Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning the first time my son was deployed overseas. We weren't told where he was going, when he'd be back, and, because of the outpost he would be sent to, communication would be nil.
I found great comfort walking the paths at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, seeing all the beautiful flags posted by the local Boy Scouts on the grave of every veteran. I watched as the newly interred were honored, their families given a folded flag, and a salute from an the Officer doing the officiating that day. One of my friends had lost his son just a few days before. His grave was still covered in flowers and wreaths.
We had protestors too that day, with their nasty signs inappropriately displayed, written comments meant to send distress to this young warrior's parents. If it wasn't for the beefy bikers who do the angel runs, picking up the coffins from San Francisco and escorting them up Highway 101 in a solemn parade of pride, the parents might have seen the disgusting message. I was glad they did not.
Just like every other mother who sends her son off to war, I thought about how I would act if it was suddenly my turn to show up at a ceremony like this. I hoped I never would. And so far, he's been safe.
When my son decided to serve, I admit trying to talk him out of it. That was the job for someone else's boy to do. I even harbored the thoughts that perhaps his talents in sports and leadership would be wasted on a battlefield. What parent hasn't thought the same. I'm not proud of it.
But as he stood steadfast, unwavering, waiting for me to come around, I saw in him not the boy I raised but a man who wanted to serve. I didn't want to take that away from him. And so I honored him with his decision, by deciding then and there, I'd be a willing participant and serve alongside him. I would support him as best I could.
It is an incredible thing to put on a uniform and selflessly serve a nation or an administration that you don't always agree with. But regardless of politics, background, race or religion, the military man or woman serves by setting aside their today for our tomorrow. We can be sad about the ones who don't come home. But they'd want us to live our lives and be grateful for the freedoms we have.
And to remember, not just on Memorial Day, or R.E.D. Fridays, but every day. With all the turmoil and nastiness out there today, it is truly a miracle, washed in the blood of those who have sacrificed, that we get to live the life we have.
May your grateful nation always remember you, veterans in peacetime and in war. And say thank you for your gift of freedom.
|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 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!
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.
I have a good excuse for why this Sundays With Sharon is late. But I don't want to tell you! I'm becoming a nocturnal writer. I understand now those who are with their families during the day and then command the night to write. I have come full circle. I am one of those now.
Our tour of San Diego took us to one of the several SEAL bars (the touristy one) in SanDiego, run by a former SEAL. I make it a habit of not naming real places, so if I want to change them later, I can. That way I don't get lashed by the fact police. So, I won't tell you the name of the bar we hung out at with our little group of Coronado touristas.
The book I'm finishing now, has a beautiful sex scene before and after the arrival at the Waterwheel Inn, which is a favorite place my SEALs like to go. It is filled with romance. It just seems like the place to fall in love. It's where my SEALs spend a week's salary to take their ladies on a special night. The real name of the Inn is the Kenwood Inn. I say this because they want the publicity, and my son works there so it's good for him too.
I've used the lobby of this place in several books. It's also in one unfinished book, Be With Me, where my heroine places her palms against the glass of a case and the old pen that was once held by the strange man coming to her in her dreams rolls toward the glass all by itself. And then later she sees him looking up at her. He's standing in the mists of the azure pool at midnight, by full moon, and she is being pleasured by her then-partner, who stands behind her and does not see the vision. She will travel across space and time to find him because she instantly knows he's the love of her life.
The image of that scene is so stamped on my brain, I think it might be the last thing I think of when I finally close my eyes at the end of my days. Life was one way. My fantasy life was another way. Did I ever get there? Only time will tell.
So, when I sat at the Scupper in San Diego, I felt my SEAL Team 3 guys sitting in the corner, watching a ball game on one of the big screen TVs, or outside by the firepit watching the little hotties walk past. Fiction makes real what was formally unreal.
I bought challenge coins on the strand. I ate an ice cream like so many of my SEALs do. I put myself in my story, so I could write it from the inside out. And yes, fiercely. Because what I'm describing are not the facts, but the feeling about what it's like to be one of my characters so I can be inside their skin when I write their dialog. So I can feel like I'm on my honeymoon again, in a place where a mysterious man comes to me and I fall in love all over again, just in time for the next book.
Playing catchup to the #A-ZBlogChallenge, and my topic for the month is gratitude.
G is for:
I'm flying to Scottsdale for the Desert Dreams Convention. Teaching a couple of classes and looking forward to the reader signing on Saturday. I think I have only one suitcase close to the limit. I was smart and sent ahead my things, and I'll send any unused books to RT in Las Vegas.
Having dinner tonight with my friend from Tucson Festival of Books I think 3 years ago now, and his wife. He's one of those guys who has done things we don't want to know about. LOL. I have used him as a source for several FBI and other law enforcement questions I've had.
So, #atozchallenge is now at the letter F.
I get a lot done on the plane and in the hotel room. Meeting my narrator on Friday, and we'll be doing a class on audio books. After having worked together on 21 of them, I think we've got it down, but then we find something new just about every new project we undertake.
I am grateful for being able to fly to visit friends, to teach and to give back to the community of wonderful writers. It's like fishing, and that's another F word. I put myself in these places, and people show up, events happen and I learn something.
Friends is a good F word. Today I learned how to upload a movie file to my FB author page. Looking for a way to track it, and did not know the video is treated as an impression, rather than a click. I've got tons of videos I'd like to show off. And Facebook, okay, that's another F word, likes them right now.
I like Free also. Free books, free first in series.
And, as I write this, I hear frogs. I love frogs for various reasons. I've got 12 tattooed to my forearm, one for every SEAL book, just like my characters have in the series. And I have a pretty one on my back, something that could have been drawn in the 1960's. Love the color and the paisley symbols.
Flower Child. Some would make that one word, because it certaiinly is a THING! That's me. This flower child has a small garden this year. And that's another great F word:
I'm grateful for books. I love reading books. I love writing books. I love book conventions and all the beautiful readers there. Here are some other B things I'm grateful for:
1. Boys. I dated them, married one, bore two and fell in love with lots of them. What would my life be without boys? Not so sweet.
2. Band of Bachelors – and here you thought I wouldn't pimp my series? I am finishing up one now, and he's a very messed up bachelor, and that's my next grateful point!!
3. Bachelors! They shield themselves from women, but they fall and they fall badly. The give wrong advice. Without Bachelors to write about, what would life be?
4. Baseball. I'm grateful for the new Giant's Stadium, for lazy afternoons out at the ballpark, getting sunburned and loving every minute of it.
Better come back tomorrow!
My Away We Go! #atozchallenge is doing a blog every day on Gratitude! Listing everything that starts with the letter A, here's a few of them. Hello from Blogger #110!!!
1. Best new self-help book: The Power of No by James and Claudia Azula Altucher.
3. My favorite blog sister: SOS Aloha and her book Blog SOS Book Blog.
4. My quilt project, Operation Aloha Shirt. If you have a few snippets of fabric and old shirts you want to donate to this quilt project, please send them to me. I'm making a quilt to go to a military family in Hawaii, and another one to auction off at to donate money to Navy SEAL/UDT Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida.
5. Spring Fling Audio Giveaway (use the #SpringFlingAudioGiveaway to be connected to all the other authors who are participating in this. I'm giving away an Audio Book every day this month. You're welcome!
6. AMORE! The Italians do so many things well. I've wanted to learn Italian for years. Just so I could speak love in their beautiful tongue. We need more Amore. Always.
Be sure to join the other bloggers. Remember, I'm #110 on this list. Come back and see me anytime!