? If it is out of pity, you may take your leave, for I was enjoying myself without you.”

I came to apologize,” he said stiffly.

She tilted her chin up. “Very well. I am ready for it.” When he only stared at her, momentarily at a loss for words, she arched a brow at him. “Well? Where is my apology?”

The hard lines of his face softened. “Miss Wilson, I pray you might forgive my behaviour,” he murmured, as a smile played at the corner of his lips. “Though I intended to ignore you for the rest of this evening, when I saw you all by your lonesome self, hiding away in this corner, I realized how brutish it was of me to withhold myself from your company.”

Henrietta didn’t know whether to be offended or amused. “That is not a gentlemanly apology.”

Is it not?” His smile only lasted a moment longer before it faded away, along with that charming facade she’d come to learn was a mask, leaving a solemn looking man. He flicked a glance at the party before looking straight at her. Henrietta’s cheeks burned under his intent stare.

I avoided you, Miss Wilson, so that I might avoid seeing your judgement of me. I am sure that the day you saw me last has led to my downfall from your good opinion. You said so yourself.”

His unexpected honesty chased away the insolence that had earlier clipped her voice. “My opinion is never etched in stone,” she said warmly. “One act of kindness wipes away the thousand wrongs made against me.”

His eyes drifted away as he muttered, “That is an admirable trait, Miss Wilson. But there are accompanying disadvantages. It allows for others to trample over you, because they know you are forgiving, and thus do not fear the consequence of their mistreatment.”

But whose heart is at peace at the end of the day? The one who forgave or the one who added to his number of rivals? I assure you that the peace I feel in forgiving another makes up for the thousands of times I’ve been trampled over.”

He looked at her strangely. “Have you no pride?”

And what right have I to any pride? My father once said to me that our life is but a dot in the span of history. Yet we labour to obtain glory for that one speck. Instead, he says, our mind must transcend this worldly perspective, and view ourselves as vessels of the Lord—”

You say all this, and yet, I wonder at you meaning any of it.”

Her smile faltered.

Just as I said to you once before, I think you are living this all in your head. But when reality arrives, when your dignity has been crushed to the point where you cannot even lift your chin, could you look at that man and forgive him?”

His words gave her pause. The first thought that crossed her mind was whether the Earl had his father in mind as he spoke these words. The second was that she had no recollection of ever being crushed. Wounded perhaps, but not destroyed. Yet, in all the instances when she had been wronged, her grudge against the inflicter had never hardened into hatred. With time, she had always forgotten their offence. So, surely, if such a day arrived—she would be able to forgive?

Why does my lady hesitate?” Lord Carlyle whispered, his dark eyes upon her.

I suppose you must wait and see then,” Henrietta finally answered. “Wait until such a crisis strikes me and see whether I am able to act upon my words. Until then, you may doubt me all you wish.”

His voice was deep, but gentle, as he said, “I sincerely hope such a day will never arrive. But, should it come, I shall remind you of your words—and encourage you to stick by them.”

She smiled at him. “I would be very grateful if you would…” Her heart stirred with a strange emotion. She looked away, disturbed. Why, of all the people, was it always the Earl she had such conversations with? With others, she rarely spoke past the superficial matters of life. They never seemed interested in what she had to say. Or she could never seem to find to right words to express her thoughts. She tended to be a flower whose petals closed back into an ugly green bud. And yet, with Lord Carlyle, she could feel herself blooming.


When James says to Henrietta: “…But when reality arrives, when your dignity has been crushed to the point where you cannot even lift your chin, could you look at that man and forgive him?” my sister (the only person I let read my first draft) asked me if this was foreshadowing what was to come… My response was: Possibly.

Forgiveness is a reoccurring theme in both my books. It’s not that I purposely make it that way…it just…appears in my writing all the time. I wondered at this, and realized: if my life were turned into a book, love and forgiveness would be its most major theme. The climatic moment of my life (speaketh the 21-year-old who still hasn’t even reached the meridian of her life) was comprised of a tearful apology, answered by a forgiving embrace, which changed a heart hardened by years of contempt into one softened by love. And this event is what inspired a big chunk of BSMH.

What is a reoccurring theme in your book(s)?

During the earlier years, I would try to force a theme into my story, because I thought that was the way to go. But I found that you can’t let the story flow out from your heart when you’re constantly trying to force it to mold into/and compliment a certain theme. I truly believe now that a theme emerges in your writing because writing is a subconscious act. What is most important in your life, what has impacted you the most, what you value the most, is would brims over in your writing and becomes most prominent. And, voila, there you have it: The Theme.


Reading: Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

A moving love story with grand melodramatic touches, Ramona was linked with Uncle Tom’s Cabin as one of the great ethical novels of the 19th century. A bestseller in 1884, Ramona was both a political and literary success and will continue to move modern readers with its sympathetic characters and its depiction of the Native American’s struggle in the early West.

The Pillars of the Earth REVIEW & Character Development

Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists.

-Publisher’s Weekly

It was past 2 a.m. when I finally read the last page of Ken Follett’s massive novel, The Pillars of the Earth. The moment I shut the book and put it aside, my definition of EPIC had forever been redefined. Don’t let the size of the book daunt you as it did me at first. Reading PotE has been a beyond great experience. Despite some obvious slips into modernism, the story transported me back some hundreds of years ago to a time where injustice governed, where greedy nobles reigned, and where peasants lived in constant fear and oppression. I went through quite a roller-coaster of emotions while reading this great medieval epic: I cried, I laughed, I fumed. What I loved best about this book was how the lives of very believable characters were woven so beautifully, so stunningly, into a complicated work of art.

Through this book, I learned several lessons. I learned of humility and compassion through Prior Philip. I learned of determination through Arianna: she built her life once more when it was in shambles; she searched for her lover throughout Christendom. And Jack, oh Jack—I watched him grow from a wild boy to a brave young man who ended up stealing my heart. I love this book to bits.

As a writer, I learned what it meant by “real, breathing characters”. Follett’s PotE is one of the few books (well, there were many, but only few remain in my memory) in which the characters came to life for me. They were so real that by the end of the book, I felt as if I knew them in reality, as if they were my acquaintances.

So, as a writer, I wondered to myself: what makes a character “real”? Answer: Character development. Throughout the 1000+ pages, gradually, bit by bit, Follett reveals to us the vices and virtues in each major character. Their personality isn’t shown to us in an information dump, but through their reaction to/and how they deal with a certain situation. No one character is perfect. And no one character is the same by the end of the story. Growth and change is what defines us human beings. And Follett adds depth to their characterization by incorporating this truth. The protagonists and antagonists, by the end of the story, have been altered and moulded according to the life situations they are thrust into.

What brings characters alive for you guys? What is the first book with GREAT character development that pops into your mind?


I’m following the eight-hour long T.V. adaptation of Pillars of the Earth. This Friday the fifth episode will be airing. Maybe it’s because I read the book first, but I find that the story is moving so quickly, allowing for little of the development I adored in the novel. But, then again, it’s impossible to fit the whole story into a miniseries. With this fact taken into consideration, I think it’s worth-while to watch. Especially because Eddie Redmayne is playing Jack (He was Angel in Tess of D’Ubervilles).

P.S. I’ve received some truly lovely graphics for Be Still My Heart. If you’d like to send me a design of your own, feel free to do so! You can send it to me at june.hur@hotmail.com. I will be using all the graphics submitted to me 🙂

By Katherine (Blog: November’s Autumn)


By Kelly H.


By Sharon K.

Writing Is Hard

Noelle, lucky duck, went to the long-awaited Romance Writers of America Conference and while I was following her exciting days there, I discovered people tweeting about Nora Roberts’ keyspeech. 

Writing: “it’s supposed to be hard”, and that “hard is what makes it special”, so “ride the hard”.

Be Still My Heart (excerpt) is becoming very difficult to write. If I recall correctly, the first draft of The Runaway Courtesan was so much easier to complete, perhaps because it was straight romance (albeit the revisions I had to put this story through was pretty tough). But BSMH, on the other hand, is part romance and part family drama. And I’m in a rut with both aspects of the story.

The Romance: In the eight years I’ve been writing for, I’ve finished a few manuscripts that I’ve put in the drawer, knowing it’s not publishable material. So I’ve written more than one historical romance. But never have I experienced something this strange, where the characters I created decide for themselves that they don’t suit. My two main characters, Henrietta and James, are supposed to fall in love, and yet they seem determined to remain friends. I can’t seem to view them as potential lovers.

However, Amanda and Lucas in TRC sizzled when in each others presence—they clicked so well in my mind; they belonged together. Because they suited each other so well, I had no trouble writing their story. It was a joy to ride along their emotional rollarcoaster.

This whole issue of romance in BSMH, I blame on Henrietta. She’s all too chummy with James that the thought of them even kissing puts me into a writer’s block. They’re intimate in the sense of a brother and sister, but not that of a man and woman.

The Family drama: This aspect of the story is pretty dark, filled with contempt and rivalry, and I’m finding difficulty pacing it. I need to pace all the angsty events just right so that it allows for some subtlety, but if I have too much occur at once, it borders into melodrama. But in order to pace I need to write linking scenes that aren’t too thrilling to write. There was also legal aspects in this family drama that required information I couldn’t find until I discovered a few passages in Vanity Fair that offered some great insight about the process behind stripping a son of his inheritance (oup, gave a bit of the story away).

Writing a family drama also steps out of my comfort zone. I’m used to focusing mainly on the two main characters and breezing through the lives of the minor characters (it’s usually in the revisions that I give the secondary characters more attention). But this is a family drama where my focus must be divided among a whole range of characters—a bitter Duke who is dying, the son with revenge on his heart, a greedy nephew planning a conspiracy, and a girl who becomes the candlelight in their darkened world.

I’ve finished the first half of the story, which wasn’t so hard. It’s the last part of my story that I’m struggling with. I have pages and pages of plotting. The direction this story will take is so darn difficult that I don’t know if I’ll be able to execute it properly. Will I succeed? Or will I give up on this story halfway from exhaustion? We’ll see, my friends.


Could anyone design a thumbnail/banner for Be Still My Heart?
I’ll use all submitted to me for each post (june.hur@hotmail.com) regarding this novel.

Summary: While Henrietta Wilson, a penniless young woman, might not be able to change the course of civilization, her unwavering devotion to the wealthy and powerful Lord Carlyle does not go unmarked in his life’s history. Ever since she kept him from falling into the self-dug pit of destruction, she became the keeper of his heart.


By sarah

A Hollywood Moment

A pitiful confession: My camera was mainly focused on the policemen, rather than the protest itself

 1) Call me ridiculous, but I love the thrill that I feel before and after a dangerous moments. Though I turn into a total coward in the midst of it, I continue to throw myself into such situations, like a moth to a flame. And so, on the week before the G20 meeting in Toronto, knowing there would be proptests that might get out of hand, I went downtown. Even though I wasn’t feeling so well. I planned on calling a friend over to join me in our wannabe-journalist-adventure. But the city was so…peaceful…that I ended up just going to the library alone. I found two very intriguing books, began reading it, but the moment I heard shouting outside, I dropped those books and ran out with my camera. There was a parade of people going down the street, protesting, while they were surrounded by the police(*swoons*) . Anyway! The protest was very peaceful, the speech two of the protestors shared was quite moving.  After I followed them for half an hour I went home.  

It was my SISTER who found herself living a Hollywood moment. She and her friend were shopping at a mall when a lockdown occured. Her friend went nuts because she had to leave soon to catch her flight. So they slipped past a security gaurd and ran out. The man continued to yell out at them: “Ladies! It’s dangerous out there!” But they didn’t believe him. Danger was not something to be expected in their ordinary lives. So they were heading down the street, surrounded by the sound of protestors crying out their grievances–when suddenly a gunshot blasted through the air, triggering everyone into screams. My sister said there was literally a stampede headed towards her as three more gunshots rang over the shouting and screaming. She ran and ran and ran with her friend, to keep themselves from being run over, and to get as far as they could from the shooting.  

I was on the phone earlier with a customer and she was telling me about these anarchists from Montreal that had come to Toronto and had begun to smash windows and such. So I’m assuming this abrupt turn from a protest to a riot might somehow be associated with this group. We’ll see. I’m sure this story will be on the front page of tomorrow’s paper here in Toronto.   


Black-clad demonstrators burned police cars and smashed windows with baseball bats and hammers when rioting broke out at the G20 summit. 

Some protesters hurled bottles at police after they prevented them approaching the perimeter of the economic summit site. 

Heavily-protected riot police responded by firing tear gas 

‘A relatively small group of people came clearly with the intent of damaging property and perpetrating violence. 

‘They’re criminals that came to Toronto deliberately to break the law.’  

The city’s police chief Bill Blair admitted police had struggled to control the crowds, and had used tear gas on one occasion, after warning people to stay away from trouble spots. 

‘We have never seen that level of wanton criminality and vandalism and destruction on our streets,’ he told an evening news conference. 

‘There are limits to free speech, and these limits really end when it infringes on the rights and the safety of others.’ 

At least 130 people were arrested, including some Blair believed were ringleaders of the rioting that started when several hundred anarchists broke away from a large, peaceful demonstration against the top-level meeting. 




Photos taken from here 

I found myself shaking my head as I read about what occured downtown. What was going on in the heads of those who burned down police cars and smashed the windows of shops? What do they think they’ll gain from such violence? While I was amazed that this occured in our rather peaceful Toronto, I also found myself laughing, because suddenly, it seemed all so childish. Those car-burnders and window-smashers appeared to me like a child having a tantrum. Violence is not the answer. It only makes a person less creditable and heightens the reason for others to ignore their grievances.

2) On Wednesday Agent#1 emailed me! I waited a full half an hour, preparing my heart, before I finally opened the email. It turns out that I must wait a bit longer. The agent wrote to inform me that my manuscript has been scheduled for a final read in the next two weeks, and was asking whether my book was still available. (I’m not too sure what she means by ‘final read’–Can anyone explain?)I replied that it was–in a most professional manner–though the fingers that were typing these words were trembling. Two weeks now, my friends, before we find out whether The Runaway Courtesan will be offered representation or not.  So keep dropping by my blog, because it is here, to you dear readers and bloggers, that I will tell first the good or bad news. 

3) Be Still My Heart. I’m on chapter 10 of it. And am royally stuck, plot-wise. I just need to find some good inspirational soundtracks to boost me out of the rut.

June Hur, reporting live from a crime scene

1) My sister and I were in the living room of our apartment. She was typing away, preparing her essay, and I was lounging on the couch, reading a book and sipping on tea. Then I heard her say: “June…what…what is that?!” I slowly turned sideways to see her staring up at something on the curtain. Before I could get over to check it out, she screamed and shot back, and that was when a black thing with wings fluttered to the other curtain across the room. It looked like a beetle of some sort. Or a veryyy, veryyy big fly.

What do two young ladies who are terrified of bugs do?

I, the oldest sister, scrambled away to the far corner of the room while my sister jumped up and down, her face pale, telling ME to catch the thing. We bickered for a few seconds: “You catch it!” “Nooo you catch it” “YOU catch it!” It ended up being my sister; I agreed to be the assistant a.k.a The Side-kick. So she got this plastic milk jug, crept over to the curtain, and slammed it over the bug. She tried to slide the jug so that we could close the opening with a magazine. But in this attempt, the bug ended up flying out somehow, while another SAME ugly black bug flew in from the open balcony door. We screamed and huddled in the center of the living room, staring with terror and the two bugs clinging to the curtain. I threw a pencil at it. Other objects followed along. The startled bugs finally flew onto the table.

Extreme measures needed to be taken. I decided to take control of the situation. So I took a broom and smacked it over the bug on the glass table….a loud clang fractured the still night silence, dust clouded the air and the bug flew away to the edge of the table. I kept my eyes on this one while my sister looked for the other that had fluttered away somewhere. She found it on the wall above our TV. So she took the broom and smacked it. It fell behind the TV. Then she looked at me and said: “June, now it’s your turn. Get a magazine and squish that bug on the table.” And my reply was: “C-c-couldn’t you? I’ll clean it up.” So she got the magazine and, while screaming, threw it onto the bug. I said, “I…think…it’s dead…” while inching closer. I took the broom and–clang, clang!–I continued to hit it over the magazine, and then smoothed the broom over it as well. Then I looked beneath our glass dining table to see black bug juice smeared all over the magazine.

Now that that was done my sister told me to clean it up. I told her I couldn’t, for fear of the other bug attacking me, because it could still be alive, you know! So I pulled out the furniture bug#2 had fallen behind. And, lo and behold, it was NOT dead. So my sister got the broom and–bang! bang!–hit is over the bug. It died.

All this happened at 2 a.m. with much screaming  and much banging and clanging and thumping and, finally, a burst of laughter over the possible scenerios that could have outcomed from this incident. Say a neighbour had heard the scream and thought we were being attacked and so called the police…? Because we were screaming pretty loudly. And I felt pretty bad for the neighbour living downstairs. It must have been pretty noisy. This got me thinking. Why are we (not all, but many) so scared of bugs? Why are we, creatures who are 10000000+ times bigger than the bugs, scared of them?

2) Now, on the writing front, I am about 15,000 words into my new book titled: Be Still My Heart. This story is actually not the troubled marriage story I mentioned a few weeks ago. I tried my hands on that but failed miserably. It seems I must wait until I get married, or at least wait until I’m in a relationship, before I can successfuly carry that story out. Be Still My Heart, however, has been a joy to plot and write. It is a love story, but it’s also focused on a broken father-son relationship. James, the Earl of Carlyle, is the hero whose life’s goal is to have revenge on his father. And the revenge is one that places a wedge between himself and the heroine, Henrietta Wilson, and threatens to tear them apart forever. Here’s a very small, UN-EDITED (meaning, I don’t know if I’ll keep it or not) snippet:

…For a moment, James looked back in shame at his life of hard gambling and drinking–a life driven by the sole purpose of ruining himself so that he might one day open his arms and look at his father, saying: “Look at me. Look at what you have done to me.”

My friend sent me a song that really inspired me as I wrote. It wasn’t so much the lyrics that inspired me, but the background music. It’s haunting. I let my sister listen to it and she said it was weird. But I LOVE it so much! Here it is below. And I would appreciate it so much if you guys could share some of your favorite songs that inspire you as you write.