Author Archives: Robin Helm

About Robin Helm

Robin Helm has published all three volumes of The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy. She also recently published the Yours by Design Series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours. She and her husband have two adult daughters, two sons-in-law, two granddaughters, and a Yorkie Poo named Toby.

Austen Men I Have Known

Austen Men Are Real.

Writers borrow from their own lives when they construct their characters and circumstances. I am at my most realistic when I insert a scene or person from my own life into the story, for I can feel the emotions and describe the events very well, especially if I was experiencing strong feelings when I lived it.

Austen men

Yesterday, I was thinking of that and of the very different Darcys Laura Hile and I have written. Her Darcys are playful. They banter with cheerful Elizabeth. My Darcys are kind and courteous, but they brood. They’re moody, and Elizabeth is by turns angry, sad, happy – she’s all over the place. Like me.

I have been told that I’m dramatic. I might be.

Anyhow, I now realize that I’ve combined Austen’s characters with bits and pieces of people I’ve known throughout my life. As I processed that epiphany, I began to think of the men (and boys) I’ve known and how bits and pieces of them have made it into my characters. I knew all of them well. Some of them were classmates, some were casual dates, some were/are friends or relatives, some were boyfriends, and one is my husband.

In fact, I have known all of the Austen men. Let that sink in. I was able to think through Austen’s characters and select the man I know/knew who fit that character. I knew Darcys, Bingleys, Hursts, Wickhams, Collinses, Edwards, Toms, Brandons, Wentworths, Tilneys, Knightleys, Churchills, Mr. Bennets, – all of them.

My first boyfriend was definitely a Bingley – sweet, kind, cheerful, well-liked, lovable, unfailingly polite, popular, and courteous. I dated him for three years and never heard a cross word from him, though I’m certain he heard a few from me. Unlike Austen’s Bingley, he was very intelligent and spiritual. I think that’s why my Bingleys are always smarter and more capable than the Austen original.

Is there a Bingley in your past?

For the next few months, I plan to trace Austen’s characters, male and female (yes, I knew those, too) through my life. Please feel free to join me.

Learning Curves

and Earning Curves.

Curves2 About a month ago, I decided that eating right and losing weight wasn’t enough to make me healthy, so I started doing something I haven’t done in at least twenty-five years.

I started working out regularly. Five days a week. Yes, you read that right. Robin, the queen of avoiding exercise, is paying to work out.Curves3

That’s one of my cute little coaches checking out my progress at the laptop. (Curves has machines that spy on you and report back to the coaches. Very 1984.) I want to look like her. Can they make me lose about forty years?

My workouts take between 45 and 50 minutes and consist of 30 seconds on each machine, 30 seconds of aerobic motion between machines, and stretches. I do the entire circle twice, and all the major muscle groups are involved. The final machine tells me my workout is over by flashing “END.” How’s that for propping up a weak short-term memory?

CurvesHere are my results from Thursday. Green dots are great, yellow dots are okay but not great, and red dots are BAD. (Sort of like the colors on traffic lights, but I digress.)

And now for the life lessons.

  1. I have to pay for workouts to be properly motivated to do them. It’s just like everything else. We don’t usually fully appreciate anything that has cost us nothing.
  2. Most of the time, lack of progress is my own fault. My first two weeks of working out, I made very little headway. I wasn’t sore afterwards, and I didn’t sweat. At first, I thought the machines were too easy, but then I realized maybe, just maybe, the problem was me. I started pushing harder for range of motion and more reps. Guess what? I had no trouble working up a sweat, and I was plenty sore. It wasn’t the machines. IT WAS ME. Just like in every other aspect of life, when I have a difficulty, I should examine myself first.
  3. The harder I work, the more I achieve. Though music is my strongest intelligence, I didn’t learn to play the piano really well until I began to practice regularly. (Props to Austen’s Lady Catherine on this one. She was right.) I don’t succeed at anything without putting effort into it.
  4. Sometimes, good intentions aren’t enough. I thought I was doing everything right at Curves, but all my muscle groups weren’t sore. My abdomen wasn’t sore at all. I started paying more attention to the muscles which were supposed to be worked at specific machines. I isolated them and focused on using them, adjusting my body until I felt them. Guess what? It worked. My sore abdomen can attest to it.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions. A few days ago, I noticed a lump on my arm and nearly freaked out, thinking it was a tumor. Then I realized it was a muscle! I hadn’t seen a defined muscle anywhere on my body in years. I’m flexing now!

Here’s some encouragement for you, lovely readers. Set your goals and go for them.

You can do it!

We Had A Plan

But, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” Allen Saunders

On Thursday, June 8, our choir headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, to sing the National Anthem at the minor league baseball game between the Charlotte Knights and the Louisville Bats. Since we’d already sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” at one of their games last year, we thought we were familiar with the routine: ride the bus, get off and stand in line at the stadium, wait for a half hour, follow a Knights’ representative down multitudes of hallways, go out through the visitors’ dugout, sing the anthem, find our seats, and enjoy the game.
SBC choir2

We were wrong. Nothing went according to plan. We loaded up the buses and took off on time, but the closer we got to Charlotte, the worse the traffic was. Consequently, we were about half an hour behind our projected arrival time.  Our worship leader was on his phone with his contact, and a police escort was waiting to take us past the fully stopped lines of cars at the stadium. A team representative met us as our busses stopped in the intersection, and she led us around the crowd and into a side door. At that point, we weren’t walking; we were jogging.

We were waived past security and taken directly to the visitors’ dugout, where we were led onto the field. Almost immediately we began to sing, and I must say, it well very well.
SBC Choir
Afterward, people met us to scan our tickets and take us into the stadium seating areas.

About half an hour in, the dark storm cloud that had hovered over the field opened up, and the heavens poured. After only a couple of innings, the field was covered with a tarp, and we decided to go back to Lancaster.
SBC Choir1
I’m glad we went. I’m always happy to gather with my choir friends and sing the National Anthem, and it was fun to be on the Big Board.

And since a ballgame was rained out, I think we can now declare it’s officially summer in the South.

Have a blast, y’all! Batter up!

My new normal …

The week after

My elder daughter, her husband, and the two granddarlings arrived last week and stayed until this past Tuesday.
Swingset

Larry and our son-in-law put together this swing set for the girls, much to their delight. Since our SIL is stationed about seven hours away now, we hope to see them often, and we want them to be eager to visit us. Every day, we planned another fun adventure. We went to Carowinds, fed ducks and geese at a local lake, ate out a good bit, made homemade ice cream, watched “Peppa Pig” and “Paw Patrol” along with Cinderella and Aladdin, and went to church.
Family 2017

My younger daughter and her hubby arrived on Friday, but he received an important call and had to leave after a few hours.
Disappointing but understandable. I did get a family photo before he left. Obviously, we are a dog-loving family.

It’s quiet here now, but Larry and I are going to see Wonder Woman at the local cinema tonight. I’m looking forward to it. I also hope to visit my younger daughter often to keep her company while her husband is gone, and I plan to visit my elder daughter after her furniture arrives at the end of June. Gayle says that we must do another sister weekend at the beach this summer, and I’m certainly game.

Plants6
I have now retired from teaching school, though I’ll continue to work at my church and teach private lessons.

Meanwhile, my plants are still fascinating to me.
It’s hard to believe this plant looked completely dead just a few weeks ago.

I nearly gave up on the second one last week, but look now! I kept watering and pruning it, and it has survived. Plants 7

Here’s a promise: I have two writing projects in the works which I will complete this year (I hope). I’m going to contribute to an Austen Christmas anthology, and I’m going to write the first volume of a YA fantasy series.

Stay tuned. There’s life in me yet.

Don’t Give Up

Never count me out . . .

I am famously stubborn. My family and friends (and a few frenemies) will attest to that fact. However, the past year was so difficult that I couldn’t think well enough to write. It took all my concentration just to do the things which were required by my jobs.

During the past couple of weeks, I have received encouragement from an unexpected source: my neglected plants.

Last November, I put most of my plants in the garage, but I watered them hardly at all until a week ago. This poor arrowhead philodendron seemed completely lifeless, but look at it now. I cut away all that had died, put it on the back porch, watered it often, and voilà!

The same is true of this poor pothos plant.

20170511_100330_resized
The spider plants are recovering as well.

The fact that I returned the plants to the back and front porches shows that I had not completely given up on them. I hoped there was a spark of life there, so I nurtured it. I gave it what it needed: sunlight and water.

God does that with us. My life verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

When I am ready to quit, God gives me what I need. He gives me strength. He nurtures me.

II Corinthians 5:7 says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” What a breath-taking statement! Had I gone by the appearance of the plants, I would have thrown them out, thinking they were dead. They weren’t. When I treated them as if they were alive, they revived.

I was like those plants. I was depressed, and I had to fight to plaster a smile on my face, but God is always good. He did not give up on me. He did not let me quit. He’s still working on me.

Another applicable principle is that pruning often helps a plant that looks dead. I cut the dead growth away so that it would not take energy from the plant. John 15:2 says, “”Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

God pruned me during the past year. I still have things He wants me to do. I have fruit to bear, books to write, music to play, and children to teach.

He isn’t finished with me yet, and He isn’t finished with you either.

May the Fourth Be With You

And other bad or questionable, but entirely quotable, Star Wars dialog …

Today is National Star Wars day, and the pundits are out in full force (no joke intended). The movie series is one of the all-time greats – clean, funny, and eminently quotable. Some of the lines have taken a permanent place in the nation’s collective vocabulary, and they’re oddly applicable to most situations. Here are some of the best (and worst). Read and learn. (Hover at the bottom of each picture for my comments.)

Even Master Yoda recognized the superiority of Mr. Darcy. The Force was definitely with Colin Firth in the role.

#Goals

I always have a goal in mind when I write. Since I have never been wealthy, there are things that I want (and even need), and writing is an enjoyable means to acquiring those extras.

Writing The Guardian Trilogy was a steep learning curve. My main goal was to publish. At that time, it didn’t occur to me that I could make a profit.

The Yours by Design series paid for new floors in my house, as well as expenses associated with my younger daughter’s wedding and a trip to Japan to see my older daughter and her family.

By that time, I had caught on that having a set goal in mind helped to push me to write. When I started working on Understanding Elizabeth, I knew exactly what I wanted (and badly needed), and Saturday, my husband and I went and bought it. (Happy dance!)

I traded in my 2005 Honda Accord for a 2015 Nissan Sentra (with only 4,000 miles on it)! Coincidentally, my sixty-third birthday is this Sunday, so the car is a two-fer.

Happy birthday!

Thank you, readers and writing friends. Looking at the tangible evidence of my work and knowing you helped me realize my dreams gives me great joy.

Every time I drive my car, I smile and think of you.