A Soldier’s Humanity…

Photo credit: Shutterstock (Motortion Films)

We see pictures of US soldiers all the time. Garbed up and weighted down with weapons and vests and helmets and tactical gear. Saluting, assisting, training, fighting, shooting, flying, parachuting, sailing, saving, directing, protecting, doing. On the news, on social media, in movies, in tv shows. 

And amid that sort of exposure, I often worry a soldier’s humanity gets lost. I worry we see them as robotic or unfazed or immune. Like we just expect them to do their job in the way we do ours. 

Let us not forget: soldiers are human beings. Compassionate, affected, dedicated, emotional human beings. So are their families. Have you seen the pictures and videos circulating the news and internet?

I write military romance to pay homage to the selfless service and sacrifices of men and women just like you and me. Americans who weren’t born with any extra “courage cells” or “bravery blood.” Humans who CHOOSE to go behind enemy lines, into the most chaotic environments, in order to guarantee their loved ones and people they’ll never meet a place of freedom and safety and hope and opportunity. 

I know nothing about how it feels to be a soldier; especially one deployed to a war zone. But I know how I imagine I’d feel whenever I see one serving this country. I imagine the parts of me that feel homesick, or exhausted, or terrified, or anxious, or jumpy, or hungry for comfort, or in need of a hug, or uncertain, or overwrought, or weak, or sad, or unmotivated, or disappointed wouldn’t simply go away. I imagine they’d be heightened AND I’d need to work around them in order to keep myself and my teammates alive and alert. I imagine I’d live on adrenaline. I imagine my nervous system would be in constant overdrive. I imagine my sleep would be restless with one eye open. I imagine I’d feel energized and supported by the bonds forged with my fellow comrades. I imagine those bonds would keep me going and bring real enjoyment to my days. I imagine I’d head into every workday with a pit in my stomach (one I maybe wouldn’t even notice after a while), wondering if today will be the day shit hits the fan. Heck, maybe I’d head into each day knowing shit will hit the fan because they call it “war” for a reason. I imagine I’d live every second painfully aware of my brothers’ and sisters’ mortality, but I’d force myself not to dwell on it. I imagine my family would live with a similar pit of worry, and I’d live with my heavy cognizance of that.

All these daily realities that live in the depths of a soldier’s subconscious but must be regularly suppressed in order to perform the job they were trained—the job they DESIRE—to do. The weight, I imagine, is immense. It’s also a burden they freely, voluntarily bear. (Which I emphasize out of gratitude; not with a mindset of “well, since they don’t have to be there, why don’t they just get out? Why did they sign up?” I’ll tell you why…or at least, why I think they don’t and did: because they know someone has to do it and they find deep personal purpose in all the lives they’re saving and protecting…all the beauty they’re assuring for their fellow Americans as well as other freedom-seeking people.) 

And then they come home, and their nervous systems get permission to shift into drive or neutral or park, except it’s not even close to that simple. Because our nervous systems don’t operate with a gear shift. All the senses they coded as ‘dangerous’ or ‘safe’ or ‘act now’ or ‘pursue’ or ‘take cover’ while deployed don’t instantly get REcoded when they return. And soldiers, no matter how well-trained, are, again, human beings. But they’re human beings with a reputation of being solid and steady and poised, and so I can only imagine the pressure they must feel to uphold that persona while also allowing themselves to decompress WHILE ALSO knowing they may deploy again. 

(Deep breath.)

I don’t want anyone, myself included, to forget the existence, the reality of a soldier’s heart and spirit as we stand in awe of his/her ability to balance those two parts of themselves with an adeptly trained mind and body. I want to humanize the uniform, so when we see photos of the men and women who rush in when most of us want to run away, we see them as ordinary humans who choose a life of uncertainty (and often chaos) so that you and I have the opportunity to choose whatever sort of life we desire. I want us to see soldiers as people who ignore and override when necessary, but breakdown and cry when it’s safe. People who never get used to leaving their family. People who are deeply affected by their losses and their time on duty. People who feel the same emotions you and I feel, but who have trained themselves to hold those emotions in tandem with a level of bravery I struggle to fathom. Families who sacrifice comfort and stability. Families who live on edge when the life of a spouse, child, parent, or sibling hangs in the balance. Families who are shattered by brutal losses their imagination will always (gruesomely) attempt to reconcile. 

I could write a hundred books and only scratch the surface of the true depth of character I want to expose as a military romance author. The dynamic nature of a soldier’s (and his/her family’s) personality absolutely captivates me, and I desire to expose it in a way that both informs and inspires. 

Novels are fictional. They’re also highly expansive and captivating. If you’ve ever read an evocative story, you know how intensely the characters begin to feel like family. I write military romance because I want the Holbrook Family to FEEL like your family. The empathetic possibilities packed within the pages of a novel are magical, in my opinion. I’m grateful for the ways my compassion and understanding have been expanded as a result of many stories—characters who will forever reside in my heart and impact my actions and thoughts. I hope my stories and characters can create a similar experience for you. Not because I think every American should feel as moved by the plight of our soldiers as I do (I actually don’t think our feelings are anything to be measured), but because I believe events hit home when they ‘hit home.’ Books increase the population of our ‘home,’ and allow us a greater capacity to hold space for situations we may not understand first hand. And what a powerful way to honor our shared humanity…to honor the lives willingly sacrificed in the name of freedom: by growing the extent to which we can relate to others. 

The events of the past week are tragic. Not more or less tragic than any other human pain. Simply tragic in their own right (even if they feel extra heavy to me). I can’t look away. I want the news on all the time. I’m gripped and torn up about what’s happening in Afghanistan and so, so moved by and for all the men and women who have served or are serving right now. By and for their loved ones. I cannot fathom the feelings of fear and anger and abandonment and anxiety they must be facing. NOT ONE SECOND of their (your, if you’re reading this as a veteran or military family member) time was in vain. I believe humans were created for freedom, and the extent to which every single US soldier has fought to ensure that freedom is massive. So massive that we, as Americans, can easily lose sight of it because we never really feel the bind. We don’t have to feel it, because our service men and women have shouldered it for us. That legacy will live on. If we want to honor our veterans, we’ll make sure of it. When I think of our troops, words like boldness, empathy, compassion, courage, strength, love, humane, willing, and dynamic immediately come to mind. They’ve chosen to display those character elements through their military service. We can choose to honor their sacrifice by seeking to live out those traits as we freely cultivate our own passions and relationships; by refusing to get wrapped up in divisive rhetoric and continually pursuing beauty, connection, understanding, and expansion.

*As a caveat, I would add: I recognize this last part sounds a little utopian and disconnected from the finger-pointing we see on the news. Let me be clear, I have plenty of angsty feelings about everything that has transpired in the Middle East over the last twenty years and especially the past week. I’m thankful for the analysts and reporters and lawmakers who are willing to spend their time pursuing answers and demanding responsibility. I’m not one of those people, but will be curiously tuning in to all of the aftermath. My focus, my concern, is with those on the ground overseas and their families here at home. Right now, I’m not interested in who is responsible or who messed up or who should have known better. Someday, I will be. All I want today is for every single soldier and all those they are protecting to be safely evacuated from an increasingly dire situation AND for every friend and family of the fallen to know and believe their sacrifices were not for nothing. Americans do not leave others behind…especially not when ‘others’ are the Americans who have made a career out of not leaving others behind. Period.

ALL MY ROADS release date and tagline…


Through it’s many (and there have been MANY over the past decade) variations, ALL MY ROADS has always been built on one central theme: the circumstances of our life (things we choose and things we don’t) are constantly shaping us for more beauty rather than diminishing our chances for it. And the way others interact with us isn’t a reflection of our worth…much as it can feel defeating sometimes. ⁣

I’m not a believer in some divine plan. I don’t think our entire life is mapped out before we’re born. I think we co-create our path as we go, and we’re constantly being directed and redirected to fullness. ⁣

Tragedy and trauma, sadness and anger, grief and doubt are a likely component of all our lives. And it’s easy (at least for me) to see those experiences as sealing our fate for strife…as rendering us less worthy of the love and connection we crave. ⁣

Damaged goods. ⁣
Broken beyond repair. ⁣
Overly complicated. ⁣
Too hurt to heal. ⁣

None of these are truth. None of us are ever outside the bounds of beauty and restoration. ⁣

Though, at first, Ken and Stacey interact with one another as if their history is too much, they come to discover how deeply they connect as a result of their past experiences. ⁣

Instead of walking further into darkness, they realize they’ve been divinely guided to each other…to heal and hold and grow and hope together…to experience a richness they both believed they’d missed for good. ⁣

ALL MY ROADS is a story of heartache and grief as well as expansion and joy. It’s about trust, connection, holding space, and not needing to be fixed to be loved. ⁣

I can’t wait for you to read it. ⁣

And now, I want you to tell me…WHAT’S NEXT?! Do you want the BOOK BLURB (the couple paragraphs on the back or inside cover detailing the plot) OR the COVER?⁣

COMMENT BELOW with your votes! The winning option will be revealed soon!

Trust is built with sand and boulders…

I feel the most ME in a boldly-patterned dress, with wavy hair, sporting a giant grin, in a wide open space as the sun begins to set. Throw in some soulful music, dirt roads, and deep chats with a dear friend, and we’re really in business! (Dancing does it too.)⠀

Hence this joy!⠀

Being 4 months (and 1 day) away from the release of my debut novel…doing all the dreamy things to prep for said release…also plays a role. ⠀

If you’re new here, and even if you aren’t, I’m Cortny.  (No, that’s not another typo. Although, when I try to search for my author website on Google, I kinda wish it was.) And I’m a big fan of hand emojis. If you’ve ever interacted with me in person, that probably makes sense. I can think of about a dozen more the emoji database needs. ⠀

I didn’t enjoy reading until my twenties, when my Grama handed me COMANCHE MOON by Catherine Anderson (and blushed) and suggested I read it.  ⠀

I used to think I had something wrong with me, all these characters and stories constantly swirling in my head. Truly, I thought I was a freak and tried my best to lock it away. ☝🏻 That book changed everything, even if it took me a long time to own it. ⠀

A couple years ago, a month or two after my Grama passed away, I got talking with my former assistant principal about writing. The scene is SO CLEAR to me. He shared his desire to author a book. I, for the first time ever, shared my similar goal. We made light of it somewhat (maybe afraid to be seen or inspired or held accountable). And with that openness, I planted the seed of a giant promise to myself. ⠀

I’ve eroded self-trust in a great many ways during my almost-31 years. And making it HERE is one huge step in a new, fulfilling, aligned direction. As in relationship with others, trust is built with grains of sand AND giant boulders. Noticing each new addition is the real magic. ⠀

I’m not sure where I intended this post to go. Somehow it feels right though, so I’m leaving it alone.  ⠀

If you made it this far, tell me: what is a (big or small) promise to yourself you’ve fulfilled? A recent one for me? Responding to all (less than 10) texts and DMs. #introvert

📸 @elpatte5

Book Review: THE DANCE OF DECEPTION by Harriet Lerner


Book 7 of 2021: THE DANCE OF DECEPTION by @harriet_lerner. ⠀

If you watch my stories, you know this book was “eh” for me. Especially coming off THE DANCE OF ANGER. ⠀

Here’s the thing…there were chapters that struck a resounding chord with me (like 😳) and others that fell way flat. Such is the nature of this book, I think. Lots of breadth and not as much depth. And so my average feeling is somewhere in the middle. ⠀

The overall premise of the book holds a lot of promise. I relate to it on a deep level. A DEEP level. That said, I found the delivery a bit disjointed. I wanted each chapter to build on the previous ones, but instead it was like a dozen mini books, each focusing on a different example of deception manifesting itself in our bodies and relationships. ⠀

There were enough WOW moments for me to know this book will stick with me…which is ultimately what I desire. And I have no doubt other women would find their own WOW feelings in chapters that didn’t necessarily land with me. ⠀

One of the biggest things I’m realizing in recent years is how much pretending I (was taught to) associate with being feminine; how much pride I’ve taken in my ability to play certain roles and keep people around me feeling elevated; how much I try to manipulate my body instead of letting it speak truth. TDOD further explored that reality, and going back through the parts I highlighted reminds me there were some powerful takeaways. I commented “wow” or “ME” or “explore more” a few handfuls of times. ⠀

Despite the delivery, I recommend to all women on content alone. ⠀

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Book Review: THE DANCE OF ANGER by Harriet Lerner

Book 6 of 2021: THE DANCE OF ANGER by @harriet_lerner. ⠀

Wow. ⠀

This book got my pulse throbbing. ⠀

If you are a woman and/or feel at all connected to Enneagram 2 or 9, I cannot recommend this book enough. But with a warning that it will shake your inner shit UP. ⠀

Remember the other day when I talked about coming home to my creative, grey, authentic self? And I said I didn’t fully realize how much I suppressed parts of me in order to feel loved and accepted and normal?⠀

Well, my body knew what was happening, even if I turned a blind eye and a deaf ear and any other avoidance tactic. And the result is a whole lot of anger stored physically and emotionally inside me. ⠀

Anger I’ve been afraid of my entire life. Anger I’ve hidden because I thought it made me impure. Anger I masked because it made me feel unfeminine. Anger I pushed away because I didn’t understand it. ⠀

“My life is wonderful! I have no reason to be angry!”⠀

And thinking about it just made me angrier. I did not understand and felt like I needed to. ⠀

During the past year or so, I’ve come to understand. I’ve come to ALLOW myself to understand. (The phrase “get out of your own way” applies to me BIG.)⠀

“Although “nice ladies” are not very good at feeling angry, we may be great at feeling guilty. As with depression or feeling hurt, we may cultivate guilt in order to blot out the awareness of our own anger… Nothing, but nothing, will block the awareness of anger so effectively as guilt and self-doubt.” (p.6-7)⠀

I’m at a place where understanding takes a back seat to accepting and allowing and harnessing. I picked up this book at exactly the right spot in my process. It’s been on my list for almost a year, and BOOM. It landed. ⠀

I found the first half more impactful than the second, personally, but so much of that is based on personal experience. If you read it, let me know what you think! ⠀

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

I never considered myself the creative type…

I’ve always been “the brain.” Academics were my forte, with a handful of musical talent and a sprinkling of athletic ability. I neverrrrr considered myself the creative type.⠀

Math and science, I now realize, made me feel safe. They’re black and white (at least in school). My people pleasing desires were easily fulfilled every time I provided the right answer. Outcomes felt guaranteed. Controllable. “Give me a math test and let me prove I’m smart and worthy and capable by answering them all correctly.”⠀

Art doesn’t work that way. AT ALL. And transitioning into my identity as a creator of fictional stories has been one lesson in subjectivity after another. I’ve realized how much of ME I locked away…afraid to reveal anything that might evoke a cold, unfavorable, fearful reaction…afraid of the infinite expanse of grey that exists between black…and white. ⠀

Coming home to myself in this way is both terrifying and effortless. I feel knots of tension slowly melting away. One by one, I’m shedding masks I’ve acquired – ways I’ve hidden myself from others and opted for security over authenticity (of which I had no conscious awareness at the time). And I won’t sugar coat it, there have been TEARS. I don’t mean effortless as in no pain. I mean it takes so much less energy to not perform – even if it takes energy to stop performing…if that makes sense. There’s a wall of anxiety to chisel my way through, and whenever I pierce it, my body goes “ahhhh.”⠀

People ask why it took me so long to expose this side of me…to start writing…to exert myself in relationships. I get that it doesn’t make sense to everyone. And y’all, my only answer is that I didn’t (want to) realize it was happening. I was so purposely deaf to my own heart that I didn’t know how to be FULLY ME. (Because I really do like numbers and science.) I look back now and it’s so easy to tap into my feelings, my intuition…to read the signs pointing me here. But I chose to override them, fearing the grey abyss. ⠀

I’m learning scary doesn’t mean “turn away.” It just means “courage needed.” Discerning the difference has been its own path, and you know me…I write about it as I go.

Book Review: DAUGHTER OF THE SALT KING by A.S. Thornton


Book 5 of 2021: DAUGHTER OF THE SALT KING by @as_thornton. ⠀

My first FINISHED fantasy novel! And another debut! Gosh, it hit the spot. I feel like I keep saying that, but it’s true. ⠀

In DOTSK, Emel has spent her life at the mercy of her culture WHILE ALSO challenging the status quo and exerting her independence just enough to keep her feeling alive. She’s cunning and daring as well as loyal and compliant…to an extent. ⠀

As she approaches the age at which she must be chosen by a suitor for marriage or be banished from her community, she clings to the hope of a husband. Not because she wants to follow tradition or please her father – the Salt King, but because marriage will be her ticket to the world outside. To her freedom. ⠀

Chaos erupts toward the beginning of the story and Emel’s choice to boldly observe the mess instead of running to safety changes her course completely. Her open-heartedness allows her to experience the magic of tender affection, satisfying adventure, and an opportunity for everything she’s always wanted. ⠀

But there are costs. Steep, painful, gut-wrenching costs. And this is the story of a young woman’s navigation of those choices on her path to self-worth and fulfillment. ⠀

I really enjoyed this book. Emel’s character and the hurdles she faces (both internal and external) were incredibly relatable. There was one chapter…15…where I found myself highlighting every other paragraph. I was like, “WOW, this is such a rich story.”⠀

There’s sensual romance. (It’s an adult book). There’s darkness. There’s ugliness. There’s complicated family dynamics. Conflict, beautiful scenery, hope, friendship, tenderness, pain, hard choices, internal strife, and magic. ⠀

It got me thinking…deeply…which is one thing I desire most from a story. Am I willing to pay the cost of my desires? Where is the line between bravery and foolishness? Am I open to the magic around me?⠀

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

We can know and not feel…

We can know and not feel; believe and not embody.

I am living my dream AND I have days/moments where I cry, get angry, or just plain question my sanity. ⠀

Today was one of those days.⠀

I woke up and deleted a couple things on Instagram because they felt forced rather than authentic; like bandwagon content rather than my heart in the moment (which is what I want to share here). ⠀

My skin looks like shit because I’m making up for years of being afraid of food and the way it might have made me feel. In stress, I moderate. In ease, I indulge. And my body image affects my mood. ⠀

Photoshop wouldn’t let me save for a few hours because of a “program error” with no additional details. WordPress is becoming a teensy bit more intuitive, but still tests my patience. Our internet, which we just paid to upgrade, kept going in and out, leading to one error message after another when editing my website. ⠀

And in the thick of one of these days…when my inner critic fills my head with words of doubt and condescension…I give in to a good cry. ⠀

“You are such a joke.” “Nobody cares about your stupid writing.” “You left your safe job for something that lights you up but has zero guarantee of viability? No benefits? That was dumb!” “Everyone is secretly laughing at you.” ⠀

Until my heart gets the memo, my emotions feel at the mercy of these lies. (Lest you think I’ve got the world by the neck every second of every day). ⠀

At my core, I don’t believe any of them. But I don’t always feel or embody their untruth. And y’all, I’m not looking for affirmation. MY HEART IS TO AFFIRM. That (a) creating and sharing in any capacity is an immensely vulnerable act; and (b) it’ll bring every ounce of doubt, fear, and self-deprecation to the surface. ⠀

It doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. It means you’re doing the work. You’re showing up. (You got that, Cort?)

Even on my most frustrated…most exposed…most doubtful day, I feel more alive than ever. If you’re on the cusp of change or in the depths of a creative project…you’re not alone. Yes, it’s a new kind of scary, but not nearly as scary as letting your soul die in order to play it safe.

Book Review: HINDS’ FEET ON HIGH PLACES by Hannah Hurnard


Book 4 of 2021: HINDS’ FEET ON HIGH PLACES by Hannah Hurnard (yes, it’s spelled wrong on the Kindle cover).⠀

I had decent hopes for this book, but did NOT expect it to land in so many of my cracks and crevices with such…perfection. It’s the portrayal of God and faith and courage my heart has needed, for maybe my entire life. The Shepherd’s tender affection – physical and verbal – for the main character was majestic and poignant. ⠀

“What is the use of even thinking of going to the High Places? I could never reach them for the least little thing is enough to turn me back?” (p. 13)⠀

“Love was for her, too, even for her, crippled little Much-Afraid.” (p. 17)⠀

The allegory follows Much-Afraid as she desires to live in the High Places, but spends the first part of her life full of fear and self-pity. The Good Shepherd promises to make her crippled feet like hinds’ feet, for her to swiftly climb to High Places, escaping her fearful, small life. AND overcoming her critical inner voice. ⠀

Had it not been for the glowing recommendation of my dear friend, Caiti, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book. On the surface, it doesn’t check my usual boxes. It’s wordy, kitschy, and…dusty, for lack of a better word. ⠀

BUT, I knew within the first PAGE it was going to shake me up. I could not wait to read it each day, and found myself on the verge of tears many times. ⠀

This story transcends age and gender. That said, I have a feeling women (young to old) would find themselves especially moved. HINDS’ FEET ON HIGH PLACES will be one of those books I regularly recommend to friends and family…and families as a whole. It’s the sort of book that’s easy to gush about as you read, and brings to mind so many people I think would savor it. The message is overt, but is widely open to interpretation. I could read it in a year and I know it would land differently. ⠀

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Book Review: MATING IN CAPTIVITY by Esther Perel


Book 3 of 2021: MATING IN CAPTIVITY by @estherperelofficial. ⠀

The speed at which we’ll point a finger at others for the same darkness we recognize in ourselves is…well…pretty darn fast. ⠀

A few years ago, I would not have been ready for this book. I would have made faces and rolled my eyes and jutted my chin, calling ‘freak’ at anyone who saw themselves within its pages. ⠀

I would have been too scared to confront the corners of my heart/mind/body others might consider deviant and therefore unlovable. ⠀

There is freedom from that thinking. ⠀

And damn, I wish it for you too. ⠀

If you consider yourself a sexual being AND aren’t afraid to think deeply about the implications of that reality, read this book. I am sooooo late to the Esther Perel game. Many of you are probably like “welcome to the party…finally!” But at least I made it. ⠀

I found this read highly informative and nodded along to the beat of each chapter. The vignettes of so many couples are highly relatable. I wanted to know how all their stories turned out! I dooooo think she leaves out some dynamic relationship components, but that doesn’t deter at all from its power. And I’m sure my impression is experiential. ⠀

Thank you, Meg, for the recommendation! ⠀

Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⠀

(PS. Rating non-fiction is so different than fiction.)