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.
On Tuesday, we release Book 3 in the Band of Bachelors series (part of the overall SEAL Brotherhood series). I've had a great time writing this hero.
I have a printable book list on this website, if you go back to the Home page. That will give you the reading order, and the series, as well as other books, box sets, and novellas.
So here's how I got the Band of Bachelors. I was going to do a SEAL for Cat Johnson's Kindle World. Cat is a good friend of mine, and a great writer. I got Lucas' story done in novella format, and then had to change plans. So this book became a full length novel, Book 1 in the Band of Bachelors.
All my books are part of the overall SEAL Brotherhood series. My publicist at the time told me that I shouldn't have long series. So I decided to break up the titles to focus on the unique group of SEALs in each group. In real life, there are different types of SEALs. Ones that stay in for twenty years, married and divorced SEALs, SEALs who get out after six years, ones who are single, ones who are happily married, ones who have to roll out due to injuries, and everything in between.
So my Bachelor SEALs then are those who have been married before, and either get married multiple times with kids all over the place (like my Jake), or go through messy divorces. The one thing they have in common is that they rely too heavily on their own form of Bachelor advice. They live like a bunch of bachelors, and haven't yet figured out what all the fuss is about housekeeping and decorating a home. In fact, they are enjoying the fact that they don't have to do that anymore.
But one by one, they fall. I love the concept.
In contrast, my Bad Boys of SEAL Team 3 are men who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, from often foster care or tragic family lives. Men who found their true calling by becoming a SEAL. Of course, one by one, they each find their Happily Ever After, and rise to become the warrior they were destined to be.
True Blue SEALs is going to be a series of injured warriors, starting with Book 1, Zak. This story was based in part on the story of Adam Brown, who lost an eye and then have to re-qualify to go back on the SEAL Teams. Very inspiring true story. I used the idea of what impact a freak injury can have on the life of a warrior. Zak of course opens the door to the winery life in Sonoma County. I wanted to be able to include that in the future for some of the guys who get out and go on with their lives.
Nashville SEALs was inspired in great part by my narrator, J.D. Hart, sort of as a romanticized version (although J.D. needs no enhancement) of his early life as a country-western star in Nashville. In getting to know him over the twenty plus audio books we have done together, his story came out, and I asked for and received permission to tell an exaggerated tale of it, tailored to my SEALs. He could have been a bad boy, but I don't see J.D.'s young single life as being bad at all. But that's just me. My hero is the same. He gives more than he takes, but he decides there's more to life than backstage hookups and short term relationships, and rises to the call.
And now I have the Trident Legacy, my first paranormal SEAL. Tay Demmett makes your acquaintance on 3/28/17 when Kathryn LeVeque and I release the duet Trident Legacy. I hope you will go buy that book as soon as you finish Jake.
What's next? It will be another SEAL story, in one of these series. It might be Bad Boy #4, Bachelor #4, Tay's full length story, another SEAL Brotherhood story in the original series, a continuation of Lizzie and Jameson's story, or a continuation of Fredo's Dream with Fredo and Mia.
In any event, I hope you use this as a reference to what has come before, and where I'm going. After all, it's been a fun journey and I couldn't do it without you, the readers, and my wonderful sister authors, who have taught me so much.
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.
I'm having a good time with a little novella, taking a break to finish my project due in March, SEAL Of Time, about the son of Poseidon. I'm doing this as a collaborative venture with Kathryn LeVeque. Our boys are from different earthly mothers, as Poseidon is known for loving mortal females. Their mothers have long passed, but the boys are also immortal, and may be able to father immortal children.
You know, if you've read any of my books, I like orphans, half-breeds and heroes who don't fit into the scheme of things, yet can come together to form a bond with others and in that capacity, become part of the glue of a powerful team. In romance, we want the hero to have major conflicts, especially when it comes to love, or the power of love in their lives. Try as they might, love is just too powerful for them and they all fall, one by one.
So we like opposites in our heroes and heroines. In my SEAL Of Time story in the Trident Legacy duet, my son of Poseidon has qualities he inherited from his father and his birthplace, the fierce ocean, as well as those of his mother, the grounding influences of a mortal woman on earth. He doesn't fit into either world, except to exist as a warrior defender of mankind. And yet, the conflict comes when he falls in love. Will this affect his mission to protect mankind? And is this a selfish move on his part, or the calling to which he was destined, now realized?
Here's a little excerpt of the character (unedited):
I hope you enjoy this new series. I know I am!!
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!!
When I was a full time business coach, I used to tell my customers, you must be easy to start and hard to stop. Everyone thinks they start from way behind the curve. They've procrastinated and now when they have to start, they have to work through all the debilitating emotions of frustration and discouragement, before they can even begin their project.
On the other hand, there's this little thing called Momentum that begins once we are sailing down the rails. The weight of the machine and the forward motion help propel us further, even if we should temporarily take our foot off the pedal.
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.
Some of you understand what it's like to be a romance writer during the holidays. Those family get-togethers turn bizarre in a heartbeat, don't they? I know as a child, the weirder and weirder it got, the better I liked it.
My Grandma Fox had trouble swallowing, due to a series of strokes she'd suffered that left half of her body paralyzed. It never failed that for each big family meal, she'd start choking on something, and there were more than a few moments of tension when she'd remove her false teeth, leave them on the side of the plate on the beautiful table my mother always set, with all the finest crystal and china. Grandfather would stand up, and slap her back while she leaned over her dish and expelled whatever had gotten stuck.
She was beet red afterwards, sincerely ashamed for the spectacle. My grandfather never swore, but he could be heard saying something like, “Ah, Shaw,” and we filled in the blanks. We were used to her drooling, and she wore a little purse affixed to her wrist with a strap, lovingly made by one of the ladies in the church, which contained a couple pretty hankies she used all day long. In fact, she was always with a hankie in her hand.
My other grandfather would go off on some political tangent, sure that the whole country was going to Hell quickly, and often we'd wake up Christmas morning to find that he'd had such a difficult time sleeping, they'd packed up in the middle of the night and drive the long way home to Fresno, California. Yes. I was born in Fresno. A good place to be from.
The stories were exaggerated, as family stories go. I'd heard them every year. Every year they'd get more and more fantastic, and I didn't care if they came from morphing, or told by people who always instructed me to take the moral high ground and never lie. They were family stories, and as such, were exempt from the normal constraints of reality. It was a kind of better than the truth: it was fiction. Was there something wrong with me for preferring the morphing stories of our family history? And does it really matter anyway?
By candlelight, those tales were told, passed down from the mouths of people now long gone. And I think I must do some of the same.
We always enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco. My uncle could have made it as a comedian, he was so good with his jokes. Especially during the years when he was drinking. Afterward, he was just as funny, by the way. As an insurance salesman, he had stories of all the creative ways he got past the secretaries who tried to screen him from seeing the execs he wanted to sell to. He called it his Zippo Success Institute.
Between my uncle and my grandfather, the preacher, I learned what it was like to sell. In one case, it was a safety net to cheat death's impact on a family, in the other, redemption and a life everlasting. But trust me, it required a good salesman to do either. I knew long before I married and started having kids that life is one sales job after another. Raising children or being long time married, it's still the same thing to me today.
So I guess the madness of the season isn't really that for me, is it? I can get behind the crowds, though I don't participate in it. I don't mind people selling things, even things I don't need. I get caught up in it just like I did as a child. The stories, the pitch given to inspire change, the way to figure out problems and not get stuck by them, how to alter another's opinion with a smile or the right choice of words. Life is sales.
If it weren't so, we wouldn't take this most sacred of holidays, and turn it into one huge gift giving bonanza in this country. The idea of giving a gift is doing the unexpected. To show to someone what the inside of our heart looks like, to make the act one of love.
That gift is one I shall cherish forever.
Last weekend I attended a book signing at Valley Forge, at the Freedom Foundation Center building, hosted by Renee Fisher and A.L. Wood. I'd never been to Valley Forge before, and it moved me greatly.
I trust my gut instincts when it comes to events. This one was on my list because I have a lot of readers in the area, and I'd never been here before. I try to switch where I go so I can network with readers. As next year comes around, I will be cutting back, or hopefully so, so I'm going to be careful with my time and money. But Renee and I began emailing back and forth, and I found a new, warm friend, and one who I hope to get to know even more as the years go by.
As events went, it was wonderful, especially with all the planning Renee and her team did. Awesome fans, and people helping her. But the whole area was what made it even more special to me. Cloaked in history, I found myself so moved, it was hard for me not to cry as I toured the State Park and looked at the history of my country.
Remember, politics is completely separate from love of country. I wish it wasn't so, but especially this year, it is. Somehow, as a country we muddle through, because of the foundation that was laid nearly 250 years ago now. I was struck with the sacrifice, not only in terms of life, but title, fortunes lost and titles or privileges removed, including the impact the Revolutionary War had on Native Americans, who fought with either side. Their fortunes were caught up in the war as well. It happened again in the American Civil War.
It's been said more than once that we form an imperfect union. And yet, this union has withstood the battles of nasty elections, strife, intrigue, treachery, greed, and the life blood of the nation, a belief in a principle far greater than all of us combined: freedom. The quote that comes to me when I think about walking around the Valley Forge center is: “I never said it was going to be easy. I said it was going to be worth it.”
In California, we don't have these types of monuments to honor our history of this time period. We have very few patriotic displays in California. Our local post office just repainted their lobby, and they took down all the pictures of the men and women serving in the military, some of whom bore gold stars, which was erected after 9-11. How things change, go back to the way they were before. I see fewer and fewer American flags and more and more bumper stickers for campaigns. I haven't had a political sticker on my car since I had the “Reelect Nobody” back in the 1990's. “Wag More. Bark Less” is another one I had for years.
As I had my tomato soup in the bar at the hotel after the signing, looking at the celebrations of two wedding parties, the glasses crushed, hugs given and kisses shared, the loudness of people celebrating and just going on with their lives, I was pulled back to what George Washington would think if he were sitting with me.
I don't know that I would have an adequate explanation for how our country has fared, except to say, we've made it this far. I hope we will continue. We continue to right some of the terrible wrongs of the past, we continue to try to hold up our system of laws and government that has proven to be the most stable in the whole world. I was reminded about what a special country we have here, how it's bloody roots were hard fought, and how much I appreciate the sacrifices. And just like the fallen heroes, the best thing I can do to honor them all is just to go on. Not give up. Keep the memory of the miracle that is this nation alive in my heart. And maybe to remind others.
Valley Forge is a place everyone should see. 10% of the men who wintered over here that third year into the war were diseased and would eventually not see the spring. Another 10% didn't even have shoes to wear. Dissertions were high, expectations were at an all time low. Our Commander In Chief knew that even in the worst of times, it was the time to prepare. The outcome of the war was uncertain. Philadelphia had been lost. Washington looked across the Delaware, and envisioned a country and it's freedom.
And he decided it was worth it. All those men did. They trained. They healed, those who could, and they got equipment and clothing, often having to seize it from local inhabitants who also needed the clothing and equipment, and sometimes at gunpoint. Loyalties were tested. The army of Washington faced a better armed British army, larger and better trained than our rag-tag Patriots in the Spring. And the Patriots eventually won.
It took 7 years. Even years later things were not stable. I complain about our political season lasting so long. But those woes are peanuts compared to what was fought, and lost during those 7 precious years. Families who were lost, sacrificed, interrupted by something bigger than themselves.
In the end, it was worth it.
Last year I made a minor investment in my writing career by purchasing a 1950 Glider. It's 27′ and she's all original. A fragile babe, like me.
I had my eyes opened to Glamping, which is, camping with trailers, but tricking them out. So here are some pictures that are inspirations to me. My Glider, named, Romance Rider, will be just as cute, but I'm waiting until the power gets turned on, I have a cold refrig for my drinks, so I can run a blender and a coffee maker, and have air conditioning.
I used the idea of Glamping in my new novella, Love Me Tender, Love You Hard. My hero, Derek, interviews for a job at a wild animal park nearby, run by a former SEAL with one leg. Oh yes, you're gonna love this “sweet” novella, (told someone else today my editor is probably going to think I'm writing from a hospital bed), full of quirks and twists. Short, and to the point. All that a novella should be in a Kindle World.
So glamping is a new thing people do now. I know people who collect old trailers for their backyards used as pool houses, or guest houses. Some of the wineries in our valley have started using them in the Air B&B craze, and people pay hundreds of bucks to stay in them now. Especially cool are vintage Airstreams.
While not an Airstream, Glider was made by a sister company who also made (you guessed it), airplane gliders.
I've given you an interior look at my plain Glider. There are two videos: One, Two. More to come. But after a year, it's finally in place. We wanted to build a firm pad to protect the frame, an overhang to product the beautiful aluminum finish and protect it also from the leaves and elements in general. We'll have a deck and two lawn chairs and who knows what else. I even bought a stopsign and a no parking sign.
So tell me, are you a glamour girl or guy? Would you come glamping with me? Just think of the adventures we could have together!
Warning!! If you click on some of these images, you'll be hooked!
Yesterday was one of those days where the pieces just fell into place, where I got to practice some of the things I've been speaking about to several groups over the last few weeks. I got to play with purpose and passion.
Writing is a practice. Living a passionate life is a practice. So is raising a family, maintaining a long-term relationship, re-bonding with good friends and creating new exciting ones. Often I get caught up in what I'm NOT doing instead of celebrating what I do have.
In the writing community sometimes there is this “mouse in the wheel” effect. We want to do everything we are drawn to, or see others do. We wish we had the money or time or other resources to do it all. But the plain fact of the matter is that we can't. We have limits.
But limits are good!
Testing limits is how we get great. We don't start out great, we practice at it until we get there. Or, perhaps we never get there, but we strive for it. We apply pressure, we PUSH OUR LIMITS. We learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everyone has different limits and everyone pushes at different levels. How hard we push or how hard we stretch is based on how hard we want that goal, or that change.
Marina Adair has been a friend of mine since my first RWA chapter meeting almost six years ago. It seemed like there was so much to learn, so much to do, it was overwhelming. But we both had the same excitement for writing, and although we both took different paths, we both got to experience stretching our limits and achieving goals we never even thought possible.
I'm amazed at how sometimes old friendships can turn into new opportunities and connections, and lead the way to more magic and mayhem. Because there is certainly a little mayhem too! None of us does this crazy thing called being an author alone. We give each other a hand up. Just like we have readers who tell other people about our work, people we work with who help make us shine and help spread the word. It does indeed take a community to make an author. It takes a life of watching and pressing against the walls, to become a great mentor to others, and a great writer worth reading.
Living with some degree of stress (my old mentor said if you didn't want any stress in your life, have them surgically remove your brain and spinal cord, and float it in a saline solution for the rest of your life) is actually healthy for us. Putting it in terms of loving someone — we are driven to give them our best, because we care about what they think We are passionate about a relationship when we take the time to celebrate and treat it like the precious box of delights that relationship is.
I'm enjoying my venture in Marina's St. Helena Vineyards Kindle World. I'm also grateful for some of the good as well as the not so good things that have happened to me during my journey to get to this point. I'm not done, but I promise you, whatever comes next will be done full-on and with as much passion as I can stuff into my brain and my heart.
Because nothing else you can take with you. And that's a practice too.
I've been perusing a couple of little books lately. An old standby for me is Sarah Ban Breathnach's Moving On, which is no longer in print, but you can buy here for .01 in hard bound. I literally highlighted every other page in this book after the devastating fire that took our house and many of our valuables in 2008. Miraculously, because I had hired someone (Connie) to help me sort and archive things, all my family photographs were spared. Several boxes I'd recently inherited from my mother weren't yet unpacked and were also spared. But all my old family jewelry, the doll my great great grandmother came over with from Scotland and her box, and a braid of my other great grandmother's hair perished.
The house we had lived in before the fire was one of those I “settled” for and never should have. It was all we could afford, since we were raising 4 kids. The unfinished projects and the Mystery House effect didn't bother me because we were warm and safe. And we were saving for college educations.
Luckily, my kids either got partial scholarships, or went into the military. After they were all gone, my husband and I were left with literally this empty shell of a monstrosity. And then the fire took it all away.
I was grateful in a way. I got to spend time designing a house I would be happy living in. So Moving On was a great book for me. After a messy divorce, she was literally starting her writing career and her life all over again. I did something similar. Gave up my once successful life as a Realtor, for the life of a romance writer. We weathered a couple of very rough years financially and emotionally as well. We were attempting to heal.
Until I started planning my new house, I didn't realize what a toll those 23 years of living in that unfinished and quirky house had taken on me. I began to read about making spaces I would love, things that inspired me, like when SBB found “Newton's Cottage”.
When I read this comment, I was stopped in my tracks. It changed the direction of my life forever, as I pondered writing romance in a new house:
“Rosemary Sullivan (SBB had written about her treatise on falling obsessively in love) is meditating on the emotion women feel when they fall in love at first sight with men; I'm the one making the leap to house fever because I've succumbed to both. Suddenly, without warning (or so it seems) the trajectory of a woman's life changes, becoming “a vicarious route to some essential part of herself that she does not yet fully recognize or understand.” The Beloved becomes “the heroic territory she longs to occupy.”
She thinks she's found him–or home. (We say we feel “at home” with our true love). Interestingly, the name of the greatest lover of all time, Casanova, means ‘new house.'”
My professional organizer, Connie, came back to my house this week, and she mapped out some ideas for me to ponder and work on until she comes back on Tuesday and we spend a couple of hours getting my writing area, which includes the writing computer and the packaging and blogging area, organized. “You're going to have to decide what Sharon lives here,” she said as she walked around my space. Oddly enough, the office I once had, was given to my husband, who wanted to spend more time working from home. So, I was given the “bridge” – the walkway outside our bedrooms, but overlooking the gardens below and the living and dining areas below. And a “bridge” is what it's been. A place between two parts of me not yet put together properly. I have my gardens, and I have my bedroom. Between those two, is my writing. It's been growing faster than the garden and is less calm than the bedroom. The pad is unfinished to accept my Glider, so this bridge I'm finally making peace with. Instead of being temporary, I'm making it permanent. For now.
So, I'm throwing out things, moving things, clearing a space, a landing space so I can work on my projects. And as I'm doing so, I'm thinking about all those Sharons I am. Wife, mother, grandmother, writer, inspired and magical being.
I don't yet have a space of my own belonging, as Sara BanBreathnach writes about. But I have a place I can create from. It isn't an end game, I realize as I clean out, purge and choose. It's just the beginning of the Sharon I am becoming.
And that excites me totally!
When I was little, my parents gave me a record player with one red button on it. The arm was red, and the volume control was on the right side. It played a number of 45 rpm records such as Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and others. The machine, like the one pictured here, had Alice in Wonderland characters painted on it.
This may very well be the exact machine I used to listen to those many many years ago. I was about 3. We had a large house in Oakland, California, and the upstairs had three bedrooms and two attic doors. We later had boarders, “the grandmothers” who helped my parents with expenses. But for a long time, I was alone in the entire top floor of this old home. My fantasy life bloomed into something so strong, I know it will always be with me forever.
We raise our kids on all sorts of stories now, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and others. But back then, I think the very first records for children were fantasy love stories I listened to over and over again.
Alice In Wonderland is celebrating it's 65th anniversary this year. Perhaps that's why this RCA Victor record player had those characters. But my 3 year old mind and heart was stolen by the fantasy of true love. It has been something I carry with me to this day. I can still hear the songs, the music and the voices. I see the dancing. The idea of finding my handsome prince and dancing off in the moonlight is a vision for my generation that will thrill me until the day I take my last breath. I'll sail off to that other world, and hope to meet every one of my fantasy men, who will of course greet me like the queen of romance I am!
We've just spent a week in Orlando at Disney World. Children and adults from all different cultures and races can relate to the magic of family, of love, of finding a place that is safe and wonderful, and, for a few hours, forget the cares of the world and just explore their own childhood. John Lennon's words come to me, “Imagine all the people…” and I saw evidence that people could stand side by side when they have at least one thing in common. We don't ask what we don't share. We live by the things we do share in common.
I guess I could call Disney World and Disneyland (my home turf) my Mecca of sorts. We bring the grandchildren there to share with them what we shared with our kids. Our kids share their love of fantasy with their own children. It's an indescribably wonderful way to spend a few days together, memories that will last a lifetime. Because we never know when we'll be separated.
I once talked to a partner of Disney who said WD had taken his daughters to a park and found the merry-go-round animals had chipped paint and some of them didn't work. He vowed that when he built Disneyland, “It will be a place with no chipped paint and everything works.” His legacy lives on.
My worlds are internal. I am the stoker of the fire. I plant the seed and the reader takes that and grows it into a fantasy of their own choosing. Maybe I am the cage around the tomato plant, that keeps it from falling over. I losely guide the reader here and there, like a painting instead of a photograph. This is fiction. Blurry, fuzzy fiction, with enough grit, heartache and emotion to make it just real enough to ask the reader to come along on the ride.
Aside from trends, the writer in me knows I have to keep it fresh, and unlike other authors. My voice has to be unique. I have to weave universal themes such as true love, love heals, love conquers, and love everlasting. I'm not a billion dollar business (yet), but I'm inspired by the world building and that little touch of magic Disney has given me. I'm grateful my childhood was the way it was, every part of it, even the parts that weren't so much fun.
Many of you know my narrator, J.D. Hart, has become my best friend. But there was a day when we first met in person. Now, this man has read my most intimate sex scenes, and lived the ups and downs of a writer who wants to become more and more successful. It's a bumpy road, and with already a lot of things on my plate, I decided to jump into the world of audio books. We started working together and I think after five or six books, I had the opportunity to come to Nashville for a conference, and meet him for the first time.
Next day he took me on a tour of places that were meaningful to him – these were all things I'd asked him to show me. We saw where he first lived when he came to town as a young songwriter, where he wrote music, where other famous stars had lived, or performed for the first time. I got to meet his lovely wife, Cherokee, and have dinner at the Grand Ole Opry We went to a Country Diner taping at Northstar Studios, where I personally met Roy Clark, Larry Gatlin and others.
This talented actor, singer-songwriter, voice over artist and now narrator has done for me what no one else has ever done: take my stories and turn them into additional works of art.
As he told me about his many stories, I asked permission to write a story based on him as a character. So, Nashville SEAL, the novella came out last year as a Christmas present to my readers and you guys loved it. We then recorded the audio book and it was in high demand, still is. J.D. sings in this audio book some original works he performed years ago. Book 2, which is to be released tomorrow, is Nashville SEAL: Jameson. It is the ongoing story of this young CW star who marries Lizzie, and who goes on his first deployment with SEAL Team 3.
My SEALs are buying a vineyard and will be expanded into Wine Country as a theme in upcoming books. Since most SEALs don't stay in 20 years like perhaps other branches of the military, some of your favorites, like Nick, Zak, and others, will find their way to Sonoma County to get into the wine and beer business. Oh yes, they'll have Frog Piss beer, and it will be green.
More will follow in upcoming stories, but I hope you'll read along with me as we continue to tell the stories of young brave warriors who change, take different life choices, fine the women of their dreams, and still remain in a very tight community as they raise their children. I plan to have other authors write in this Wine Country world as well. More about that later!
Enjoy Nashville SEAL: Jameson!! You'll get to hear J.D. sing again…I promise you'll love it.
Join us on Monday for the big release party. We know how to party! Link here.
I've been reading those little books again. None of my favorite shows are on TV these days and I've watched everything I want to that's streaming. I'm having a productive summer writing. My garden is doing well. This morning I harvested the first of my corn.
My mother used to talk about how in the midwest they'd say “knee high by the 4th of July” and I always think of that when I look at my corn. I just planted some new starts this weekend, so in California, it's a bit different. But the promise of “knee high” gives me hope that even though my garden isn't perfectly manicured, I'll have corn. And I do!
I bought a big strawberry candle at Mollie Stone's market in Palo Alto when I was there for the reunion party, then found it online and cheaper, of course. I enjoy that fleeting strawberry scent which is perfect for summertime daydreaming, or writing, or whatever. Candles and music are big for me, as is the ambience of place, so I can get into the rhythm of the story. I'm listening to Jim Wilson and Ludovico Einaudi almost non-stop.
I've said before that a story is like a patchwork quilt, made up of different colors and patterns, like the characters in the book and the past and emotions they bring to the story. If everything was “perfect” from the beginning, we'd soon lose interest. I do like to show some perfect things all throughout my books, but I want to show how close to a precipice the perfect, or order of my character's lives is. How easily it can fall away, be neglected, or ignored intentionally for other pressures.
So is it harmony we seek? I know my readers love the Happily Ever After, and I will deliver that every time without fail, or I can't call myself a romance writer. But worshiping the hero or heroine is worshiping the choices they ultimately make. This holds true whether we are talking about a good crime fiction, romantic suspense or inspirational romance. We celebrate the choices that are made, showing the change in the character from the beginning of the book. We show how he or she has learned something new.
I learn something new as an author with each book. I have my doubts sometimes at the beginning or in the middle (they call it the soggy middle for good reason), like I think everyone does. Of course, I keep those to myself, until the story “gels” for me, and that's when I feel the movement of my soul, pouring it out there for all to see, and hopefully enjoy. As a writer, I go through that change just like my characters do.
So creating art is a process, but it's also a practice. Loving is a practice. Marriage is a practice. Being a good friend is a practice. And writing a bestseller is definitely a practice we get better and better with each book we write. We turn our doubts, our chaos, our many parts of the story into a beautiful quilt of emotion and theme, just as we practice patience and allow all those chaotic parts to come inside us.
The writer in me experiences many, many personality disorders in designing and growing characters I use in my books. I don't always have more than a kernel of that disorder, but sometimes, these can hit me square in the middle of my chest and I feel like a bug stuck on a pin in a collection, retired in a drawer at a museum. I can't escape the pain of knowing there's a big part of me in that character's flawed side, not their good side.
My new release involves the relationship between two high-intensity individuals. What might be a turnoff for one person in a relationship, becomes something totally attractive to another. In the beginning, neither one knows if they can trust their own judgment. They both have histories of making bad choices. In the end, they actually do know each other better than they thought, they rely on instincts that serve them well. There is always the Happily Ever After, of course, or it wouldn't be a romance.
rising from the stupor of a love-lust indulgence, his heart still racing with
the intensity of their lovemaking, becoming as close as he possibly could be to
her, this magical angel who had stumbled into his life, he had no defense. Nor
did he seek cover. He was as engaged as he could be without wearing her skin.
But even that he would do if it would bring him more of the pleasure of her
I try not to show it, but I have a high intensity life and lifestyle. There are times when this serves me, and others when it can be destructive. I show up for both. I pay attention to both.
I can remember sitting at dinner during my college years, and someone was asking me why I analyzed people so much. “Why not just accept them for who they are?” I looked in horror at that person. It was like I was being asked why I breathed.
I suspect everyone does their own private analytical version, but perhaps some on a more subconscious level than others. I use them to create the thread of the personalities in the stories I write, so it is front and center for me. And yes, I make up stories all the time about people, which doesn't cause me a problem, unless it is someone I'm very close to and I'm wrong.
So, walking that tightrope of personality disorder, addiction to adrenaline and intensity, bleeds over into my personal life as well. I think writers, actors and other artists tend to have this happen to them frequently. I don't call it an occupational hazard. It's that we live in several different worlds, not just one. One world would not work for me. It would be boring. And none of them are less “real,” whatever that means.
Do I have to become like the character inside to write him or her? Does an actor need to become that person when they act? Or, is it possible to know the difference between where I stop and the character begins? And does it matter?
I guess that's what keeps me writing. I get to live in this character, in their world for a bit. I dress it up, dash it, reorganize it and then present it with a neat little bow, all put together the way the pieces should in a 1000 piece puzzle. I get to answer the question, “What if…” like I did the first time I wrote a story.
And I learn to have patience with myself and the process. I take off my robes of many colors and decompress, until the next fantasy. Now, isn't that all real, after all?
My freshman year in college I attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland. There were a lot of firsts that year, the biggest one being my first year living away from home for more than a camping trip or church ski event.
Thinking ourselves so incredibly grown up, my roommate and I were daring ourselves all sorts of things. For the most part, we did them. I took off my bra in my International Affairs class and tossed it at the person I was required to. This was all done when the professor, the legendary Carlin Capper-Johnson, who had been a close personal friend of Winston Churchill, was out of the room.
I wore a nightgown to a concert.
I think Melissa had to moon someone from a friend's room overlooking the entrance to our dorm. We both marched ourselves down to the infirmary and got birth control pills, because we were on a mission of another sort too. Both of us had very mixed results.
We'd lay on our beds and look up at the ceiling and wonder who we'd fall in love with, who we'd marry, what our life would look like. We'd listen to Rod McKuen and think about finding someone that would love us so deeply, and never go away.
I spent an evening with the guys of Sandpipers (Guantanamera), who came to perform at the spring concert, and had to crawl back into my room at night. I got the job of cleaning the basement that Saturday because someone turned me in. But it was magical! I hear that song so often these days, and wonder what happened to them all. They were nice guys.
In high school I met Joan Baez at a friend's house in Palo Alto. The dreamer in me thought I could sing just like her. I love the music of Sweet Sir Galahad came in through the window in the night when the moon was in yard…I can't tell you how many times I've sung this in the shower. Probably 2000 or more. And here's to the dawn of their days… Just love the lyrical expression of this singer. Made me take up guitar for about 2 minutes… But the voice in my heart is still there, even though I can't sing like that. I still want to…and do you think I'll fail at every single thing I try.
Sweet Sir Galahad went down with his gay bride of flowers, the prince of the hours of her lifetime.
And here's to the dawn of their days….
Ah, those days when I was barely over twenty, when I had my whole life ahead of me, looking through clouds, looking for that thing that's hardest to find, looking for love even then…
Those of you who garden understand this. My mother used to spend hours and hours in the garden, just “playing with the plants” as she would say. She loved roses, which has become my favorite as well. I go for the scented ones as much as possible, the deep rose-red and intoxicating scent of the Chrysler Imperial being my very favorite. This rose is the Peace rose, another favorite of mine.
We've built our rock walls spanning the past 2+ years, and the sprinkler system was removed to do this, so it has been barren around our house, save for the occasional calendula or nasturtium volunteers. Several foxglove have been discovered, and even some potato plants that cropped up when we were filling holes created from the wall building, importing soil from our rear old garden yard.
As has been said before, “Life finds a way.” That's certainly true of my plants. I let volunteers bloom and grow where they are planted, even if planted by mistake. I think the garden faeries reward me by doing so. Just doesn't seem right to pluck out a young plant just because it couldn't know where to put itself with it's own kind. Sort of like my life.
Now that the kids are gone, my garden has become my outlet for the need to tend and bear children.
I negotiated a little compromise and got a plot rototilled and fenced so I could have a small vegetable and flower garden this year. I've kept it small because I only got a few man-hours to use and I used our helper on the hard stuff – pulling weeds and tilling the soil. My garden soil is nice and sandy-loamy, after 30+ years of putting 6-8 yards of mushroom manure on it every year before I planted. But the front of the house has, like the rest of our property, thick black soil loaded with nutrients, but makes the roots work harder when allowed to dry. I can dig a hole a foot deep, fill it with water, and a week later, it's still there.
My roses have had lots of chicken manure over the years from the chickens I used to have. They actually became pets when they got too old to lay eggs, but at least I got to collect their manure embedded in the bales of sawdust lining their boxes! My 66 very expensive pets, most of them hatched on my property (and I watched nearly every one being born), eventually had to go the way of the garden, my koi pond and everything else on our outside landscaping after the fire and rebuild. I was sad to see them go, but that's when I threw myself into writing. A silver lining.
I don't think I have seen my roses so lush as this year. And now, a new venture for me: my small vegetable garden. I'm good at negotiating, so got some tractor time in the rear yard and now have it set up to plant corn, as soon as I finish my next book. If you look at my calendar, you would see garden things noted, as well as editing deadlines and story launches. It's that important to me.
This time of year is magical for me – before the hot weather puts me into overdrive to protect and water, buds forming and branches are not yet leggy and needing to be pared back. Everything is small in the vegetable garden, ripe with possibilities for a savory summer of cabbage, kale, squash, peppers, beans, peas, eggplant and swiss chard.
Gardens are hopeful, like new love, they start out precious, perhaps a bit fragile. These lovely beings take their own time. Like falling in love, I'm learning how to enhance their beauty, and that brings me great joy.
It's always a wonder at this time of year, how my garden will come back. This year, I'm charmed with the magic of possibility for a wonderful blooming adventure and prosperous year.
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:
Well, I was going to pick Dogs, Do-overs, Dumb Stuff, but I guess that's why Discipline is so important today. Let me explain.
My letter D (above) doesn't look like it would belong on a Navy SEAL Sweatshirt, does it? But it is very important, and here's why. We are the sum of all the life experiences we've had. As a storyteller, I spin these stories, placing one flower here, or a vine there, a color here or there, and all of a sudden we have a bouquet, a tapestry of stories filled with emotion. These come from my past, from my fantasies, from the future, from others. Who really cares where they come from, as long as, being a writer, it isn't plagiarized.
And here's the gratitude part (my theme for the month). Thank goodness we have all these experiences. Thank goodness we have the variety, color, the pain and the joy of living. Thank goodness we have more than enough to choose from.
Discipline means to Decide. To “kill of other options.” In a world where we are lucky enough to have so many options, we have to learn to pare down to the useful and focus on our goals, or out energy gets pulled away, wasted, if you will, in thousands of different direction.
The word Decide has the ending like other “cides” – and I know you can creatively think of them on your own. We choose what to let into our lifespace (my new favorite word), we choose what stories to tell. In terms of working with addiction issues, we learn which Dog to feed. We starve the dog that isn't good for us, and feed the dog that brings about all the miracles. Sometimes we are drawn and choose unwisely. Then we get a do-over the next time it comes up.
Here's some Double D's – my favorite thing to write about (crazy, I know). But I just love my heroines to be big chested.
|Yes, I think these are DD's|
Now, that's a lot of dumb stuff, but I managed to include all my words, weave them together with today's word, Discipline.
What Dog are you feeding and what Dog are you starving?