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.
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!
***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!***
Thought you also wouldn't mind a couple of other shots of my San Francisco model, Justin Thomas (who is about as nice to meet as he looks). Just 2 more days. Ok ladies, start your engines!
You can order Bachelor SEAL here. Enjoy!
Our President has visited the Arizona Memorial today and I was reminded of my trip to Pearl Harbor in February of 2016, while at a writer's conference. Each time I visit this sacred site, my love for the military and all those who sacrificed for me and my freedoms increases. Words cannot express how it changes a person to see the oil still leaking from the bow of the great ship, now residing in the shallow waters of the Bay, with some of its crew forever enshrined.
I wrote about that visit on my blog from December 2016 here.
During that visit, I was able to see several Japanese visitors pay their respects to the fallen. The flowers I wore that day floated out to sea with the flowers and water contributed by those visitors in a shared time and place that was over 75 years in the making. For this memorial is their memorial too. It is a memorial for the whole world. It's a reminder of what was, what was done, and what remains to this day. It's the ongoing saga of war and peace that has haunted mankind for centuries. It is the best and worst of times all in one.
We study history through the lens of our own experience and to each one of us, that history is slightly different with many thoughts and feelings in common. But not all. History is personal. And it needs many voices to tell the story in all its detail. For one person alone could never do it. Even one nation couldn't tell the story of why so many men and women die while serving those they protect honorably, and why and how those of us who remember and live on are grateful.
I write about fictional heroes, who don't always die. I am saving fictional characters, one at a time. It's all I can do, by adding names and stories from my head, putting them on paper for readers to love and enjoy. It's another fantasy view of the history of the world inside my brain. Writers have the joy and the burden of not only telling stories of what really happened, but what could be. In that way, these men and women live forever. My stories will outlive me some day.
On this rainy day in Northern California, I'm remembering those wind-swept afternoons I walked along the beach in Honolulu and traveled on a little boat to visit a part of my history. And I'm grateful to be here to reflect and share. Throwing my words like leis on the water going out to sea.
|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.
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.
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 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
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.
|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.
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).
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.
What about you?
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.
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:
Oh yes, you think I'm joking? I did it this morning. Last night I needed something very light to wear because it was still near 100 degrees at bed time. So, I wore one of my black long lacy nighties worthy of any erotic Halloween. As I do these days, I get up and water my garden in whatever I've been wearing to bed. So, today I vamped in my black nightgown. I deadheaded like any good witch, picked replacement roses that had wilted last night beside my bed in the heat, checked my cucumbers and melons, pulled some bolted lettuce, clipped my coriopsis and daisies, and added extra sprinkler timers to the flower bed and part of the lawn that doesn't catch water yet.
We have no neighbors so I can do this. My gown was muddy and wet, but refreshingly stuck to my body in cold ribbons in the hot breeze. Yes, I started about 6:30 AM and didn't finish until nearly 10.
The story I'm finishing is a novella, and I'm in love with this couple. Yes, I know, I do say this every time, but I am in love with Trace and Gretchen, both second time arounders. Trace has just transferred to Kyle's Team 3 from an east coast team, like Cooper did in the early books. Gretchen is Kate's sister (of Kate and Tyler in SEAL Of My Heart that was just on a Book Bub special), Book 7 of the SEAL Brotherhood Series. She was married to a professional basketball player until he outed his womanizing on one of the tabloid TV shows and the marriage was over. So, Gretchen has some baggage, but nothing Trace can't work out.
Many of you will remember that Tyler's sister, Linda Gray, is a romance novelist, in her thirties, and Tyler modeled for the cover of her book. Linda has never married, but she's one outrageous character. Like me, she wears red all the time and lives a life in her books she never gets to have in real life. So she and Gretchen are becoming acquainted and best friends. While they both go after Trace, from two different corners.
This is an unedited chapter I hope you'll enjoy. This novella will be part of Tropical Tryst, an anthology of works from 25 of your favorite authors, releasing August l, and available for preorder now.
Enjoy the story. I plan on doing a full length book with this couple next year.
The scene takes place as Gretchen is getting situated in the room she's sharing with Linda, in an old plantation-style Hawaiian home built in the 1800's. It is up in the hills, with views of several of the Hawaiian islands and the beach and ocean several miles away. Linda thinks she going to use this as the location for her next novel, about a Hawaiian girl of royal lineage who falls in love with a Navy SEAL.
So, here's a chapter (unedited) from SEAL My Love:
There are lots of things that satisfy me about gardening. Here are some of my favorites.
Preparing the Soil:
Yesterday afternoon we were weeding the garden. I've planted carrots, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and lettuce in long rows, along with onions and potatoes. Every year for nearly twenty years I'd get a 10-yard dump truck load of mushroom manure from the Mushroom Farm in Petaluma. In case you don't know how much that is, it's a pile that would nearly touch the second story of a house! I'd work this into the dark clay soil one wheelbarrow at a time (and yes, my arms got sore). I usually got a sunburn on that day, and for a week afterwards, the whole yard smelled like a manure pile.
To me, it smelled like Heaven! Really! So, last night, as I was pulling these weeds, they came out so clean, the soil was so balanced and lovely, with just the right amount of moistness and nutrients, it was pure pleasure. My remaining little plants are standing straight and tall this morning. A great garden takes years in the making, because it has to start with wonderful soil.
I've hired gardeners to help with some of the heavy labor, and help set up irrigation systems, something I've not taken the time to learn. Some day. All of them remark how they'd like to put in this system and that, to help with the watering. And they'd look at me strange when I'd tell them, “But I like the two hours a day it takes to water.”
I really do. I look over the leaves as the wand spreads the wet goodness and washes away the dirt and grit, I watch as it sinks into the soil. I snip the heads off flowers while I water (I wear an apron with clippers, a small shovel, mosquito repellant, some assorted seeds for in-filling, a couple plastic plant identifiers and a permanent marker, along with some string). I replant seeds that didn't come up, or replace a plant that won't grow properly with a new seed, or bury the seeds I'm dead-heading back into the soil to create volunteers. It's the tending it takes to notice, adjust and gently coax and guide my garden into a thing of beauty.
And it very much is like writing a book.
Small shoots of cabbage and lettuces are plucked for salads. Othertimes I just thin the plants so that the ones remaining have room to grow. When your fingers work the soil so carefully and closely, you see things you would miss otherwise. Last night I discovered one of my baby praying mantis bugs. I put a larvae of them on each of two rose bushes in my garden out back. Each is supposed to harvest about 500 little mantis, who are voracious eaters of aphids and other non-beneficial bugs. Since he was crawling over the little pile of weeds, I carefully cupped my hands around his little 1/2″ body and placed him back in the roses where he could find the best food. Unless I'd been on my knees doing this job, I'd have missed getting introduced to him!
Every year my garden takes on a new personality, like the books I write. Working on my hands and knees, or watching from above carefully, helps me get to know the garden that wants to reveal itself to me. Yes, I don't grow the garden. The garden grows all by itself. I just place the order of things, set the stage for the play they create all their own. It is a very magical experience for me. It's like discovering characters that fall in love, or experience hurt or happiness in my books.
Taking the Bounty:
Harvesting comes along with the changing of the seasons. Like in the Bible, the time to sow and time to harvest. When I remove something, I can replant, or put something else in its place. Or, I can let the ground rest. Like one of my favorite signs over my desk states, “My garden isn't dead. It's sleeping.” Letting a garden rest is a good thing.
Eating the first fruits of my labor is always a joy. I've now had my first sunflower. My first handful of sugar peas, flat French beans and we've juiced lots of baby Chinese cabbage and bok choi plants as we've thinned the mounds. I've had a half dozen cherry tomatoes already and am on my second cycle of lettuce. We had enough small patty pan squash for dinner last night too.
And that reminds me, time to get the refrigerator cleaned out, because I'm about to become inundated with good, healthy food!
As you see, I could go on and on. There is one mindset for a flower garden. Another for a food garden. And I like to mix them together as well. I think lettuce grows well at the base of a trellis of sweet pea blossoms. Calendulas help with the moths that bring aphids and also discourage gophers. The garden changes every day, and each day it emotes different emotions as I tend, watch and enjoy seeing it transform before my eyes.
It is truly a living work of art. Hopelessly addicted. In love forever.
My father is gone, and every Father's Day I get over to his grave to leave some roses from my garden, and at Christmas I like to bring him drumsticks so he can keep playing. Dad was an engineer, and looked about as wrong as wrong could be as a drummer, with his hair fringe, and jerky motions, and the fact that he had to bite his lip and frown because he concentrated so hard on keeping up with the beat. Like everything he did, even making music was hard work. But he loved hard work. Always did and I'm sure he's working hard now.
What I learned from my father was how to survive. He was a very smart man. He did very well in school, but his childhood was marred by the fact that his own father suffered severely in World War I in battles in France, and basically came home mentally broken and eventually was sent to a state hospital until he could fight his way out. He never talked about his Dad's trials, or the fact that he had to get up at one or two in the morning to sing hymns or those Tennessee Ernie Ford songs, and that his mother got up and played piano for him. It was just a fact of life.
His father wore pajamas all day long after he came home, and wore an apron, was the chief housekeeper and cook for the family, and Dad had many tales about those days. He'd come home, throw his books in the corner, and not return until dinner, then after dinner he studied into the night. It was his way of dealing with the unknowns of living with a parent who was mentally ill for most of his life, in an environment where he didn't feel safe.
But Dad was never bitter. He loved his Dad. And as I was the oldest granddaughter, I loved him as well. Quirks, crying jags, days in the bedroom with the shades drawn and the arguments at the dinner table or the early morning songs my brother and I heard when we stayed there for a week at summer time, all seemed part of life. We took it just like my Dad did.
We were opposites in personality style. He would prepare and take copious notes. He hated to not know everything and so spent hours and hours researching thing. He once took apart our television set just because he wanted to see how it was made. He went to the dentist one time without novacaine so he could experience what that felt like. He was the perfect grandfather for my kids, even sliding down brown hills on our property on a cardboard refrigerator carton with the kids, and hitting a tree. He had to go to work the next day with a black eye. His commitment to the family was 100%.
As my mother was getting weaker from the ravages of cancer, he cut a fresh rose for her every day and brought it into her room. He took it as his job to take care of her those last 14 years of her life, and when she passed over, he was left without a job in life. Though my mother had gone, he was not ready to stop being a husband. So, at 80, my dad remarried, something none of us ever thought would happen and lived another ten years. I credit some of this to my new mom, Eunice, whom he loved with everything in his being, another testament, and another lesson to us all.
But the funniest thing I remember about Dad was a conversation we had at one of my son's soccer tournaments in Davis. He'd gotten married the previous year. My mother had been buried in a plot in the lawn of our local Memorial Park. He'd bought the plot next to her, but now that he was married again, his priorities had changed.
He asked my permission to have my mother moved to the mausoleum, where he had a spot next to her, but the two of them would rest beneath his current new wife and her deceased husband. “Sharon, when I die, I'd like to be buried next to both my wives.”
I thought about it for a minute or two and then answered him this way, “I'm okay with it, Dad. But let me ask you this. Are you planning on getting married a third time?”
Forgive the use of some of these promo pictures, but they are some of my favorite father/daughter images and I thought you wouldn't mind.
Happy Fathers' Day. Hope you spoil him, or spoil him in your dreams.
There are certain times of the year that are just lush. That's the best way to describe them. In Northern California, we've had a lot of rain this spring, and even some last week, which is nearly unheard of. So the weeds are crazy strong, but so are the plants when I can weed them.
Never seen so many rose blooms. The soil is just perfect for working in it. I've lost my fingerprints from patting down soil around new plants. My toes and fingernails look like I lived in the time of Outlander, they are eternally black around the edges, no matter how much I scrub. Good that it doesn't interfere with my writing – except these times I make sure to use a keyboard protector!
Because of the weather, and our schedules, our garden is very late. So these pictures, compared to last year, might look less full. Have no fear. As my favorite sign says, “My Garden Isn't Dead. It's Sleeping.”
So I've planted literally about 100 little flower transplants and bulbs. I should be good in about a month with some lush pictures, if I can keep them properly weeded. I went all out and planted 9 melon plants, including 5 watermelon mounds. We heard that the rind is actually very healthy – more so than the fruit, so we'll be adding these to our healthy smoothies this summer.
My peas are just starting to peek out and I hope the shady area I grew them will help promote some yummy pods. I have yellow, purple, French and Blue Lake beans. I've planted a dozen asparagus plants, 3 new violet artichokes and a couple new green ones. I planted about 50′ of potatoes, with the onions around them (my only tried and true remedy for gopher and mole control). I've got red cabbage, red cauliflower. Celery and yellow beets. Seven kinds of cucumber including Armenian, Burpless and a new Russian variety (how appropriate, right?). I am babying some volunteer turban squash, hubbard squash, zuccini, and patty pans. And of course, 14 tomato plants of all varieties – several cherry (chocolate, yellow and red) and two Heirloom brands. My lettuce is doing great. I have onions all over the place. I was delighted to find a new variety of Hydrangea – nice and purple.
We are checking our watering on the roses, and the fruit trees and discovered our apple tree had termites! Yuck. Sprayed that sucker with that tar spray (only thing in my garden non-organic) and will fill up the hole they've eaten in the trunk with (you guessed it) concrete! We always have that lying around for repairing our rock walls.
So while finishing this next book, Paradise, I'm watering, planting and doing other things outside to get me moving and stimulate ideas. It is a great way to craft a love story.
I'm not sure whether the love stories inspires my garden or my garden inspires my love stories, and I don't care to find out.
All I know is, it's lush here in Northern California. I don't travel for a couple of weeks, and, being a Taurus, I'm very firmly planted in the soil of my garden, even though my head and heart is in the clouds.
Enjoy these last few days of May.
And who could forget Richard Harris with this timeless piece.
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.
Long before I was a romance writer, I was fascinated with what made people do things. It's why I was a Psychology major in college. I loved reading about what made people do things. Originally, I thought I'd like to study lands and cultures – what made a whole country or group of people do things. The career choices were limited (or appeared limited) back then. My love of travel and foreign lands spurred me on to thinking being an International Affairs major would get me where I wanted to be.
But no, I took a detour into Sociology, and then wound up finally in Psychology, bringing it all back to the individual. I was looking outside myself for reasons, and found them inside myself instead.
Now that I write romance, the study of character and calling is more important than just about anything else. That's why I enjoy writing about the Brotherhood, specifically the SEAL Brotherhood. These are men who put aside their fears (have them, but set them on the back burner) to do the things others cannot or will not do. I'm not naive to think that that makes them perfect. It makes them the ones who do not quit.
Navy SEALs go through the grueling BUD/S training not to find the strongest and most well qualified, but to find the ones who will not quit. People who don't understand this don't understand SEALs. Men who have passed the SEAL training look on those who have washed out or DOR (Drop On Request) in a different light than others do, perhaps. They don't see them as failures. They see them as men who discovered where their limits were. The real SEAL training makes them a SEAL. The BUD/S portion of it is just to see who is qualified TO START the training.
Everyone wants to be rich. Everyone wants to be handsome and beautiful. Everyone wants to be successful, to be well liked. To raise a family that leave their mark. Everyone wants to be a good friend, someone to be counted on. Not everyone is willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to do so.
I listen to blogs and read about heroes every chance I get. One of the men I study I will not mention here, but he has given me so much wisdom about what it takes to be a true hero, a real man, a warrior of the first caliber. And although he speaks in terms of being a man, it also works for those who are not men, but those who wish to be a warrior at whatever they are passionate about. Writing? Love? Family? Being the best person I can be? Whatever the driving force inside of us, one thing is clear: it is the best part of all of us.
He defines Brotherhood in this way: “Mutually held feelings of love, possessiveness, and respect that improves the current or future situation(s) of each member. True brotherhood is created by shared experience and defined by feelings. The experiences must be: 1) Difficult 2) Tied to ones survival.”
We live in an age and time when “getting along” is the norm. When getting pampered is mistaken for care. When right thinking or silence is preferable to conflict. We are taught to avoid battle in all it's forms: battle of wills, battle of negotiation, taking risks, being unrelenting and unstoppable. Being unbeatable becomes fiction in such a world. Striving to go beyond our own limits something of fiction and fantasy and not real.
I write about the heroes who transcend all this, who are not perfect men by any stretch of the imagination, but who are blessed with the singleness of purpose: to serve and protect at all costs.
And to never quit.
Wonder what kind of a world we would have if everyone felt the same way.
I used to wonder when I was a little girl what my future would be. I think most of us with any kind of imagination would. That little record player and I when I was 3 or so, living upstairs in the big old house in Oakland, California, were best friends. The wonderful Disney stories like Cinderella and Snow White helped me escape. Truth was, that big old house with the double dark attics and the two vacant rooms haunted me. And I was afraid. Falling in love with the music, the dancing and the Happily Ever After was my escape from fear.
Part of being a successful writer is learning things about myself that keep me going: my favorite friends to visit on social media, or when to stay off social media, that I love to get all down and dirty with a story until it consumes me (I don't ever do anything in little bites), that writing intense, like living intense is way more exciting than being safe and secure. Sort of like being on a big ship and daring yourself to imagine falling overboard and considering just for a minute what it would feel like to be plunged into the cold ocean.
Our fears are sometimes what drive us, compel us to do things. It works with performance as I've heard actors say if they aren't just a little nervous before they go on stage, they don't give a good performance. Athletes train for extraordinary results. Competing is training in itself. The thing that drives us is the fear of failure in many realms.
Our brain filters what is “good” for us and what is “bad” for us, and for each one of us it's different. I've learned that there are only a few people I really need to know about during every day, and I'm not missing out if I don't turn on every follow or worry about what someone's friends of friends are saying or liking, or whether or not I'm “trending.” Those are fears that are unhealthy.
And tuning out all that “chatter” comes with its own set of fears: missing out on something. I've made decisions to hire people based on not wanting to “miss out.” I've worried when I didn't need to. Birds make nests this time of year. Flowers bloom. Gardens grow. Living things respond to the sun and are enhanced.
So here's the right mix for me, and maybe it will help you. At some point, you put aside the fear, and you just have faith. That's little letter “f”, but it works for the big one too. The fear is like the double yellow line, or the white lines on the side of the road that help you steer. So anything that doesn't drive faith to me, is unnecessary. Not that it's bad or evil or anything, it's just unnecessary.
Worry is unnecessary, but effort, laced very gently with the fear of failure or success, just a tiny bit, is a good thing. Fierce writing is good. Setting goals and deadlines are the roadmaps. Achieving everything on a To Do list is good. Having a plan is good. Abandoning a plan is good if it causes too much fear. Re-evaluating goals and dreams, adjusting our course is good. Feeling like the tail is wagging the dog, running to catch up, to be good enough is unnecessary.
I think understanding that word, unnecessary, means I have a healthy set of filters in place that protect me. Protects my spirit, my humanity, my graciousness and my gratitude. Protecting the work.
Loving is protecting the heart. Loving with the fear of it not being returned enhances the experience, in my opinion. Always striving, improving, adjusting and broadening my experiences make me a better writer, lover, mother, wife, friend and all round human being.
So while my future wasn't anything like what I'd planned, it does more resemble what I listened to as a youngster of three. That love will win not just some times, but every time. That being connected is more important than frequency or following of trending. And in that wonderful process called trial and error, course correction and that drive to never give up, blooms that beautiful flower of creativity that decorates the gardens of my heart.
While it wasn't what I thought it would be, life has been even better than I could possibly dream it could be.
Writing is work.
There are days when you just write because you don't know what else to do. Or because not writing feels like giving up. Or that you don't fit in anywhere else. Or that you've forgotten how to be or do anything else.
You have to have a thick skin.
Some days you disappoint yourself.
Other days others disappoint you.
Nothing is for sure or stable.
The world is burning.
And I'm still writing.
The fairy princesses have flown away.
Duty, honor and true love are still possible.
But darn! There are so many potholes.
It's day 5 of BUD/S.
I hear the bell ring, but someone else pulled the strap.
I'm still here.
And so are you. Are you listening now? When do the clowns come out and play?
The recent celebration with my granddaughter, who was chosen as Student Of The Month, inspired this post. Her standard, adorned with her funny picture and smiling face, chronicles all her favorite likes. It is an award for the whole student she is, not just the academic part. It's a “Hey, look at me, and this is who I am!”
Social media has made it possible for me to interact with my readers and other author friends, essentially saying the same thing: “look at me!” I work on writing things that readers and others will want to hear about, not just about my books, but the journey, things that might be interesting about my life and the ups and downs of it. As authors, we invite others in. We call it “being sticky” in the business.
It takes years to develop a following, to brand a name or series, or to be known for something. And then we try to give readers something different, ask them to go on another journey, expand their tastes a bit. Sometimes it works, others it doesn't.
There is no magic formula. In the meantime, and between the highs and the lows there is one constant. For the most part, I think I've been pretty good with it: confidence in ourselves. My goal is to be a good writer for my readers, but for myself, my job is to stay positive, and to continually be my own best friend.
I've probably told this story before, but one day in Real Estate I'd listed a big home, got another one sold, made my designated number of contacts (44 per day) and coached several other agents on coaching calls. I closed a big escrow. It was a huge day for me, spoken in terms of “deals” as 7, my record at the time. I was on cloud 9. I drove home, and on the way passed a house with a competing sign in the front yard. Those were my people! How dare they? But the truth was, they'd chosen someone else when I thought I had it in the bag.
I drove up my driveway feeling dejected, a failure. I was grumpy and tossing things around, making lots of noice in the kitchen. My kids picked up on it immediately and we discussed it. “What do you mean, Mom? You had a great day!”
And they were right. I'd forgotten the cardinal rule of mine, a rule I'd taught agents for years: “Give yourself that pat on the back. Be your own best friend first.” By being upset I didn't do 100%, I completely wiped out all my previous wins. Big mistake.
Writing is lonely and most people would be surprised to learn how insecure we can be as writers. We wonder what happens when a reader we used to hear a lot from doesn't communicate any longer. We think it's us, and not something going on with them and their lives. We take compliments sometimes and judge the sincerity of them when we just should be grateful for the compliment in the first place! We don't encourage ourself or celebrate our wins.
I'm going to a collage/art class today up at Bishop's Ranch. It's the first class in a series of 5 given by the resident artist there. Like when I quilt and when I garden, doing something else than writing brings me new life and I come away feeling so good about myself and what I'm doing. I'm launching into two new series, and completing one trilogy. Spring is almost here and my daffodils are coming up.
Loved this blog post the other day, here, which talks about some of the same issues. Have a fabulous Sunday my lovelies!!
Remember, you are exceptional!!
There are a number of things I am grateful for in 2016. It was great for a lot of reasons:
1. I survived. 💪
2. Got sick and got well. 😎
3. Finished 5 books. 🏆
4. Weathered some breakups, shakeups and uncertainties with grace and a pinch of humor. 🂱
5. Better prepared for the travels ahead. 🎢
6. Kept my focus, realigned my purpose, learned about some new opportunities. 🔑
7. Welcomed the New Year with an open heart, and a head full of stories. 🎇
8. Reinforced the power of gratitude and being light-hearted at the right times. 🙏
9. Re-fell in love with falling in love ALL-IN. 💓
10. I start the year off being INSPIRED. 💫💗💥
So, here are some things I'm focusing on this New Year's Day. Hope you can join me along the way some of the time. We have a lot of work to do together, you and I. I can't wait. How about you?
MY 2017 FOCUS:
1. I write every day because it is my life.
2. I'd rather be in a book or story than anywhere else. It is my reality.
3. Concentrate on creativity and the flow will come.
4. Expect to be amazed, not understanding everything. Amazed, like a child.
5. Be a well-used character in my own life like a favorite toy and much-loved soul.
6. Pointy people grind the rough edges off me and make me shine.
7. Circumstances REVEAL a person, they don't make a person.
8. Getting up and getting started now is the most important attitude to have.
9. Learn from everyone, everything. Seek lessons like jewels.
10. Show gratitude, grace and humor more than anger, frustration or hurt.
11. Be loveable more than right.
12. Understand but keep to my side of the fence.
13. Have compassion but be strong enough to tell the truth.
14. Feel the healing power of love.
15. Take more chances, feel deeper, understand the strength to let go when needed.
16. I can't fix anybody. ANYbody.
17. Walk with other warm hearts and bright spirits. Close my doors and windows to negativity.
18. Notice, nurture, never forget.
19. Lead with love and kindness.
20. Hug the little girl inside me every day.
I recently ran across an article on Stephenie Meyer and her new book, The Chemist, which comes out shortly. I'd not been following her career and haven't read any of her work except the Twilight series, and did not follow her to the alternative POVs on the saga she wrote afterwards. Now she's tackling more the thriller genre, while still keeping a love story prominent in the work. I cheer for her (that's the sound me me clapping).
In searching her books, I also saw a book I won't even mention, with a title disparaging her name and her writing. And this was allowed on Amazon, in fact, shows up on her Amazon search page as an “also buy.”
I've about had it with some of the things allowed under the guise of free speech. The great Zon in the sky allows a title like that with a four-letter word front and center, demeaning an author, but has a problem with a naked man's chest (or God forbid, nipples showing under his shirt), in their advertising. None of my book covers, for instance, are allowed to be advertised in paid ads. They either contain a man's torso, or a couple looking lustily at each other, or a feather with a little dangerous blood on it in my angel series, starting with Heavenly Lover.
I certainly approve of controls to protect young children from reading or seeing adult content or themes. But children see far worse on the television and in movies every day. They hear rap music with disgusting lyrics and somehow we are taught that this is “mainstream” while writing about sex or a couple enjoying sex, that's a bad thing.
So is degrading an author for being successful supposed to be okay too? So are phony reviews and hurtful things said and done by small-minded people intent on wielding their two seconds of fame on the internet. We are so PC about some things, and not on others. Being a romance writer, or someone who writes happily ever after tales, we develop a thick skin, and endure all sorts of things most people have no idea actually happen to writers.
Conflict cannot survive without your participation – Wayne Dyer. I once got to spend an afternoon with a small group gathered to hear Mr. Dyer speak to us, and got to speak to him over lunch. I found his message hopeful, and uplifting. He had detractors in his career. Horrible things said about him and his writing or his speeches. And he didn't participate in any of that.
I have things all around me that remind me of the good things in my life, not to fool myself, but to remind myself that I've decided to participate in a different game. I've decided to follow my heart's desire and passion for the things I do with meaning. I've also had to make tough choices to protect that creative and willful streak in my being. Sometimes saying No is better than saying Yes. Just like sometimes being kind is better than mouthing off under the guise of “being free.”
Because being unbeatable means remembering that when life is full of passion and hope, all things are possible, no matter what anybody else says or does. We write, edit, put it out there, be awesome and then do it all over again. That's the game I want to play.
We think a lot about horror and fright this time of year. Read an interesting article this week by Neil Strauss, who is someone I follow when I can. He discusses the difference between Fear and Anxiety. He's been doing some studies on this with members of the scientific community and has come to some interesting conclusions. Some I've listed below, and I've added my notes about them.
Most of what you call fear is really anxiety.
He suggests that being willing to enter the doorway of no return, or facing fear head-on, is a precursor to achieving great success. Consider the number of people who go through near-death experiences and then discover in themselves some magic and walk away changed forever. Or pushing yourself to high performance, to the point of failure, without fear, to achieve a high degree of competency. We look to the BUD/S training our Navy SEALs go through, where less than 10% of the class actually graduates, where the recruit is tested mentally as well as physically. Part of the success of that training is in pushing to the limit while setting the fear of failure to the side.
Good decisions are made from this place.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is debilitating, and it is the response to uncertainty.
Uncertainty is so uncomfortable, most people will make bad decisions to create the illusion of certainty.
Uncertainty is defined as something that is unknown or doubtful. The opposite to this, of course, is certainty, or knowing something. And that requires, as a method for ending uncertainty, that something become known, studied or understood. We run away from uncertainty when that will only enhance it. Finding out about what is troubling is the path to diminishing the effects, eliminating the anxiety. We embrace the knowledge of the cause for it, rather than withdrawing from it.
Bad decisions are made from the state of anxiety.
I used to beat myself up about writing things at the last minute, when I actually love writing that way. Not everyone can, but I enjoy it. I call it Fierce Writing, writing with my hair on fire. Inspired writing. If I were writing memoir or poetry, perhaps I would take a lighter approach, do little bits and pieces every day to keep the muscle developed.
But writing fierce is feeling the story like an extreme movie in your head, where all the characters in your tale work together to create that play. Unexpected things sometimes happen and they thrill me. Other times, if I don't feel the intensity of the story, I lay down tracks and then go back and polish the jewels to make it great. But for me, there is no great writing done until I feel the intensity and am actually living in that story, occupying the space right beside my characters, and in some cases inside their heads. I lose myself. I push my limits. I risk the point of no return.
Writing Fierce is also writing without worry. This is why Nanowrimo works for some writers. We write like our hair's on fire for 30 days. We write intense, we embrace the fear and bust through the anxiety.
We would rather not lose than win.
Safety is not always safe. But we'll do lots of things to “feel” safe, including lying to ourselves. We get excited when we gain something (except weight) but we don't like the fear of losing something. Strauss talks about making sure we crunch the numbers, look at the upside and downside of the possible outcomes before making a decision, especially if we are coming from the place of anxiety. He also suggests that if we can't make a decision, we haven't found enough people to hang with that are divergent in their thinking. We could be spending too much time in the “group polarization” process with like-minded people. Change should be embraced. Or too much time is spent on outside forces we have no control over, like the internet or TV News. They tend not to give a person knowledge, but instead help a person feel small. He advises killing your TV. See the world through your own eyes.
I've just completed an exercise where I took a big step and decided to deal with an anxiety I was having about my writing. I had been worrying about it now for some two months. I finally decided to do the old Abe Lincoln investigation where I'd list pro's on one side, and con's on the other, and then look at the whole grid to make my final decision.
Surprising, even to me, and I've done a lot of this in my lifetime through all my careers, was how simple things looked when I took a good, close look at it. It made a couple of decisions I was worrying about much easier to accept, and I took action. I made the decisions with knowledge. I put into motion something that I needed to do. I called several people I trust, I asked questions and listened. I noticed the people who went into hiding and didn't participate, and I kept researching until the answers came to me through my own eyes.
In the relative absence of fear. Amazing.