Many of you know we've traveled on some long cruises, usually starting in Italy, and going across the Atlantic. These are not nearly as exclusive as they sound, and are quite affordable. Since there are a lot of days at sea, and the weather is warm, it's perfect for writing. I could hardly stay in a hotel anywhere for the price of these long distance cruises. They have to move the ship from Europe to the Caribbean, or South America when the seasons change and their routes expand, so they take on passengers for a very affordable price. I think the cheapest was like $800 for 21 days, believe it or not!
We opted not to do one this winter, so these pictures are from the 2014-2015 trip. I needed a location that was away from Europe (the Secretary of State meets with a Moroccan leader secretly), wanted the meeting to look like a vacation, and needed it to be close to Africa. The Canary Islands was one stop we've made a couple of times. This was perfect!
I like writing about places I've visited because it not only gives me a point of reference to be accurate with some details, but also because it gives me a focus if I can feel I'm in the place as I'm writing it. Sometimes I search the net for pictures of properties for sale, with lovely photos to choose from. Often we can use these in our book trailers. Getting a “feel” for a place is important. One speaker told me that the location becomes a character in your book. I think that's right.
I try to give variety to my books, not have the same theme, except the arc of the whole series, which is that these SEALs learn to overcome everything: from international events, to local home grown terrorists, to just plan evil bad guys. They save the day. They get thrown into things they didn't expect.
So I guess I use the place as the anchor, and then weave tales around these points, like spinning a spider web, hoping to snag readers and bring them into my world of the Brotherhood. Traveling gives me lots of dreams for my muse. It's fun to bring all my readers along on these adventures, both real and imagined.
Here's a snippet of the new book, which releases next month, and is on preorder, True Blue SEALs: Zak. It is Book #13 in the SEAL Brotherhood Series. Enjoy!
Where have you always wanted to travel? If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
See book trailer here.
My heart goes out to all those who are reading this, battling the cold. And I'm envious of those of you who are having a great Snow Day. You guys deserve all the beautiful white goodness. You have to work so hard to put up with other weather conditions, let us Northern Californios have our rain and damp. It doesn't last long. Besides, we need the rain.
I'm looking forward to spending a week in Hawaii coming up here in a couple of weeks. I love the people, and the scent of flowers everywhere. I come back hearing Ukelele music in my head for weeks. Just like when we go to the Caribbean, I hear those steel drums at night, when I wake up in the morning and often when I'm writing without music.
I am sponsoring a 15-author book signing at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville on February 20. If you are in the area, the tickets can be purchased here. The fee is going towards the awesome chocolate desserts, the wine pairings, and of course the beautiful pavilion we'll be wandering through, meeting romance authors and finding new books! Copperfields Books, a great local independent book store, will be handling all the sales. But there will be goodies as well.
Many of the authors will be staying in Healdsburg, one of the great tourist attractions of our wine country region. Early on it was a favorite for those who cane for the wine, but since then it's become an eclectic collection of shops, galleries and restaurants that rival some of the best tourist attractions in the country. I've lived here 45 years, and I can still get lost for a whole day shopping.
1. Up until 1747, California was believed to be an island. Although Father Kino walked from the mainland in 1698 to disprove this theory, it wasn't until nearly 50 years later Father Consag sailed completely around the Gulf of California in 1747, and only then did King Ferdinand of Spain issue the Royal decree stating “Callifornia is Not An Island”.
2. Although the area was populated with Miwok and Pomo Native American tribes for centuries, the first Europeans actually spotted the San Francisco Bay in 1769. Yes, Sir Francis Drake landed in what is now known as Marin County, at Drake's Bay or Bodega Bay (we aren't exactly sure where) in 1579, he did not travel far enough into the interior and he missed the San Francisco Bay completely. So, around the time of our American Revolution, only a handful of people even knew about California or its Bay, and most of those were the Spanish who had designs to colonize it. Missions were started, the Spanish built the Presidio in what is now Golden Gate Park, for Spanish troops.
3. Mexico rules over California in the early 1820's. A series of Mexican land grants were given out. The town of Sonoma was established to protect the mission, and the young General in charge was Mariano Vallejo, who was given a 66,600 acre land grant we now celebrate at the Vallejo Adobe.
4. In the 1830's and 1840's a series of Russian immigrants came down from the Russian Fort at Fort Ross, investigating the potential for grape growing, and settled in what is now Alexander Valley. Fort Ross is then sold to John Sutter just prior to the gold rush, the Russian immigrants writing, “Local grapes make good wine, but in small quantities and does not keep well.” By 1850, California was added as the 31st state, and Healdsburg had a whopping population of 300. Sonoma was temporarily the capital of California in the Bear Flag Revolt, and they took General Vallejo prisoner for a time, the flag designating Alta California its own independent republic.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake hits (the epicenter was really north, closer to Healdsburg, in Santa Rosa). Several buildings in the downtown collapse. With the rebuild of San Francisco, most of the local forests, much of it old growth redwood trees, are used for the massive rebuild. More railroads, then lights, ferry boats that came all the way up from San Francisco to Petaluma and beyond. Who can forget the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair?
6. Prohibition nearly killed the wine and hops industrues. Remember Burgermeister, Hamms and Schlitz? These San Francisco breweries relied on hops from our beautiful valley. When the breweries failed or consolidated on the East Coast, more and more land was planted for grapes, which turned out to be more able to rebound. German and French champagne makers arrived.
We've changed quite a bit since then. For Californios (that was the self-described title the independent peoples of this region called themselves, not owing loyalty to Spain or to the United States) we love our roots, our rich multi-cultural heritage. Luther Burbank would settle in Santa Rosa. Mark Twain and his young bride would travel on their honeymoon through this region. Sir Richard Burton was spotted here, and Jack London put down roots in the town of Glen Ellen.
Our history is newer than many other parts of the country. But one thing it has always been, unique, and fiercely independent. And like most Americans, we are survivors of generations who came before us and helped make us what we are today.
I get kind of crazy when I'm finishing a book, which usually means I'm anti-social and hermit-like. Not this time. This time, for whatever reason, I'm connected with lots of people. I've been working on Romancing The Vines, book signing at Coppola Winery on 2-20-16, coordinating things with the wonderful event staff there and making sure all of us are on the same page. There's more about that, but I best not put it in writing until after the event.
Then I fly to Hawaii to participate in an author's conference, and then another book signing in Honolulu for military writers. I'm sponsoring a trip to Pearl Harbor, and the Missouri and Arizona memorials. While I'm there, I'll be going to a swing dance (stag), but who knows? Perhaps I'll find a young officer to dance with, since my husband has to stay home this time.
End of February I'll be attending an Indie Un-Con in San Francisco. Next week I give a luncheon address for a group, talking about Navy SEALs and the heroism they display. This will not be my normal group of writers and avid romance fans, so I'm bringing to them brand new material.
We saw 13 Hours, which is a movie everyone should see, and watched some interviews with the real survivors. I finished Black Sails and Mozart In the Jungle, two new programs for me, which rival my previously favorite: House of Cards.
I've completely straightened my writing area, AGAIN! I've uncovered my gym, put material and quilting supplies that were encroaching into bins and boxes so I can see what I have. I've raided the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa and walked out with every aloha shirt I could find for my quilt.
This is behavior I had when I was pregnant! Impossible now, but perhaps the birth of the book is bringing out all the nesting instincts in me. And I'm still enjoying Christmas, even though the tree is torch-like dry. I'm leaving up all the decorations until the book is done. I have other writer friends who are stressing over deadlines farther out, and I've kept my mouth shut.
And I've done all this without coffee, can you believe it? And I've stuck to my diet, and have lost about 6#, perhaps more now.
I guess what's happening is I'm organizing my whole world so my focus is sharp and detailed. I call it Fierce Writing. In the zone, as one of my good friends says. I love writing this way. When I walk in and out of rooms, I get excited because they're clean, orderly and I'm not distracted. I don't feel bad because everything else has been allowed to slide. This is a planned attack, just like my SEALs do in the books I write. Writing fiercely and clear-headed is a practice, a devotion to something hopefully greater than myself.
Interesting that when I decide to clean up my spaces, I write better. My relationships are cleaner. Even three of my kids said thank you to me for being the mother I was. Two of them actually asked for advice!
Yes, I've gone to Heaven.
Okay, now back to the book. I'm working hard, and I do it for you!
|Lucky Heart on a Chain by Monty Monty|
What I love most about being a writer is finding things. Finding people, finding great stories, finding readers, finding tossed away things and repurposing them. I live in a recycled repurposed house. I don't like to throw away “junk” because those things inspire me, truly inspire me. If I could travel the world and explore the junk piles of every country, I'll bet I'd find objects that others throw away that could become incredible pieces of art, when put together.
If you examine this heart, (my new favorite artist from Healdsburg, California, Monty Monty) the piece says so many things to me. It has parts from the Edgewater Hotel & Casino (gamble on love?), gears from a timepiece now silenced (time for love? Love is timeless?) and a small child's heart-shaped pie tin (the passions of youth never flies away). He uses no soldering, just screws everything in place. Things once discarded are now made into a great piece of art I'm going to wear around my neck. Something a writer to muse on. A gift of love for someone special. You can see more of his works here. Other Sonoma County adventures here. More assembled art by inspirational Sebastopol artist, Patrick Arniot.
A writer's life is more than the sum of the parts. I worried about being a good writer when I first desired to be one in grammar school, then high school, then as a young bride, mother, and now as a grandmother. I have to say, this is the best time of my life. Yes my joints are creaky and the gravity still works against me in some respects, and I have lines of sorry and joy-lots of both (see my blog post on the Velveteen Rabbit, still my favorite children's book), but the stories in my head are always there, ruminating, thilling me, driving me forward, like the parts of my life I've lived, found and put together into my characters. In the process what I gain is not only satisfaction, but the friendship and bonding with readers all over the globe. I couldn't have done this in my twenties, thirties, or later. I had to be what I am now, with the stories of a lifetime and the emotional maturity to be able to look at them and organize them into a work of art, just like this Lucky Heart On A Chain.
I am reminded of our friendship with Jack Chandler, a client of ours in real estate some years ago we had the honor to be able to represent. He designs homes that are living works of art with all the whimsy and magic a true artist can inspire. Imagine living in an art piece. I mean, really living inside it!
My travels are calling me home, to Sonoma County, where I've lived all of my adult life. All the big changes in my life have happened here in this region. Like Babette's Feast, which is one of my favorite movies, I'm calling, like a pied piper, other authors and readers to come out and have a reading/signing/romantic Romancing The Vines party with me. Found things coming together. The magic of serendipity, the magic of writer friends I cannot wait to spend time with, and a sharing of the words of the heart, like this heart, all found and rejoicing together. How perfect to do this at Coppola Winery, where the movie sets and the magic and fantasy of The Godfather, Dracula, Tucker and others, are displayed near the tasting room of world class wines. If you are a reader or a writer, like our brand new Facebook page.
As a reader, you can sign up to attend this event here. If you are an author who has “found” this site and “found” me, and you want to come join the party, fill out this form for more information for the event. You won't want to miss it.
Kate Douglas, also a Sonoma County resident and one of the participating authors, and I had a wonderful afternoon together sipping water, nibbling on things at Portalupi Winery (I had to pick up my shipment), and gabbing over at a new coffee house in Healdsburg on the Square. She is like a long lost sister, a fellow writer I could spend weeks getting to know. Our paths have come from different places, but we've both arrived at this point, in this time, together. I can't wait to celebrate further with her, and all the other great authors coming.
Life is made up of found things: things of the heart and soul. Are you lost or are you found? If you've found this blog, I'd say we found each other. Let's never part. I believe in Happily Ever Afters, True Love Heals In The Gardens Of The Heart, everlasting explorations and adventures into the unknown. Please stay by my side and let's explore together!
I used to have a friend in real estate, from Colorado, who always did a ton of business each year, and each January lst, she would call a couple of friends, in a total panic, not sure she could do it again. For some reason, that never happened to me, because what I did was so well planned out (yes, this is me, not some alien), I knew exactly what to do to get there again, even exceed those plans.
I used to coach realtors, especially on setting up their business plans. Here are a couple of things I learned.
1. IF IT DOESN'T MAKE YOU EXCITED, REDO IT. Make the goals specific and achievable, and track them daily. Make sure they make you shiver with excitement, too. If they don't, you aren't thinking big enough. And thinking big doesn't mean being unrealistic, or changing something big about yourself, just something you can stretch into (unlike that one size up stretch thing). Like exercise, if you don't invest in yourself and your direction, you will never have any control over your future. It is impossible to have more than a bit of control, so part of that plan should include “screw around” time, or time for daydreaming, thinking, and not doing anything by the clock, or numbers. Put everything in there that will get in the way if you don't schedule it. It's the law of business: if it will get in the way it will come up fast. Now you get to say, “Oh yeah, that was in the plan!”
2. KNOW WHERE YOU STARTED. Take an evaluation of what you did last year, plan to improve on what went right, eliminate what went wrong. Or make it an interim goal to improve by so much. Don't plan on a 100% turnaround. We used to go for a 20% increase in business each year, then, when our in success was established and we had a certain percentage of business that just walked in the door without our actions (other than being open), we changed that to 10%.
3. EXPECT SUCCESS. We overestimate what we can do in one year, underestimate what we can do in 5. My favorite quote from my friend Tim Woods, is “Do what others won't do for the next 5 years and live how others can't for the rest of your life.”
I wrote this statement down some 5 years before my books started to sell in great numbers. It's amazing to me to see how much of this has already come true. I just ran across it in a sealed envelope while I was cleaning my desk this past week: