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17

Christmas Lights and Hope For A New Year

Christmas and Hanukkah mean so many things to me, as I'm sure they do for you. It is the season of family, new beginnings, and a festival of lights signaling the brightness of hope. This year, the lights in Windsor Town Green were made even more special by the outpouring of thanks for our First Responders.

Many of the grammar school classes chose to honor these heroes, who helped protect many of us and our homes from the devastating fires in Sonoma County. Our heart goes out for the loss of life and property we experienced as a community, and for what's going on in Southern California now.

We know what they're feeling, because we lived through the same. There are families spending the holidays in an apartment, or rented home, instead of the family home they celebrated in for years. For some, it will be truly a new beginning. For others, it chronicles the end of an era, and how some things will never be the same again. Displaced and evacuated peoples are finding all sorts of new ways to celebrate this end of 2017 as we mourn the past and adjust to the future. It's what we do.

House Lights In The Town Green

I make a pilgrimage to look at favorite house lights and the trees in the Town Green every year, but this year affected me more. My grandkids enjoyed looking at each and every one of the trees — I think there were over 100 — all decorated by classrooms, families, businesses and civic groups from all areas of our county. I would say that the overarching theme was that of gratitude, how we are family, all of us, and how we'll all survive.

We ran into a group of carolers strolling down the streets, a gathering of Santas and elves celebrating at a local pub, and a vendor on the square selling bright flashing wands and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. We finished off our meal with ice cream at Powell's, and of course couldn't resist bringing home some peppermint bark, Giants Pez and salt water taffy.

I like it when the windows in local restaurants fog up, when the laughter behind glass as office parties and family get-togethers take place. I found myself missing the family members who will not be with us this year, and it gave me an improved opening scene for a novella I'm trying to finish.

We've had a mild, crisp winter so far, with a cold snap. I harvested a dozen pomegranate fruits, about two dozen new mandarins and some Meyer lemons. I came home to a cracklling fire and turned in early, wearing socks and a flannel nightgown. I considered penning a note to Santa myself.

And I dreamt of what glorious things were in store for me next year — for all of us. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. May the joys of the season be many for you and your family.

(PS – Blogger is not letting me respond to your lovely responses, but know I've been reading them all one by one. Thank you all!)  — Sharon

Love is All You Need

 

Honoring Home Town Heroes serving the military

 

9

Planning My Writing Year

Every year I start planning my writing year in the fourth quarter. When I used to coach Realtors, my line would be, “The most important quarter of next year is the last quarter of this year.” That way, when you start out January 1, you hit the ground running.

It's the same for writing. In fact, all my nearly 30 years selling real estate and coaching agents for the top-rated professional coaching organization I was part of, has only underscored these business principles. We think of writing as an emotional journey. People think we writers write when we feel like it, and when “the muse strikes us,” and for some, that definitely is the way of it. But for the successful authors, which I strive to remain part of, it takes prior planning and discipline.

I used to think that writing was different than selling Real Estate. Well, after some 7 years, I can tell you it isn't. Everything is sales. Relationships are based on sales. Raising children is a huge sales job (and sometimes a battle between who is doing the better sell job on whom). Falling in love is sales. Having clients or fans is sales. Associating with other authors or other business people, is sales. Maintaining your positive energy and mindset is a tricky and important sell job we do on ourselves.

So, once again, I've stripped off the cloak of confusion, hiding and secrets, and jump head-on into the Business of Writing. After all, we are not hobbyists with our writing. We are professional authors. And to call us such, we have to have a business plan, a direction and a template to repeat or build on our successes and strive to eliminate what didn't work well.

In the old days, I started by telling a story:

What Went Right
     What Needs Improvement

Then I gave my numbers from the previous year, and used a percentage at the sidebar, stating if it was up (an improvement) or down (a decrease), or stayed the same. I listed my 5 most important goals for last year and how I did on all 5 of them. After all, a year cannot be evaluated based on one thing alone. There are always things that are better or worse than before. It's never totally a success or a failure, right?

Then I decided what were my new goals for this upcoming year, and the numbers that supported that success. I broke it down to the number of work days, weeks, time off, conventions and events I wanted to attend, vacations, and came up with a total number of days I wanted to work. I backed the numbers into those days, figuring how many it took of each category to achieve what my goal was. For instance, if I made 42 cold calls a day, for 5 days a week, it automatically guaranteed an income of $X, based on my ratios. I knew how many appts. I needed to make, how many listings I would take, buyers I would have, and how many of those would turn into successful transactions, even figuring what my average transaction income was.

I've done the same for my writing year. I know there will be fluctuations in the marketplace, just like there is in Real Estate, and those are out of my control. But I can figure on a general figure, and I usually aim low. I know that certain books will generate what average income, whether it be by genre or length of book. I estimate how much I need to spend to promote and achieve those numbers, but I weigh them not on the promotion costs, but my activity costs. (I'm not buying the business, I'm generating a writing income. I've seen writers, as well as Realtors spend money to achieve ranking rather than actually creating it, which is the long-term sustainability goal).  A book takes X number of days to write, and X number of days to edit, get the cover done, have formatted and upload. I have to take into account all these time factors to realistically estimate how much time it will take to achieve my goal. I may have to adjust by: being more consistent with my writing day, or, spending less on costs, or learning to write or edit faster, or change the environment around me as far as helpers and people who I pay to help me produce my product. Perhaps I need to trim staff. Perhaps I need to add. Perhaps trim the number of conventions, perhaps increase certain ones. You see how it goes.

And then the fun part happens, I mark it all out on a yearly calendar. I have eBooks, Audio Books, and Print Books. I have swag and other things I buy to promote. I put a budget to all these things, and then track it. And I keep a tight leash on my writing day vs. my promotional part of the day. For me, I like to keep the writing together, and the promotional days together so I don't have to keep switching hats all the time in the same day.

The last phase is How We Do It Here. I love Michael Gerber's books like e-Myth. I love the SEALs code of Prepare, prepare, prepare, train, train, train, action. Then aim. I like to aim after I've executed. I like to prepare after I've trained. I like to prepare for my training, and so forth, working backwards. Saying it more simply:

     I dream about what I want to achieve
     I plan for success
     I train and focus on the plan
     I execute** (notice I don't adjust during execution-“Balls To The Wall”)
     I track and evaluate constantly
     I adjust my plan


We often see the routes an airplane takes as a straight crescent from Point A to Point B. But in fact, it is a series of hundreds, perhaps thousands of adjustments along the way. If you were to see the path the plane took, it would look like wiggly lines a mouse might make traveling from one place to another, as he makes adjustments and perhaps gets distracted. We are the same as writers!

Why should we plan as writers? Well, my mentor used to say, “You get what you think about most the time.” He'd add to someone in the audience, a male he could joke with, “That means you'd turn into a blonde 30 year old bombshell.” But in seriousness, we have a plan so we have the vision to achieve it, and the backup to that vision, the way we're going to make it happen. This way, we get to launch into our next year with confidence. Those first few weeks of our year are like the Honeymoon Event, when everything is possible and nothing hasn't turned out wrong — YET! But the plan keeps us on track, so we can adjust, perhaps see where we made a miscalculation and make that correction before we have to work out the whole year in a mode that isn't going to work. Our plan is adjustable, because it's a working plan.

And any good working plan needs the courage to follow it, to track and look at it critically to make those adjustments. Otherwise, the plan is an exercise in futility. I knew a lot of Realtors who made a plan, but never concentrated on the execution or the little tweaks that could have paid them huge dividends. Writers are the same.

We learned to walk as toddlers by bumping into things and falling on our rears. No plan is perfect. No execution is perfect. But if we focus on it, focus on the training and preparation, the execution will come easier. Or rather, we can execute without second-guessing ourselves in the process. If we prepare and train, we don't hesitate. If we have a plan for the year, each day becomes more relevant instead of slipping away. Every story becomes part of the fabric of our writing year. Every character sketch or re-write brings us more jewels, more clarity and better books.

And it makes the whole process more fun.

I hope your 2018 is the very best year of your writing or reading life. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year that will sparkle with all the magic success brings us all. After all, you deserve it!

Now, go!

***Late Note: Blogger is not allowing me to respond to all your wonderful comments. Just know that I'm reading each and every one of them, and taking them to heart. Feel free to pass along this column if you wish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!***

 

12

Family Traditions

Making soap for mom and dad.

Most of us have fond memories of the holidays when we were children. I can still remember making Swedish Tea Ring with my grandmother Christensen, in her kitchen in Fresno. My little hands worked the dough, and sliced little holes as the wreath was made, revealing the red and green candied cherries, the nuts and cinnamon tucked inside. It wasn't Christmas unless I could do that.

My grandparents sang Christmas carols in Danish, as well. My grandmother Fox told the story of how, as a new bride, they were snowed in one Christmas, and she couldn't get to the store.  Instead of having a big feast, they had frozen sausages, pineapple rings, which she made with sprinkled red and green sugar, with red candy dots making the berries at the bottom of the wreath. To this day, we fry these little pineapple wreaths as we tell the story to the younger generation.

Our 37# bird this year. Cooked in a bag.

My little brother sang “Binkle Bells” at night when he was about three or four, when the whole house was quiet on Christmas Eve. I will never forget the sound of his sweet little voice echoing throughout our house.

We'd invite Stanford students from different countries to share our Thanksgiving tables. I remember Lali from Turkey, Bobo from France (his real name was Hubert), and our favorite vagabond traveler who had been all over the world, Currie. I could listen to his stories about his travels throughout the jungles and beaches of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand years before there was a war there. My mother taught him how to bake bread and cook because he'd hired on to an Alaskan exploration crew as a cook, and didn't know the first thing about it. Our friend, Harold, another student, taught my brother and I how to collect pennies.

I loved listening to Grandpa Fox's sermons, and, although I was embarrassed having to walk down the church aisle behind Grandma Fox (because she wore 7 purses), it was a special time for the Fox grandchildren, because the church body loved us as much as they loved Grandpa. He was and still is the largest person in life, who had a big God and the heart big enough to envelop us all.

Butternut Squash from the garden

When my brother and I sometimes stayed with them in Napa, sometimes women and children would be sheltered there, hidden away from an abusive husband. We would be awakened, and asked to sleep in the living room, so the mother and her children could have a warm bed to safely sleep in at night. We also learned that homeless people learned they could get a free meal at my Grandmother's rear kitchen door, and we knew there had been marking left on the fencepost, although we could never tell where those marks were.

When our kids were younger, we took a cruise at Christmas to the Caribbean, and were entertained by a local children's choir with their island-flavor Christmas carols one special Christmas Day. We watched monkeys come up to us on the beach and large parrots with colorful foliage robbed us of our fruit at a picnic.

I remember my oldest, D.J., arguing with children at a Macy's in San Francisco, talking to the “Talking Christmas Tree” and defending his honor, when these children called him stupid and made fun of the tree. “I'm your friend, Mr. Christmas Tree,” he told him. I was never more proud.

I was lucky. And so now I complete the cycle, spreading the stories. It's so difficult now, because we can't all sit at the same table. The little ones are so precious. My next-to-the-youngest last night told me this, “Grandma, I wish it was Christmas.”

I agree. With all four of my children safe and in the US out of harm's way, their spouses and children by their sides, we were all together this year. I think that makes it about the most perfect Thanksgiving and early Christmas it could ever be.

What about you? What's been special about your holiday so far? I'd love to hear about your traditions…

24

Rising From The Fire

My parent's old home was left standing. Melted shutters.

Many of you familiar with my history and my work know that in 2008 our house burned down. I had, up until that time, maintained a busy and successful Real Estate career. It was a challenge, in a falling market, working with two other family members and a team of assistants, but it was a well-oiled machine that left us in the top 10 of just about every category in Northern California. I was proud of it.

When our fire occurred, it gave me the opportunity to do something else. Insurance gave us some living arrangements (a small one bedroom apartment), which I mainly stayed in by myself. Our property and house were an all-consuming job for my husband. Plus we had about 50 chickens, our Dobermans and “visits” by people who thought it was a good idea to help themselves to some of our things. He was doing battle with the insurance company, contractors and cleanup crew. All my clothes were either burned or affected by smoke.

Here are some scenes from the recent Wildfires in Santa Rosa. Not my house this time, but way more devastating.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/7539286-181/lesson-for-santa-rosa-in?artslide=0

I had a couple of choices. I could go replace everything, pretend nothing had happened and just resume my former business, or I could take a little time to sort out what exactly I wanted to do. We had to decide whether or not to rebuild the house, where we would live, what things we would throw away and what things we'd save for later sorting. My head was spinning.

Because I was alone with the apartment, next door to our office, I solved my lack of sleeping problem (too much to think about) with some late-night movies, and some reading. I did more reading than I'd previously done in years. I discovered Outlander and it got me hooked into good old fashioned storytelling. I even began an email dialog with Diana Gabaldon at one point.

Although very stressful, the fire actually became the catalyst for my writing career. I think opportunity comes from stresses that seem at the time to be overwhelming. Just like diamonds created by millions of years of pressure and heat from earth masses, the creative side of me, one that hadn't been tested or expressed, began oozing out and I spent more time in my fantasyworld than I did on reality. I did it first out of self preservation. And then I began to do it because I felt it was my calling.

I wish I could say the process was clear, direct and in a straight line to success. Just like everything worthwhile in life, there are ups and downs. But, looking back, if I had to do it all over again: sacrifice some of my very precious things for a chance adventure into a new realm, or to wake up my fantasy world, I'd do it all over again. I really would.

Like the Phoenix, I emerged from the fire a completely different human being. I think about this these days as I drive past burned out homes and consider all the decisions and issues affecting people's lives who have survived our horrible wildfire.

Remember my premise: circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. This path wasn't one I'd planned on following. But it's one I chose once I had the options. I guess that's why they say we have to understand the difference between what we can control and what we cannot. And be good with it, focusing on what we can control.

In a way, my house burning down was a blessing. I hope some of this will be the experience of some others this year. Terrible tragedy in most ways. But not all ways. There are some people who are going to be given choices they'd never really had before. And that's where the rising, the magic comes.

6

The Chase for Great Story

Watched the documentary on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip. I'd never been a Dead Head, though I lived amongst people who knew them well, and have meet several of the Dead band members. I had to be introduced because I wouldn't have recognized them.  I sold a house to one of their Sound Engineers and he had to go see the property at 2-3AM to make sure the countryside was sufficiently quiet enough so, when he came home from work, he could sleep.

We don't think about all the sacrifices people have to endure to make creative endeavors. How some endeavors overtake us, some make us whole and happy, and others haunt our very lives. I do understand the burden of having to be the leader of a band and a movement not of Mr. Garcia's own creation. He just wanted to make music and help people have fun. Period.

I've said it many, many times: Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. How we react to the forces in our time on this earth is our choice, our focus. Some people try to change it, direct it. I see it like raising a child. You can't tell them everything they will need to know to grow up straight, resilient, happy and strong. But you gently guide them and introduce them to different directions, and some of these may take hold. There is no right nor wrong of it. It's what we do.

It's the same for creative endeavors like writing a story. We fall in love with characters, bring them to the edge and just before they fall off the cliff, we save them. It could be something that randomly comes from their past, or something deep inside them and brings a strength they didn't know they had inside until they are tested. Compelling stories in romance tell how a person becomes a better version of him or herself, due to the love relationship that changes their lives.

If I do it right, I take the reader on a journey. The reader knows things the character doesn't yet know about. Of course, things have to be a surprise too, we want the character to do or say things outside his or her usual sphere, and we can have fun with that as they experiment with something new. We do this as writers all the time with our own worlds — I mean, the worlds inside and outside my head.

I had trouble sleeping last night, so I spent it with my characters, former SEAL Morgan Hansen and his ex-wife, supermodel and women's empowerment guru, Halley (who still goes by the last name Hansen). In this story I've gotten to explore the chemical attraction between the two of them, now tempered with the passage of alone time, while her career has spiked and his as a former Navy SEAL has ended. Except, once a SEAL, always a SEAL, there is danger and a forced collaboration that results in an almost pre-determined series of events neither one is able to control.

You can preorder the book here: Bachelor SEAL

Amazon
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/d/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Amazon FR: https://www.amazon.fr/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-English-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-English-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Barnes & Noble: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bachelor-seal

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bachelor-seal/id1212824382?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bachelor-sealAnd I love the idea of control as a theme, or rather, how we have little of it. We don't control mother nature (our recent wildfires), or how God has made each one of us unique (the birth of my 6th grandchild, Lily Aria), or when we have set the forces of the universe on a particular path that will have a collision course with other forces in motion and out of our control.

Having fun. Eating doughnuts, drinking coffee, and I'm going to take a couple of hours off this afternoon for some grandbaby time.

Life is good. Another story is nearing it's HEA. Once it's out there, I will have no control. I think I like it better that way.

33

Is It A Battle or A Marriage? Creative Brain vs. Logical Brain

She's in the fantasy of the story. He eats cake.

I always told myself that I loved writing my stories so thoroughly that I would never experience burn-out, or need a break. I told myself that was what other authors did who perhaps had overwhelming things come up in their lives: family concerns, economic downturns or just life in general, and this somehow wouldn't apply to me. Because none of these things would happen to me. I always thought of myself as bullet-proof. Unstoppable. I'm a great one for giving this kind of advice too. Just ask me.

And then June-July of this year happened. I can't say what it was. I knew something was up (still in denial mode) when I knew I shouldn't read my reviews and couldn't stop from doing so, when friends who had phenomenal success suddenly made me feel like a loser, or when I made up stories about the significance of book sales, how fast people got back to me, and on and on and on it went. You know the drill. Your mind goes on a dribble like chasing oversized zucchinis down a hill. These lumpy thoughts felt like my brain was filled with busy little ants trying to make a kingdom of my gray matter.

Seeking vehicular meaning. Not.

Every one of my calendars was still on July, until last week. My desk looked like a hamster was nesting there. I hated to check social media, stayed off Facebook and especially Messenger, but a few got through. When people started thinking perhaps I was dead, I had to laugh. Even then I didn't respond sometimes. I know. It was selfish, self-absorbed, poor manners. But I needed a break.

This December 15th it will be ten years since I started writing. It will be eight years since I published my first little novella, and five years since I published my biggest seller, Accidental SEAL, my first book to take off and begin to make some serious money. I've taken roughly sixty online writing classes, attended about a hundred RWA Chapter meetings, attended probably close to that number of book signings and online FB events. I have a huge following and newsletter list, and lots of adoring fans who fill me with delight. So, what's the problem?

The emergency brainectomy of life.

At first I thought I'm boycotting social media because, after all, this last election cycle had to be one of the nastiest one in our history. I was so disappointed to read how my very good writer friends had positions I thought were crazy, or how they thought my positions were. I stopped talking politics except at home, but I should have stayed out of it there too. There was nothing redeeming on social media and I felt like a mouse in that enormous flywheel, running, running, running to catch up. I still missed things, deadlines snuck up on me, and others I had to just walk away from.

But social media wasn't the reason for my situation. Amazon wasn't the big bad monster interfering with discoverability and book sales. I wondered if my Red-White-and-Blue-Rah-Rah-Love-The-Military themes in my books were getting shoved down in the algorhithms. Was there too much competition? Or, did I not work hard enough? Did I believe in myself enough? Where was God, my family and my friends and how come they couldn't fix me? Help me?

I expected to look 20 when I peeled this off.

Facials and massages didn't work. The soapmaking classes, collage classes, walks in the park, gardening, starting a new business, traveling to Mexico, didn't work. I dyed my hair red, and that made me laugh, but it didn't put the fire in my soul. I listened to music, burned a ton of candles, stayed out in the sun as much as I could stand, and even tried to go vegan for awhile. I tried to read and couldn't get through any of the first chapters. I got more sleep than I've had in years. I cancelled seven events, dealt with a blood clot to my leg and a minor stroke my husband had. Everything is fine. No life-threatening things on the horizon then or now.

So, what was it?

It was my logical mind trying to do a BDSM session with my creative mind. It took special glee in whipping and tying my creative self up with “that doesn't works” and “you are so stupid” comments, humiliating that part of me where all the magic lives. And the longer it went, the more my logical mind tried to be in control. I was trying to figure it all out.

I love the story about the two dogs. One dog is the vicious, fearful one, and the other dog is the excited, loving and creative dog that loves affection, connection and that sense of coming home. That famous Native American story goes that we have to decide what dog we feed.

Word.

The only way through it is to give myself over to the Creative Brain. There is no real control, is there? We don't know why music fills our soul, or why flowers make us happy, or why sun brings us some sort of divine energy from the Heavens. Our creative side has no limits, no borders, no barriers and no regrets.

And it's a choice. That's what I've chosen.

Will I go back to being a social butterfly? No. I'm going to be careful. I'm going to pace myself. I'm going to be careful who I hang around, who fills my day. But I'm going to make most of it filled with my characters from the books. I've been missing them.

And unlike real life, I can have as many lovers in my fantasy life as I choose. I guess what I found, after all this wandering is not my brain, but my heart. Writing stories is the most enjoyable activity in my life. That's the dog I'm feeding.

What do you think? I'd really love to hear it…(kiss, kiss).

13

Partnerships, Teamwork – Maintaining a High-Maintenance Life

I put everything on hold yesterday and attended a soap and lotion making class held through The Goat Farm. OMG I had so much fun. Was like a play day with several lady friends. My hairdresser told me about The Goat Farm, and I intended to schedule a meet and greet sometime soon with Mindy and her husband, who own the farm. Then I discovered she was having two classes on making soap and making salves and lotions – I got in and Ta Da! Another new world has opened up for me.

You already know I do paper collage. And I love to quilt. I have been an organic gardener for over 40 years now, and I have a big local family, a business to run, helping with the family business occasionally (my former career in Real Estate), and on and on and on. I'd always thought I would make a wonderful grandmother, staying home to knit, sew things, make collage art, decorate the house, make candles and soap, write romances and garden.

Well, my life is sort of like this. Today, I will be taking my expecting daughter on a little mother-daughter shopping. Her baby is due in October, and her shower is next week. Then I spend a week partially in Las Vegas for some real estate things, and then off to Ottawa for Romancing the Capital, Eve Langlois's wonderful event, where I hope to see some great dedicated readers I've never met in person before…

So this week is about finishing, getting my instructions ready for the garden watering so that doesn't turn into an epic fail, making sure everything I need to get done gets done this week. And so why not take a soap-making class? Meet some new friends and indulge myself in scents and beautiful soap and lotion art?

My long term plans are sort of turning out. The part that isn't is I forgot to meditate and dream/look forward to the deadlines in my life. The trick, for me, is to float through life, doing all these things, and make it look artsy, effortless and soul-affirming, while making sure I keep to my commitments to others. After all, I am not independently wealthy. I didn't marry Prince Charming who has a trust fund and unlimited resources. And I'm the primary bread-winner in our family. So I can't piddle and dawdle too long. But I have to trick my brain into thinking I am living the life of ease and luxury, the life and soul-affirming things of my every day, so that the stress doesn't get in the way of me actually doing anything.

I have several partnerships. First, and foremost, I partner with myself. Am I getting healthier as I age? Am I doing what things I want to do while I can do them? Am I managing my finances and my time in such a way that there is more life at the end of the month instead of more stress? Do I live in a house of my design, a place where I enjoy being and where I can feel my soul growing? Or, does it limit me? And is the cost (time/emotional energy) worth the result?

I partner with my husband. Not everything is perfect all the time. After some 46 years of marriage, we've done a pretty good job of balancing the urgent and the necessary, with the folly, leaving time for creative endeavors and explorations. I think we do best at the explorations. For me, that's travel. Part of being a good partner is learning and telling the truth on what we can and are willing to bring to the table. I'm no Cinderella either. But partnerships don't do very well under stress or chaos, and a lot of our time is spent making sure these things happen only on a limited basis. Gardening, traveling, going on soap-binges or shopping (in moderation) helps with this, too.

I partner with my other family members. I am nearly the oldest woman member of my little tribe. That comes with it some responsibilities to pass on what I've learned in a way that doesn't make my family feel like I've hit them between the eyes. I want to give them memories they can laugh about when I'm gone. And yes, I admit, I'd like there to be a big hole when I leave. I'd like to be missed.

Partnerships with others in my real estate or writing community, in other endeavors I'm involved with requires telling the truth and learning who and what I can trust. I have some partners I'd love to listen to but would never count on in a crisis. I have others who I can count on for different things, but not for all things. I sort and pick, and yes, occasionally dead-head my friends and associates. No sense trying to make or keep a friend who is drifting, or not wanting to reciprocate, or for whom I have to do all the heavy lifting. As I get older, I've been better and better about discerning those things. And I've made some major screw-ups along the way being too trusting. But the lessons have been massive, and the circumstances have taught me a lot about myself. Just like raising children, being long-term married, growing a garden or starting a successful business — failure is part of the story.

I guess I could sum up my life as a patchwork of things, some found, some discovered, some worked for, some gifted and some lost, or lost and re-found. It is a blend of highs and lows, colors and blandness, determination and creativity, art and science and a little magic thrown in along the way.

I guess these are all life skills I'll need some day when I take my next great adventure into the unknown. I take that hole that hopefully will be made here and bring that value to wherever else I'm going. And then give it all away again.

Because, in the end, all of it is a series of giving everything away, in various stages of our lives. It's not about receiving all day long. For me, it's about watching how my gifts change the world around me. My gardens. My books. My loves. My family. My quilts. My spaces.

My heart.

What about you?

8

Rich Like Chocolate, Strong Like Coffee, and then there’s Berzerker….

If you hadn't met me, you'd think I was seriously mixed up. Well, maybe I am. Here I like flowers and gardening, romance and all that goes with it. Expensive lingerie and kids and family and kisses. Going barefoot at the beach, and Happily Ever After.

But I also love my men to be men. Having a man's man around makes it easier to be a woman, I mean a real woman. That is different things to different people. But I find a man who respects women, who honors our country and protects me and my freedoms, is worthy of my undying love and loyalty. It is something bred into my DNA. I can't speak for all women, but this is what it is for me.

So when I read about this real hero, believe it or not, it makes me want to sit down and write romance. I can't explain it, but it brings out all the romance in my body and soul. I'm sure there is some biological chemical reaction to this, which is way beyond me, and not important for me to understand fully. It is what it is.

I'd like to share this interview with the folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. I am a coffee club member, and I get these shipments regularly, and I have since stopped buying anything from those big box places. This company is owned and operated by Veterans, who help other veterans. And it's darned good coffee too. I love their attitude, their very non-PC approach to freedom, living a life full-out, and being men among men and the women who are lucky enough to love them. It's a family and kith not everyone can understand.

But I love them dearly.

So hope you'll read this newsletter, and perhaps subscribe yourself. And with your first cup of Joe, you let me know which blend is your favorite. I haven't tried Berzerker Blend, but I'll be ordering it today.

My favorite so far is Black Beard's Delight, with the flag logo of Edward Teach, the most notorious pirate of the Caribbean. I got the patch, the hat and the thermos to go along with it.

Enjoy and I hope I've expanded your world today.

Here's an excerpt from their blog and the link to read more:

Kyle Lamb is a man who has lived a life most can’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next fifteen years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).
Since Kyle’s retirement from the Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership, and founded Viking Tactics, Inc. which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo Magazine, or his face on the Outdoor Channel.
Black Rifle Coffee recently caught up with Kyle to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:
You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?
Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.
You can read more here.
Have a powerful day and enjoy your freedoms.
8

Story of the 2 Jakes

Thank you, readers, for my great launch week for Jake2. I truly appreciate your feedback and support! Loved writing this book!

Sometimes you get into a story, and it becomes deeper than you'd planned, or you get caught up in a secondary character who makes his/her appearance on stage and completely takes over the storyline for a time.

With Band of Bachelors: Jake, I had one of those occurrences.  I loved writing about this dysfunctional family and all their problems. Jake, based on a real SEAL I knew briefly, had fathered four children with three different women, not because he was a bad person, but because he couldn't say no, and wasn't careful. It didn't matter to him if sex brought him more children because he loved his children.

I know there are “norms” and I get hit with occasional comments from the Reader Police, informing me about how I've bended or broken the rules. In the words of one of my delightful writer friends, “You don't have to worry about breaking the rules, just understand the rules you are breaking.” She breaks them all the time, and so do I. I think that gives variety and spice to the romance genre, and we also get to try out things that perhaps we wouldn't have been able to if we all subscribed to the same lock-step rules.

So my guy is one of those who doesn't pay attention to the seed he spawns. Okay. That still doesn't disqualify him as a hero, because he makes good on his intentions – just learns the lesson later than most. And that happens in real life, right?

So, at the end of Band of Bachelors: Jake, I already knew there had to be a Book 2. I also am aiming more toward things that could be made into TV or movie pilots, and, from talking to screenwriters and others who produce TV pilots, they usually want the same character in each episode, not different couples, like I have in the beginning of my SEAL Brotherhood Series. So, I've been testing how I could do this, and have done it now three times: with Jameson in Nashville SEALs, Fredo in Fredo's Dream, and now with Jake2.

As a writer, I try to look for new projects for me, experiments that tickle my fancy (maybe some other things too, but I won't mention them!) and keep the creative part, well, creative! In Paradise, I wrote that book in first person. In SEAL Of Time, I created a paranormal Navy SEAL, son of Poseidon, who is an immortal healer.

As a reader, you like that, right? I know as a reader of some of my favorite authors, I sure do. I love seeing new things my favorite authors can accomplish. It's like opening a new chapter on a familiar book, and discovering something you hadn't read before. Thanks for taking the journey with me!

2

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday America! Today we remember those who went before us. I wrote a whole post on my visit to Valley Forge last year, and how moving it was for me. I loved it so much, we're planning on a military salute at the same location next August, and would love you to join us.

There are some times recently when I've forgotten how hard it was for those early freedom fighters, and the men who commanded them. Most of these men did not fare well during the Battle for Independence. But they fought for the cause of freedom. Not many of them knew this was going to be the case, but they fought and died so we could have what we have today.

It is an awesome choice we have these days: honor our tradition of fierce independence, or ignore it, scrap it all and let someone else figure it out. It is frustrating to know what is the right way to do it. How about we just agree to let them get it done and stay out of the way. We show up, we vote, and then let's have faith that our system will survive, even if, at the time, we may or may not like what's going on?

I looked at those photographs, the film that chronicled the fact that so many men died just from lack of food, or shoes. It was a cold winter that year at Valley Forge, and perhaps it would have been easier to give up. But they didn't.

We'd do well to remember that.

Here's my blog about Valley Forge from last year here.

And if you'd like to join us, here's all the information on the Salute With Love military author signing – for readers and authors alive. Help us spread the word.

And celebrate your independence, your freedom, by living the best life you can live, standing for the highest principles we can, and including everyone in our tent, but excluding those who would do us harm. And I hope you join with me in honoring those who fought so that we could have a more perfect union. I celebrate us all.

Happy Independence Day!

4

Romance Writer Thinks About Motherhood

I didn't grow up reading romances. I read classics like Anna Karenina, Tale of Two Cities, or Doctor Zhivago. Just like I used to listen to music for the beautiful set in the middle of the song – that “favorite part” that was so moving that I'd put up with whatever came before or after – I used to read those classics for the jewels of romance I'd find scattered there, albeit sparsely.

My mother would be proud of my success today, and I like to think she would thinly approve. But I would never have been able to get a romance book in through the front door. She was taught what her mother taught her. The women of our family didn't read romance.

I think they should have!

So I came to this late in life. And now I'm knee-deep in it. I write now from memories of what it felt like to be twenty-something, in love so full to bursting, having children and watching them grow. I get to re-live all those days again. what a treat I've had! It's not a second childhood at all, but a second lifetime. And there is no end in sight.

I've said before that being a mother is the hardest job you'll ever love. My post from last year summed up some of my story. (https://sharonhamiltonauthor.blogspot.com/2016/05/motherhood-should-come-with-warning.html)

Today, we are going to the same cafe. The Grands are one year older, my youngest daughter is expecting a new baby this Fall, and life is good. Still with all the drama of years past, but good. I'm writing up a storm, loving the stories more and more, and enjoying this phase of my writing career. I couldn't ask for a better time to be alive.

So, to rob my brilliance from last year, here are the 10 things that should perhaps come on the Warning Label of Motherhood. I'd like to hear your favorite:


1. You won't feel like you have the time or energy to get up in the wee hours of the morning for feeding, sometimes a bath and certainly a diaper change. And then perhaps another bath and diaper change. But somehow, you'll just find a way.
2. Motherhood is part nurse, part camp counselor, part disciplinarian, taxi driver and the unlimited source of funds. But all those things are done out of love. You learn to get used to the feel of clotted spitup traveling down your back and into your butt crack occasionally.
3. Being a mother is very simple, but not easy.

4. Your home will be invaded with smelly soccer teams and brownie sleepovers. You'll recover your furniture and replace your carpet about every three years. You have to instruct the little ones not to pick up the dog by its belly, or by its ears, or the cat by its tail.
5. When you give a gift to the relatives and the children are present, they'll always tell the recipient you got it on sale. They're practicing being truthful.
6. You will cherish those little soap dishes and ashtrays made in grammar school, and will never throw out the handprint painted bright blue or green made in preschool. You'll look for evidence of talent in the butcher paper drawings you'll be presented with. 
7. You'll not have the heart to throw out the baby teeth the Tooth Fairy stole, leaving money under the kid's pillows. You will learn it's okay to read the same bedtime story over and over and over again. You won't get medals or pay raises. You won't be given an instruction manual.
8. You'll never forget the fact that you will be the first woman your sons will love, and they'll show it to you even though they try very hard to cover it up. And you try not to laugh.

9. You'll discover enthusiasm for bugs, water fights, large bubbles, pink plastic high heels, fold up field chairs, hard wooden gym benches or the midnight bad dreams that bring the kids back to your bed occasionally. You'll remember and cherish all of these memories. Christmas morning will never ever be the same again.
10. Motherhood means the celebration of unselfish love, belief in all things, even when everyone else has given up hope. Mothers hope a lot. And they pray. They keep and tell the stories of the family. They demonstrate the healing power of love. They remind us all that we are family.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you, and to all of you who are honored to help a mother celebrate her special day by saying thanks.

I hope that you celebrate the love of a mother, whether your mother, or someone else's. You are blessed specially today if you do so. It is always more fulfilling to show love for someone, no matter who they are, who has dedicated a portion of their lives raising a child. No mother should go without love today. Let's make that happen.

11

Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz Day Trip. Saying Good-Bye

Yesterday we took a road trip from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz. The excuse was to attend a farewell family gathering there organized by my husband's sister's family. But we took the whole day to enjoy the scenery along the way and to just mark this page in our lives. My daughter is due in early October, and it had been years since just the three of us spent a day together.

Mac's Deli, in Santa Rosa was our starting place. Omelettes (I admit it: ortega chilis, sour cream, cheddar and black olives is my personal favorite) with Santa Rosa Chili Gods sauce, and pancakes (shared amongst the 3 of us, of course), a choice of light or dark coffee, and greeting locals and friends, great conversation, and our day was primed. I felt like I wouldn't need to eat until supper.

I was wrong.

At San Francisco, we took Hwy 1 to Pacifica and followed the coastline all the way to Santa Cruz. It has been over 20 years since I've taken that two-lane highway – a testament to my rushing around trying to get from point A to B fast, and missing things along the way. A nice reminder for me to slow down a bit. I don't have to do it all…


We passed through little towns of Davenport, Pescadero, larger ones like Half Moon Bay. We were tempted by berry stands and local truck farms, as well as places where you could pick your own veggies and fruit. One of our highlights was the trip to the Pie Ranch. Now, what a great  store name!

Gardening for me is near to religion, but I don't go to the extreme some do. Still, I like the fact that people take sustainable and organic gardening seriously. It's more than not using sprays and chemicals, it's about feeling the pulse of the warm soil, and nurturing growing things. My garden shows me when I neglect it. It actually hurts me to see it untended, or to see weeds I can't get to. Almost like ignoring to feed our dogs, which I would never do! So, when I walk into a barn that nearly worships the work in the garden, I'm in church. I find church at Farmer's Markets and nurseries, greenhouses, or demonstration gardens. Yes, I sometimes am moved to tears when I smell the damp earth and musty tones in a greenhouse, or the way the moisture bathes my face as I wander through. It holds a perfume that uplifts my soul on dozens of levels. Nearly orgasmic!

I had to buy a onesie for my new granddaughter coming this fall. Eat Pie. That sums it up rather poetically, don't you think? I love the Just Laid duck tee. But the strawberry rhubarb pie and lemon buttermilk pie were showstoppers.

Another unexpected find was the Abalone Farm at Pescadero. Off the highway, and with little fanfare, only open Saturdays from 10-2, we lucked out and watched abalone being grown in large saltwater bubbling vats. There's a little back room where all the magic happens, we were told. The water ph and extra nutrients created microscopic baby abalone that get moved to the nursery when they are old enough to actually be seen with the naked eye. We learned what they ate, and that they are voracious eaters of kelp and kale. We came home with 10 steaks we will partially devour tonight like candy.

At Santa Cruz we parked after driving past the old Boardwalk and arcade, passing by the lovely homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the beaches with volleyball nets and the surfers dotting the waves everywhere. We strolled down the pier in search of a perfect bowl of clam chowder and a view, and found it. Best
chowder I've ever had. I limited myself to one bun of sourdough French bread. We examined the tourist shops, bought a lovely sweatshirt that summed up my sentiments exactly, and some socks for the baby to come.

We met up with the rest of the family at our relative's home, bracing ourselves for that final good-bye. My husband's sister will be leaving us shortly, and this was on her bucket list: to get the family together one more time, to whisper things to her little brother and walk the beach one more time. All the treatments are done, and now it was time to prepare for her final journey. I heard music she'd made, her clear, beautiful voice. She instilled in all her children the love of music, and singing in particular. There was always music at every wedding, funeral or family event, sung by family groups or solos throughout the years. Lovely memories we reflected on. Life moves on. New babies are born as we all age and take our place as we enter and leave this wonderful family of ours.

We were home safely before midnight, and yes, we took the fast way back. Each of us quiet, thinking about the day and what was shared. Like most things in life, it was perfect in its complexity, like multicolored beads strung together to make a beautiful necklace. A necklace of found and discovered things.

I like days like yesterday, which are measured both by what we gave, as well as what we took home to ponder secretly. Footsteps taken, and little ones yet to come.