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Our house burned down in 2008 and in an instant, everything about our lives changed. I was reduced to only the clothes on my back at the time of the fire: a white nightie. Barefoot and cold, I couldn't believe I was actually watching the house burn, watched as memories and valuable things went up in smoke, taken away in less than twenty minutes.

We slowly began the painful process of arguing with the insurance carrier and negotiating our policy limits with our lender, who was also experiencing troubles of their own: they became insolvent shortly thereafter. We went from one fire to another.
In the meantime, I began cutting pictures out and looking at what I wanted the rest of my life to look like, what my next house would look like.
I stumbled upon a great book: Moving On, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She talked about putting back together the pieces of her life after a painful and all too public divorce. I could relate. My life felt like one big ugly public divorce, even though my husband and I were still married.
She talks about how there is this special relationship between a woman and her house. She even suggests that some women don't really want a divorce, they just want a new house. How important it is to have a House of Belonging. A place where good things happen, a stage, a canvas, a blank page.

Soon after the fire, and during the creative endeavor of creating a new house, I began to write. And the writing healed me. Fed me. I stumbled, quite by accident, on my true calling.
I'm going to quote her because Sarah says it much more beautifully than I ever could. As a romance novelist, these words touch the seat of my soul:
“…meditating on the emotion women feel when they fall in love at first sight with men; I'm the one making the leap to house fever because I've succumbed to both. Suddenly, without warning (or so it seems) the trajectory of a woman's life changes, becoming “a vicarious route to some essential part of herself that she does not yet fully recognize or understand.” The Beloved becomes “the heroic territory she longs to occupy.”

She thinks she's found him–or home. Interestingly, the name of the greatest lover of all time, Casanova, means “new house.”


Gardens of the Heart

Gardening has always been an important part of my life for over forty years now. I actually discovered seed germination in biology class one summer school session in high school. We put corn and bean seeds in a competing lab team's soil bin during the 4th of July long weekend. And in that dark and warm place, they sprang to life. When the lid was removed, green shoots erupted. As everyone else in the class laughed, I looked at those shoots and knew I was hooked for life.

High school was filled with angst and pain for me, as I think it is almost universally. But I began to enjoy watching living things grow. I began to be the keeper of things that needed mending. A friend of mine had white rabbits he raised, and a jack rabbit got in one night and a few weeks later he had a bunch of halflings he was going to destroy. I took one, rescued it. His pellets of pooh made the corn I started to grow healthy, with ears of mouth-watering flavor we enjoyed for weeks. We had fresh lettuce, tomatoes, but drew the line at my father's favorite: brussels sprouts. Whomever invented those should be shot. No amount of cheese or mayonnaise or fancy French sauce makes them worth eating.
When I set up my own household, we gardened. It was great exercise, and as poor students, it was a great way to stay in shape and eat healthy on a dime.
I am overcome with the beauty of nature frequently as I walk through my gardens in the late spring and summer, when the blossoms are at their peak: full blooms of living color and lots of buds for later blooms. Nothing touches a gardener's soul than healthy plants giving back what they do so well. It is the essence of joy.
I took a collage class a couple of years ago at Book Passages in Marin County. They do for the public what only good independent bookstores can do: bring writers/authors and their books to life. The author was teaching us how to make something from scraps of pictures. She brought huge boxes of old calendars, magazines and scraps of things she'd saved, rescued, from things that would have been thrown away.

The two hours went by so fast I couldn't believe it. When finished, we were asked to stand up in front of the class and share our little works of art, give them a name. I had no idea what I was going to say and was in a panic, hearing all the clever titles other participants were coming up with, and how these pictures were mirroring what was deeply embedded in their soul. One woman had done a collage on how much she hated her husband. There was lots of pain and a few tears shed as each person told a slice of their life's story.
And then it was my turn. From somewhere inside me, I said, “Gardens of the Heart.” In the upper right you can see: or possibilities? I had also glued to the page, details. But as I told them this was the way my heart felt inside, I couldn't find the pasted word. And then, when I scratched my nose, there it was, on the end of my finger. Details.

What is a romance to a writer? A collection of details, the look, the smell, the touch of a lover, the way he makes you feel when he walks into the room. That look he gives you when he's been thinking about you when you look up. I can't paint or draw, but I can use words. Words that I hope will make people feel better. Find themselves in a world that causes misfits and strays. Come to the fantasy of my world.

Because, Love Heals in the Gardens of the Heart.

Fail Forward

Day 6 of A-Z Blog tour.

I love this concept of failing forward. Failure gets a bum rap. It isn't nearly as destructive as we think.
When you learned to walk, you fell down. In fact, I don't think you would ever learn to walk if you didn't. When I first learned to ride a two-wheeler, I had to have my Dad start me, and I would stop by crashing into someone's lawn. Just like flying an airplane, take off and landing is the most dangerous. Riding was the fun part, and probably the easy part, except when a car came along or someone's little brother decided to chase a ball directly in front of your trajectory. Then a quick decision was made, and it usually resulted in skinned knees and palms.
I learned to ski when I was 40. I figured if I didn't learn before I was too old to fall down, I would never do it. I took a week-long course in the Canadian Rockies, and after 5 days of lots of falling down, I learned how to ski. I could even ski the medium runs. I even fell on my ski instructor, who had barely missed an Olympic qualifier. But his great skill and speed didn't help him when it came to getting off the chairlift with me the first time. I sat on his knee, and he broke both bones in his lower leg. Oops.
I didn't decide not to ski, not to learn to ride a bike or to walk. I haven't even decided to behave myself all the time, and I'm always getting lessons about my mouth and my opinions, and sometimes I even listen.
Because I'm still out there, slugging away, writing and writing and getting rejected, writing and writing and writing and having someone like my work, and writing and writing and writing, and…well, you know the rest.
Or, like Babe Ruth is reported to have said, “You don't get 100% of the hits you don't take.” If there ever was a chance to make it as an author, and I don't mean writing for my own enjoyment but making some serious money, it is now. We have so many options out there. There are millions of discouraged writers who will throw in the towel just when they shouldn't. And we'll still be there.
I got an appointment with an editor I wanted to meet because I was sitting in a chair waiting for someone to not show up. And that's what happened. The other author didn't show up, so I got her spot, and got to pitch to my dream editor. That was a very solid at bat. And, although it didn't give me a home run, I created a base hit out of it by writing a story she didn't like, but someone else did.
If I hadn't sat there, having “failed” at getting an appointment with this editor previously, I wouldn't have gotten the base hit. It would have been fun to hang out in the bar with my friends. But my friends won't be giving me a contract.
No, I may not be the best writer I will be some day, and I certainly am not the most successful yet, but I'm going to outlast everyone.
That means I better be immortal.



These wonderful, big fluffy chickens are perfect brooders. I've taken eggs from other hens, and given them to these Cochin mamas, and they smother them with love until they hatch, and then are some of the most attentive mothers a baby chick could have, even doing battle with some of my randy roosters and other hens looking to damage their young.
Cochins were imported to England from China in about 1845. Queen Victoria was given a pair as a gift, and, until then, were only found in the orient. Raised by royalty, and, just like the Panda, they were rarely seen outside of the mainland.
Well, someone in England figured it out, and soon chicks were hatching and were presented to important persons by the Queen, who was said to be very pleased with her little brood. They were all the rage. Until they figured out what they would do to gardens. When Cochins go after things, like roses, peonies, lavender and even rosemary, well it's not a pretty sight. My chickens even ate all my asparagus roots, rhubarb, artichoke and yes, horseradish. One chicken can do a lot of damage to a well-tended garden, in spite of the fact that they eat almost their weight in snails, slugs, bugs per week.
I have one golden feathered one, like on the left, several black ones, and one blue Cochin, really a beautiful silvery grey color.
Now why would I bring up Cochins on my stop at C on the blog tour? Yesterday, as a matter of fact, one of my Cochins was beside herself, clucking, looking for an egg she probably thought got eaten or stolen by another hen. She was grumpily pecking all the other hens in the yard while she continued to search for it, having conducted a thorough review of the henhouse.
I only know this because of what happened next. Normally this very sweet hen is no problem, but I knew she was miffed about something.
When she turned around, I saw her egg had gotten stuck in her feathers, and she was wearing it, carrying it around the yard while she told everyone else about her distress. She couldn't feel it, couldn't see it, so it had disappeared.
I laughed when I thought how often I have been clucking around about something, you know the drill, the muttering under the breath, sure someone else had done something to cause me this distress, only to later find out I did it to myself all by myself!
And how many times did I not listen to advice or feedback, or pay attention in a craft class or workshop, and suffer for it later on?
When I removed the brown egg from her feathers, I showed Ms. Cochin her progeny. She looked at it, pecked it, and then went on and I never heard another cluck all afternoon. Even chickens can be enlightened with the right teacher.
Who knew?
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