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:
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.
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.
Amazon always gives me little notifications when they think my spelling isn't up to par. I'm a creative speller. Oh yes, I know the difference. A creative speller makes up words that fit the moment, like some of my SEAL characters nicknames: Fredo becomes Frodo, Kyle Lansdowne becomes Lannie or Landmine. Armando Guzman becomes Armani. And of course they also get creative – very creative – with swear words.
If I had to clean up my prose and take out that certain word that begins with the letter “F”, my manuscripts would lose about 10,000 words, I'm sure.
So here are a couple I found today. I love Spellcheck Days!
Minidrone – I actually think that's a word I've read somewhere. Amazon doesn't recognize it.
Microwinery – well, they have microbreweries, why not microwineries. I really think I did make this one up.
Sexploits – I think that's a valid description of some of the “in search of” capers my SEALs go on until they come smack up against someone who snags their attention.
F**kbunny – I love that word and use it all I can. My editors usually limit me to a diet of 2 per book.
How about you? Do you like to use favorite words, make up words? Find words you've read or heard and loved them into existence?
|Field of marigolds in India|
Enjoyed giving a presentation to the Suguaro Romance Writers in Tucson yesterday. True to my standards, I made a dramatic entrance.
Enjoyed meeting with the board Friday night, and over a spectacular mexican dinner, I began to pass out. One minute I twas speaking, and the next, I was looking down at someone kneeling and asking me if I was okay. I don't even remember them separating the tables, customers from that side of the restaurant looking on. Light-headed and unable to finish my food, and a little sick to my stomach, I was confused and unable to move.
Well, next I heard they'd called paramedics. “I'm fine!” I said, to which they all laughed. I was helped outside and was treated by six (count them) handsome paramedics. We're all romance writers. We write about firemen and paramedics all the time. I'm telling you, if I'd felt better, I might have laughed it off better, but the ladies were having fun. Every single one of our paramedic crew knew we wrote romance. I heard about it all the way to the hospital.
|This could be Sonoma County, but it's India.|
I waved good night to my group of board members who were having me speak, from the back of the ambulance, and was transported to the Emergency Room.
Okay, so I did admit to passing out a few bookmarks, and one of the nurses who attended me was a big military romance reader and had heard of me. I got an Uber driver for $5.67 who took me from the hospital back to my hotel at 2 AM, after I'd been checked out, hydrated with an IV and discharged. We talked romance in his RAM truck. I think his girlfriend will be getting one of my books.
And at 9 AM, I was feeling great. After my grand dramatic entrance, I was on.
|A grand railway adventure to the caves in Goa?|
I talked about my journey, and literally had some laughs about stories I'd heard about other writers and their perserverance, which was a theme in my talk, about not giving up, not ringing the bell. We talked about exposure, getting follows, getting a dedicated fanbase of readers. Taking what we got and just expanding on that, large or small, grand or simple. The pros and cons of different types of marketing and Newsletters, assistants, review teams and reader groups. It was all out there.
Of course I talked about my thoughts about watching my son get his Trident. What he had to go through, and showed what things did or didn't make their way into my books and why.
|Life is color, and meant to celebrate.|
It was inspiring for me to get up and talk for a couple of hours, to laugh, and to demonstrate the sisterhood (and brotherhood) of writers we are. Great group, and was one of my better days. Hospital scare and all.
I come back refreshed, recalibrated. Sometimes I think I get so wound up with my own goals and focus, I forget that being an inspiration is part of what I love about being a writer. If I didn't feel I gave anything back, it honestly wouldn't be worth it.
|Indian monuments of love. My kind of trail. I'm going.|
On the plane home, I found something new for my bucket list. I have a story brewing about India, about a time travel romance spanning a hundred and fifty years crossing three continents. Now I have a new mission. This picture is pasted on my wall by my computer screen to remember.
Visiting the great monuments of love? What's not right for a romance writer? I have to get there, somehow.
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?
I find meeting other authors, readers and the social interaction with people in general to be very stimulating. I percolate with ideas whenever I come back from a conference, or signing or get-together. I am planning on some serious brainstorming with one of my writing buddies, Carolyn Jewel, at the San Francisco Indie UnCon later this month.
Just got back from the Love and Fifty in Sacramento last weekend, and saw the Fifty Shades movie with a whole theater of other romance writers and their reader fans. Now I want to buy a theater somewhere and put in those wonderful lounge chairs and serve beer and wine like they do in Portland…Okay, in my next life…Show nothing but romance 24/7. How about rented cubbies on the side where writers could work while watching the screen? Have a sound-proof office so you can turn off the dialogue or add your own music?
The possibilities are endless!
So everything I do, see and feel goes into my books. People ask me all the time where all the stories come from, or whether or not I'll ever run out. They come from everywhere! Watch out! Spend time with a writer and you'll be immortalized! That's more than a promise, it's a fact!
What makes a good romance story is that you can count on the HEA. Sometimes it's cataclysmic, sometimes it's subtle, yet speaks volumes. But between the beginning and that HEA ending, we go on a journey together and the writer stretches the boundaries, takes the reader on twists and turns of the unexpected, all to arrive at the expected (but not too predictable) outcome. I like it when I read a book and I'm screaming, “No! Bad decision. Don't go there!” and yet I know that that decision leads to a series of events that becomes part of the outcome, which could have never happened without those decisions.
Some say we writers like to torture our readers. Man, it does affect me when I have to have a breakup scene, or when the hero or heroine thinks the other is either lost or has been rejected. It hurts me as much as it hurts you, the reader. I've cried while writing in coffee shops and drawn some attention from well-meaning people around me, consoling me, until they find out I'm just a writer.
Spending a few hours talking to my 90 year-old-step mom brought out another series of stories you wouldn't expect after visiting her retirement home. Love blooms, friends become enemies, and politics infuses every aspect of our culture, of the world's culture. There's drama everywhere, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of age.
No, I'm not going to start writing Octogenarian Romance, although I've got a story there too. But I've got an idea that could start there.
Tropes are timeless, regardless of genre or age of the characters. An inciting incident can happen in a Retirement Community or in a shopping mall, as well as on a desert island. Because wherever there are people, there are relationships. The story of those relationships is what we write, how people both lose love and find it again, which is the story of hope that is in so many romance novels.
So, as we get ready to celebrate the Love Holiday with those who mean so much to us, let's remember the opening of the heart as the most worthwhile endeavor man has ever done. It is the one hope that every child seeks, every adult desires, at every age. It is the one thing we can't get too much of, as the song goes.
And the one thing we need more now than ever before. Let's celebrate together. You know that quote from Love, Actually? “Let's all get the s**t kicked out of us by love.” I think that's fine advice. Couldn't have said it better myself!
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!!
Yes. I'm all in for SEALs. I have some precious mementos, collected during my journey as romance writer. One of the most cherished items is my plank from the Navy SEAL/UDT Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. I am a supporter of the museum, and have donated a portion of all my sales there for years, as well as raised money from quilts we've had made and auctioned off.
This last year we earned over $400 on our Operation Aloha Shirt Quilt project. I rounded it up and we sent $500 to the Museum. This quilt contains Aloha shirts sent to me by people from all over the US, lovingly stitched together by Sandie Greis, and quilted by the women of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild, the oldest of this group who is 90 years old.
When a SEAL detaches from his Team, he is given a plank, like the one in the picture. I was so surprised when I received this. If you ever want to learn about the history of the Teams, how they came to be and how they have developed, you'll love spending a day there. This museum is run by the SEAL community, friends and family of the community. No Federal funds are used for its support.
Another of my cherished possessions is a signed autograph by the man who eliminated OBL, Rob O'Neill, who says “SEALs are sexy!” It hangs just above my plank from the Museum. Thank you, Rob, and thank you Cherokee and J.D. Hart for helping me get this cherished gift.
I received a Challenge Coin from Anne Elizabeth's former Navy SEAL husband. Anne (who also writes Navy SEAL Romance) and I were in an anthology together a couple of years ago, along with a dozen other of my favorite military romance author friends. Anne awarded us all this Challenge Coin. It is a symbol of a mission, a job well done, and I have to say it was! Thank you, Anne.
I have my tattoo of the Hippy Bone Frog, as I call him. Made a little alteration to this picture, and sucked it up and had it done. I also have a frog print frog print tat on my right forearm for every SEAL book I've written. I'm going to have to start on the other arm now…lol.
I was honored to be given this helmet for safekeeping. It's now been returned to this SEAL's children, but it was on my desk for nearly six years while I wrote my first SEAL Brotherhood stories, and was a constant source of inspiration. These helmets are worn by BUD/S recruits on their way to becoming worthy of wearing the Trident. Whenever things get tough for me, I look at that picture and I remember, “Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.” How true.
It's been my honor to write about Navy SEAL heroes for these past six years. I hope to be doing so until they have to yank my laptop from my lifeless body!!
Working on a Son of Poseidon SEAL duet with another author which you will hear about very shortly, and then comes Jake, my 3rd book in the Band of Bachelors. I can hardly wait for you to read them both!