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!
|Mother had no idea what was in store.|
I was baptized on Easter Sunday. Not sprinkled. Dunked. When you are raised Baptist, nothing short of the full-on emersion service will do. We'd been studying for weeks, memorizing Bible verses and creeds, learning all the things we needed to know about our church, its history and why being baptized was a good thing.
The Bible story is all about renewal and forgiveness, our sins being washed away and the fresh start to life that is promised for those who follow the Christian faith. I know there's a lot of pagan history surrounding Easter, but since I'm not a scholar, I'm going to limit my discussion to what I know.
The rest of the story, as they say, was that I had a terrible, hopeless crush on a boy who lived around the corner from the church. He was also in the new membership class. We were both about ten years old. I had a hard time looking at him for fear of fainting. If he noticed me at all, I would be surprised.
He was tall, dark and handsome, just like the bad boys in my dreams who would steal me away. I imagined all sorts of miraculous things about him, but the truth was, I never really knew him. Years later I would run into him in the hallways of our different high schools and I would confess to having had a crush on him for three years running. His answer was simple, like it always was: “I don't remember you.”
That special Easter Sunday, we had to walk down the church aisle in our white robes, the girls with a small plastic daffodil, and the boys with a palm frond. We also carried our pristine white washcloth which would be used later on.
The choir sang as we lined up, and, sure enough, as the boys and girls converged at the back of the narthex, one by one we were paired and guess what? I was Richard's partner.
It was surreal. Even then I was a romantic. I held my yellow daffodil like it was a wedding bouquet and Richard was my groom. Our legs touched a couple of times. His shoulder rubbed mine. Did his body buzz like mine did? Probably not.
At the altar, we separated to go up and around the choir loft to enter the Baptistry. My father's cousin was the paster of our church, and the good Dr. had me say my name, and, after handing him my folded white washcloth, he placed it over my nose and mouth and bent me back, down into the water. Of course I lost my footing and splashed, and came up coughing, which caused a little ripple of laughter from the church. I was the girl who forgot her lines at Christmas when my job was to recite the Christmas story by candlelight. I was also the one who threw up in the choir loft because I sat next to Richard one Sunday and our thighs actually touched. I couldn't handle the excitement, so I threw up. I'm the one who gave my shiny silver dollar to the poor African kids we saw in that movie they played – the kids with the bloated bellies. My dad replaced it with a paper bill, and gave me back my silver dollar with, “It's nice to give the dollar, but you didn't have to give that special dollar.” He had brought it back from Reno when he took the college kids skiing the weekend before.
|My granddaughter takes after me, I'm sure.|
Now you would think Richard would have remembered me. Or maybe he just tried to forget me, which is more likely the case. But each encounter was rather cathartic for me. It was, in many ways, a fresh beginning each time I went to church, as I learned to anticipate our meeting, learned to handle the proximity to him, and then deal with my blood pressure going back to normal.
Those were magical days. My parents had always said you “had babies with someone you really love.” I used to go to bed at night dreaming I was pregnant – a testament to how much I loved him. My simplistic view of that whole thing was dashed one evening in my parent's kitchen and life was never the same afterwards. All because I came home and asked what that four-letter word beginning with a F was. My life was over as I knew it. Why would anyone let a boy pee on them, or inside them – wherever that place was. I didn't even know it was there! And I knew it was wrong to find out.
Many, many Easters have gone by as I've raised my own four children, and now watch my grandchildren. I couldn't convince any of them to get dunked, so I think I'm still the special one in the family. I had my third child on Easter Sunday. It was and always has been a day to mark a new milestone in an ordinary life filled with love and family and friends.
|Princess in training is a good thing.|
The message of new beginnings is just as timeless as it was way back then when I was so distracted. A friend once said I needed to put my arms around that little girl and just love her. There was never enough love. I was never confident enough. But there's satisfaction in remembering the cycles of life and how even an awkward girl of ten could grow up and tell love stories. I'm still walking down aisles with flower bouquets and my heart goes pitter-pat for all the heroes in my books.
Because true love does indeed heal in the gardens of the heart.
Happy Easter, everyone.
I'm doing it again this year. And this time, like I did in I think 2013 or 2012, 30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE.
You have to understand I'll be posting other things too. but with this logo at the top, and with the label A-Z Blog Challenge, you should be able to pick it up on my site anytime.
I already know what April 1 will start out: 30 Days of Gratitude: Amore!
We need a little more love in this world, wouldn't you agree?
|My long dining room table is going to be filled today.|
I'm energized by a little project I'm working on this weekend, taking a writing break. I'm doing a talk at Desert Dreams on Writing Series, Making Them Sizzle. I always love these projects because although I know the points I want to make, some of the results and demonstration are going to be surprises for me.
I've got all this office supply stuff (who else but me can spend too much in the office supply store, who covets paper and pens and stickers and stuff over clothes and jewelry I used to lust over?), and will be creating a banner to demonstrate what I mean at the class. I'm going to put all my series covers side by side and then identify the characters in that book, and then show other books that they show up in.
Now, believe me or not, even I forget sometimes, so there is this very handy feature in Word that allows me to search a term, a name, to find out all the references for it in the book. Easy peasy, right? Well then I thought I'd do tape to show where they completed a string, or an arc of the story.
I think one of the things that works in a series is when you connect them, like a quilt, putting pieces from other stories together, inserting them for extra color and texture. But you don't want to disorient a new reader and you don't want to bore an old reader. There is a right tipping point of information, just the right amount and not too much. I rely on my editors for some of this, because some I clearly don't see.
|Okay, I'm a collector and couldn't help myself.|
So, I'm anxious to see how it turns out. My mind works, like the creative place it is, now wondering if I could do it in a real fabric quilt, using different patterns for each book, and re-using those fabrics later to make a random, patchwork art piece of my series. I love “found” things and pieces that didn't go together before that make something new and beautiful. The elixir of creative life filled with passion and purpose.
By the way, will you be in Scottsdale April 7-10? The Desert Dreams Convention still has spaces. Or, if you're a reader in the area, want to get together for a coffee or some chow? Let me know. Would love to meet you, or see you again.
|J.D. Hart, my pirate storyteller, who narrates all my books.|
J.D. Hart and I are also doing a class on audio book production, and then a session afterwards for those who want more in-depth brainstorming. The Pirate Prince and I would love to see you there…
I'm participating in Tawny Weber's MARRY ME Facebook event on 3-21-16 to help promote her books and to celebrate National Proposal Day. Several authors are posting marriage proposals from our most recent books.
Here's my proposal scene from Zak and Amy:
Met this great guy, Randall Dale, who writes real cowboy stories. I'm going to interview him some day on this blog. We shared a table, and he stood outside with his rope, and boy did the cowboys come. It was fascinating to watch the readers that flocked to him, as opposed to the women reading romance who came to mine. He's a talented writer, I can tell. I overheard the stories about his growing up, stories passed down by two generations of Arizona cowboys, and it was like vitamins for my soul. He won't be there today with his quiet ways, so I'll miss him terribly.
The Festival was wonderful. We had perfect weather…the fans were awesome, and got to see some superfans yesterday. Today, Kellie and Beth and several others are coming by. Kellie will help me from 12 to 2 and then during my talk in the tent (Yay! A Tent Talk – not to be confused with a Ted Talk, but some day – my first ever). I'm at Booth 108, and will be at Booth 178 for the Tent Talk and author's pavillion.
|Isn't this the best tee shirt? His wife bought my vampires!|
Leslie Jones was on the other side of me. We have gotten to know each other over the years of my attending Arizona Dreamin', along with my other pals Kris Tualla, Morgan Kearns and Deena Remiel. Always old home week when we get together, share war stories and just plane goof off. Leslie now has 3 books out. I'm so proud of how her career has gone.
|Courtesy of Lindsay McKenna, another awesome military romantic suspense author!!|
Well, Alex has been having his way with me now for about a week. I've been dancing around him, hiding, and he's found me. It's all because my story has been supressed too long because I've been traveling, and doing other things.
I was answering some emails for my Newsletter (are you a subscriber yet???) and something hit me. I fall in love several times a year with new characters. I mean I do have a mental affair with them. Full on. Yup. And when the book is done, they have left me.
I'm very sensitive about the leaving part because I'm not a quitter. I hate people who quit. Sometimes I should do more of it, but I've been mourning the death of my last hero, and Alex has been bringing me flowers (mentally) and coming to bed with me in my dreams and dang it. SO THAT'S WHAT'S BEEN WRONG WITH ME.
I picked up this book about an erotic journal written that the heroine reads, and she is pulled into the journal-owner's story, until it abruptly ends. I'm not going to tell you the name of the book, because I can't recommend it – but I bought it because I have a story with some similar elements, Be With Me. It's about a woman who works in an antique bookstore and has an increasingly real encounter with a 19th Century British explorer. Oh those scenes at the Waterwheel Inn in Kenwood are so damned real, he comes to me, with his handlebar moustache, when I'm swimming nekked in the steamy pool at midnight.
And then it hit me. There is this character sneaking up on me, stalking me, and trying to get hold of my heart, and I've been shutting him out.
I love my rich fantasy life, because it's better than real life sometimes. I go there whenever I can. I like creating the stories as much as reading others, but since I'm a slow reader and a fast writer, it works better for me to make up my own stories.
So now I've got this Alex guy hanging around my desk, whispering in my ear, laughing at how manic I become sometimes. He has told me he'll help me get over the last hero who left me. Because that's what goes on in the heart and brain of this crazy writer. I fall in love, and they ALWAYS leave me.
But now I've discovered the cure: find another fantasy lover. And just like my original Date with Daniel some 6 years ago (an exercise to help me fall back in love with my first hero when I'd fallen for the bad guy), my time with Alex is promising. He's an adrenaline junkie. He likes strong coffee, loves to sky dive. Loves demolition derbys and loves working in the garden with me. In fact, we picked out two tomato plants, some broccoli, kale and some sweet peas. And he made me order Sweet Potatoes from the catalog along with red “sugar” cherry tomato seeds.
I'm listening to romantic Italian music from the 1930's and who knows, maybe I'll go back to that ship in India and go visit the Captain when he stops by the Waterwheel Inn to check on his journal. And then I hear the gypsy music in Prague and I'm all about the vampires again. Oh, what's a girl to do?
|Ricky, Matt and their coach. What an honor.|
I'm in San Francisco at an Indie UnCon, sharing ideas and brainstorming with other author friends. I ditched my writer's hat and went across town to the Mission District Vanguard Properties office, to attend a special talk given by Matt Brown, National Elite-Level Single Scull Champion, and six time American Record Holder on the Concept2, Yale Grad, Masters Degree in Science and Medicine of Athletic Performance from University of Oxford, and Olympic Contender.
I love meeting people like this, because it reminds me of what I enjoy writing about my Navy SEALs. I've always been a student and avid fan of winning, of pushing ourselves to peak performance in all things in life. Anyone who endeavors to become an elite athlete like Matt and his partner Ricky are, understands the mindset it takes to win. And I'm not talking winning that hurts others, but winning for the sheer joy of winning, for the juice of life and the passion of being alive. It's what drives being in love, living a truly artful and passionate life, as well as achieving all our physical, mental and financial goals. I could attend a talk like Matt's every day for the rest of my life and still want more. I hope I never stop seeking this information.
Here's what he said, in a nutshell:
|Vanguard office has a conference room in an old bank vault. Why not?|
1. You have to be coachable, desire to set goals and obsessed with achieving that goal. I counted nearly thirty times Matt used the word Passion in his talk. As a romance writer, I get what he's talking about. Sure, we like our books sexy in the bedroom, fearless when it comes to throwing all caution to the wind and going for that perfect love experience – I get that my job is to deliver that elixir to my readers. And getting there requires I be coachable, that I set goals in several arenas (my energy level, my financial goals, my word count goals and new release or projects goals). Living a passionate lifestyle is what I'm all about. I had the cheesy grin in the back row all the way through his talk. And we weren't talking sex or romance, but it's all the same mental and emotional energy.
2. Passion means to suffer. He used examples of a rowing champion who suffered from severe dyslexia, so severe he sometimes had difficulty signing autographs. He had Type I Diabetes, had a family to support and a string of near career-ending injuries. But he was one of the most decorated champions the sport has ever produced. He didn't walk in and have it handed to him. He carved it out of granite.
Having that desire to fail is what leads to mastery. One of my early Real Estate affirmations I used to shout into the phone with my realtor mentor daily was, “I love rejection. The more rejection I get the larger my bank account becomes.” Not a lot of people get this concept. It really has nothing about money and everything to do with seeking those things that will make us elite at whatever we do. The struggle, suffering that must occur is part of that track to Mastery. SEALs don't quit if they're going to become a SEAL. They practice with pain and suffering so they are ready for every eventuality they can think of. And even after that, mentally train for anything that might come up (and probably will) that they hadn't planned on.
Matt talked about it not being a dream to be an Olympian. It is his obsession. It isn't reasonable or realistic to want something so badly. Greatness transcends mediocraty.
3. Mastering the elite level is paved with tons of little achievements along the way, little daily victories, seeking failure, pushing ourselves to new extremes, never accepting that “reasonable” excuse not to have a life filled with passion and excellence. We used to train Realtors about repetitious boredom. Sticking to the path even when it's not as sexy or fun as we want it to be at the time. Learning to be uncomfortable. As my SEALs have been told, “getting comfortable with Dr. Death.” We get better by seeking to expose ourselves to our limits, and then learn to push beyond them. If we never came up to that limit and push just a little harder, we'd never achieve it.
4. Discouragement and self-doubt are part of the process. It affects some people more than others. I loved his example of how coach Wooden took his dream team at UCLA and began coaching his young elite athlete recruits by first showing them how to tie their shoes. Some of these guys were saying, “Hey coach, don't you know who I am?” Being great starts with the little things, victory over little mindset lapses and emotional quagmires. Seeking them out and getting comfortable with the flame. Being excited about the danger involved. And it starts with the simple things. Wooden was teaching his players not to make the mistakes with the fundamentals. Do seek to push yourself to make the mistakes when you are testing your limits, but never the fundamentals.
5. Compete. I loved his concept of working competitively against another teammate to become better yourself. And what would it take to tell that person what you see as a flaw so that they could get better, therefore becoming a harder competitor against you. But you get great in the process. I love this. My Cheerios this morning! Don't be afraid to go for the gold medal, not the participation certificate. Losing is healthy if you learn from it.
6. Get comfortable with stress. The right kind of stress diverts energy to your working muscles. Mouth dryness when you are under stress is your body's way of giving your muscles every ounce of energy they require to perform at an elite level. But worry, is a wasted energy. Pushing to failure is the good side of it. Worry is the destroyer of everything. I got a great character image of a SEAL I'm going to use in my next book, who will go on a date with someone he's terrified around. It will feel like he's just had a shot of espresso and attending a really nasty Horror film with the love of his life. LOL. I loved hearing this. Nothing is more terrifying than letting go, falling in love and allowing that to become life-changing. “Get those butterflies in your stomach and make them fly in formation,” was his quote.
7. Great competitors are great actors. (Yes, J.D., this is for you!!) To become master at anything you have to take how you really feel, and turn it into the way you need to feel to do the job. I used to say it all the time in real estate. We aren't salesmen. We are entertainers. Being someone who can do something even though they are feeling something else is a skillset that isn't given, it's learned, and actors do it every day. Your brain and body don't know the difference between the real smile and the “fake” smile. Life is about performance, not just living. Religion is a practice. Marriage or being insanely in love is a practice. Living with purpose and passion, playing a role, fulfilling a destiny. Playing big. Feeling strong. Playing for keeps, like it matters, because it certainly does.
8. You have to be tough as nails. Nuts to say we get the most joy out of the toughest things in our lives, but when we are in training for anything in life, it's true. Toughness is learned, again, not organically bubbles up. It's created by the unique little things we achieve every day. The little joys that add up to a life chock full of everything, especially love and the love of life.Writing about Navy SEALs reminds me about that part of myself that is a SEAL.
|Even superheroes need to practice|
I've mentioned it before, but getting comfortable with mistakes, making a fool of yourself, pushing to the next level is how you learn to be tough.
There was much more I could write about, but not all of you are going to read all of this. I make no apology for being inspired this morning. The right people will show up to read this, and it will mean the right things to those right people.
We are not lost, we are found. Have I found you? Have you found me? Are we on this path together?
Have the best day of your life today. I sincerely mean that.
As you read this, I will be in an airplane, hopefully watch pre-football highlights, or reading a good book, editing, or inspired to write, or talking to some interesting passenger. I'm going to be in Hawaii at an author conference and I'm so excited, they might have to unload me as a nuclear device…
I'm really looking forward to this conference. The company will be outstanding – leaders in the Romance industry, as well as all the folks who help us from Amazon to iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Ingram Spark. We'll be talking about time management, VAs, FB ads, branding, writing series, brainstorming, and there will be time for just hanging around, sprinting by the beach. For a writer, that means writing. Then on Saturday, a great big book signing at Hickam AFB (I even have an official pass) and a 1940's Swing Dance. I got my vintage dress and supposedly some young officer who has agreed to take me on the dance floor and dance with someone who could be his grandma.
On Thursday, I'm sponsoring the Pearl Harbor tour, and the trip to the Arizona and Missouri Memorials. Now that I have my camera fixed, I can perhaps share pictures.
Finished my mentoring on Friday, and now its green lights all the way from the conference to the week before my Coppola Event. Still some tickets left. This will be an outstanding Romancing The Vines, another first in hopefully a string of successful signing in the future.
The San Francisco Airport is buzzing with Superbowl fever. I bought a coffee tumbler with Superbowl 50 on it, and there's a whole group who just flew in and are having Irish Coffees here at the Buena Vista Cafe. Supposed to be in the '70's here in my part of the world, and not a cloud in the sky. Perfect day for a game. Go Niners! Wait…I'll have to wait for that.
I wasn't going to do as much traveling this year, and I've changed my mind. Now I just have to boost my sales up to afford to do it all. But meeting readers, hanging out with some of my best friends, learning and just getting outside my cave is going to be fun.
I can tell 2016 is going to be a brilliant year. Can't wait to tell you about it!
Many of you know we've traveled on some long cruises, usually starting in Italy, and going across the Atlantic. These are not nearly as exclusive as they sound, and are quite affordable. Since there are a lot of days at sea, and the weather is warm, it's perfect for writing. I could hardly stay in a hotel anywhere for the price of these long distance cruises. They have to move the ship from Europe to the Caribbean, or South America when the seasons change and their routes expand, so they take on passengers for a very affordable price. I think the cheapest was like $800 for 21 days, believe it or not!
We opted not to do one this winter, so these pictures are from the 2014-2015 trip. I needed a location that was away from Europe (the Secretary of State meets with a Moroccan leader secretly), wanted the meeting to look like a vacation, and needed it to be close to Africa. The Canary Islands was one stop we've made a couple of times. This was perfect!
I like writing about places I've visited because it not only gives me a point of reference to be accurate with some details, but also because it gives me a focus if I can feel I'm in the place as I'm writing it. Sometimes I search the net for pictures of properties for sale, with lovely photos to choose from. Often we can use these in our book trailers. Getting a “feel” for a place is important. One speaker told me that the location becomes a character in your book. I think that's right.
I try to give variety to my books, not have the same theme, except the arc of the whole series, which is that these SEALs learn to overcome everything: from international events, to local home grown terrorists, to just plan evil bad guys. They save the day. They get thrown into things they didn't expect.
So I guess I use the place as the anchor, and then weave tales around these points, like spinning a spider web, hoping to snag readers and bring them into my world of the Brotherhood. Traveling gives me lots of dreams for my muse. It's fun to bring all my readers along on these adventures, both real and imagined.
Here's a snippet of the new book, which releases next month, and is on preorder, True Blue SEALs: Zak. It is Book #13 in the SEAL Brotherhood Series. Enjoy!
Where have you always wanted to travel? If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
See book trailer here.
My heart goes out to all those who are reading this, battling the cold. And I'm envious of those of you who are having a great Snow Day. You guys deserve all the beautiful white goodness. You have to work so hard to put up with other weather conditions, let us Northern Californios have our rain and damp. It doesn't last long. Besides, we need the rain.
I'm looking forward to spending a week in Hawaii coming up here in a couple of weeks. I love the people, and the scent of flowers everywhere. I come back hearing Ukelele music in my head for weeks. Just like when we go to the Caribbean, I hear those steel drums at night, when I wake up in the morning and often when I'm writing without music.
I am sponsoring a 15-author book signing at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville on February 20. If you are in the area, the tickets can be purchased here. The fee is going towards the awesome chocolate desserts, the wine pairings, and of course the beautiful pavilion we'll be wandering through, meeting romance authors and finding new books! Copperfields Books, a great local independent book store, will be handling all the sales. But there will be goodies as well.
Many of the authors will be staying in Healdsburg, one of the great tourist attractions of our wine country region. Early on it was a favorite for those who cane for the wine, but since then it's become an eclectic collection of shops, galleries and restaurants that rival some of the best tourist attractions in the country. I've lived here 45 years, and I can still get lost for a whole day shopping.
1. Up until 1747, California was believed to be an island. Although Father Kino walked from the mainland in 1698 to disprove this theory, it wasn't until nearly 50 years later Father Consag sailed completely around the Gulf of California in 1747, and only then did King Ferdinand of Spain issue the Royal decree stating “Callifornia is Not An Island”.
2. Although the area was populated with Miwok and Pomo Native American tribes for centuries, the first Europeans actually spotted the San Francisco Bay in 1769. Yes, Sir Francis Drake landed in what is now known as Marin County, at Drake's Bay or Bodega Bay (we aren't exactly sure where) in 1579, he did not travel far enough into the interior and he missed the San Francisco Bay completely. So, around the time of our American Revolution, only a handful of people even knew about California or its Bay, and most of those were the Spanish who had designs to colonize it. Missions were started, the Spanish built the Presidio in what is now Golden Gate Park, for Spanish troops.
3. Mexico rules over California in the early 1820's. A series of Mexican land grants were given out. The town of Sonoma was established to protect the mission, and the young General in charge was Mariano Vallejo, who was given a 66,600 acre land grant we now celebrate at the Vallejo Adobe.
4. In the 1830's and 1840's a series of Russian immigrants came down from the Russian Fort at Fort Ross, investigating the potential for grape growing, and settled in what is now Alexander Valley. Fort Ross is then sold to John Sutter just prior to the gold rush, the Russian immigrants writing, “Local grapes make good wine, but in small quantities and does not keep well.” By 1850, California was added as the 31st state, and Healdsburg had a whopping population of 300. Sonoma was temporarily the capital of California in the Bear Flag Revolt, and they took General Vallejo prisoner for a time, the flag designating Alta California its own independent republic.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake hits (the epicenter was really north, closer to Healdsburg, in Santa Rosa). Several buildings in the downtown collapse. With the rebuild of San Francisco, most of the local forests, much of it old growth redwood trees, are used for the massive rebuild. More railroads, then lights, ferry boats that came all the way up from San Francisco to Petaluma and beyond. Who can forget the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair?
6. Prohibition nearly killed the wine and hops industrues. Remember Burgermeister, Hamms and Schlitz? These San Francisco breweries relied on hops from our beautiful valley. When the breweries failed or consolidated on the East Coast, more and more land was planted for grapes, which turned out to be more able to rebound. German and French champagne makers arrived.
We've changed quite a bit since then. For Californios (that was the self-described title the independent peoples of this region called themselves, not owing loyalty to Spain or to the United States) we love our roots, our rich multi-cultural heritage. Luther Burbank would settle in Santa Rosa. Mark Twain and his young bride would travel on their honeymoon through this region. Sir Richard Burton was spotted here, and Jack London put down roots in the town of Glen Ellen.
Our history is newer than many other parts of the country. But one thing it has always been, unique, and fiercely independent. And like most Americans, we are survivors of generations who came before us and helped make us what we are today.
I used to have a friend in real estate, from Colorado, who always did a ton of business each year, and each January lst, she would call a couple of friends, in a total panic, not sure she could do it again. For some reason, that never happened to me, because what I did was so well planned out (yes, this is me, not some alien), I knew exactly what to do to get there again, even exceed those plans.
I used to coach realtors, especially on setting up their business plans. Here are a couple of things I learned.
1. IF IT DOESN'T MAKE YOU EXCITED, REDO IT. Make the goals specific and achievable, and track them daily. Make sure they make you shiver with excitement, too. If they don't, you aren't thinking big enough. And thinking big doesn't mean being unrealistic, or changing something big about yourself, just something you can stretch into (unlike that one size up stretch thing). Like exercise, if you don't invest in yourself and your direction, you will never have any control over your future. It is impossible to have more than a bit of control, so part of that plan should include “screw around” time, or time for daydreaming, thinking, and not doing anything by the clock, or numbers. Put everything in there that will get in the way if you don't schedule it. It's the law of business: if it will get in the way it will come up fast. Now you get to say, “Oh yeah, that was in the plan!”
2. KNOW WHERE YOU STARTED. Take an evaluation of what you did last year, plan to improve on what went right, eliminate what went wrong. Or make it an interim goal to improve by so much. Don't plan on a 100% turnaround. We used to go for a 20% increase in business each year, then, when our in success was established and we had a certain percentage of business that just walked in the door without our actions (other than being open), we changed that to 10%.
3. EXPECT SUCCESS. We overestimate what we can do in one year, underestimate what we can do in 5. My favorite quote from my friend Tim Woods, is “Do what others won't do for the next 5 years and live how others can't for the rest of your life.”
I wrote this statement down some 5 years before my books started to sell in great numbers. It's amazing to me to see how much of this has already come true. I just ran across it in a sealed envelope while I was cleaning my desk this past week:
|First Christmas Tree, Madison Square Park 1906|
I am guilty, especially this year, of holding on to Christmas, perhaps a little too tight. I will be a mess the day we take the tree down and put away all the ornaments and decorations. I like to buy things after Christmas, and this year I haven't done any shopping, except exchange for a jacket that didn't fit my daughter. It's a do-over.
I wish we could make Christmas a do-over. I have a lot of work staring me in the face in January.
I took a lot of days of rest this December, got well, emersed myself in family traditions, put on a big dinner with 38# of prime rib that was out of this world, gave some presents that were close to my heart. At the end of it all, I still wonder if I did enough. I know I shouldn't feel guilty of taking a few private days for myself – watching Knick in binge mode, going to the movies twice and just watching as the Christmas lights danced in my grandchildren's eyes. The bears were a hit and we got a beautiful video of all three Eastern Grands playing with them.
My dogs have eaten 3 rib bones already, and I've been lovingly vacuuming up white bone splinters here and there. My bedspread has paw prints on it and will have to be washed.
We wore ugly sweaters for Christmas morning breakfast, our tradition, and carried on the tradition of my grandparents some 90 years ago when they were a young newlywed couple. Forgive me if you've heard the story before, but here it is again.
My grandfather was a young preacher in Illinois, at his first church. Many of you know he started from a wealthy family in upstate New York, his mother was a concert pianist and his father was a “man of business.” They had racehorses and a beautiful home that stood above the Hudson River he liked to say the New York Stock Exchange was copied after. My grandfather was training to be a stock broker.
My grandfather witnessed a suicide, a man jumping from an office window, when he'd lost his fortunes. It had such an impression on him, he felt called to do something about it, and so began preaching in Madison Square Park. Yes, it was the park Madison Square Gardens was named after. As a child I was told it was, “On the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway.”
Apparently it was known in the day as a kind of Speaker's Park, where people could get up on a box and begin to protest or to preach. My grandfather became a well-known regular, and turned his back on his wealthy upbringing. A gentleman used to stop by and listen to him, later telling him he should get a degree and become a leader of a flock. He even helped pay for an education at the divinity school. Grandpa got involved in the Riverside Baptist Church, and became an ordained Baptist minister some years later. I can remember a picture of this church was on his wall.
|Madison Square Park today|
His first church, then, was in Illinois. He'd already met and married my grandmother, an invalid he'd called upon, and with the help of his readings and the love of the handsome young preacher, she got out of bed and became his partner in all things. A woman who was supposed to die in her late twenties, she went on to bear two children and live to be 73 (outliving 3 of her doctors). I always loved hearing that story, because it read like the Brownings.
That first Christmas they were snowed in, and Grandma wasn't able to go out and get the shopping done for Christmas dinner. All she had were eggs, canned pineapple rings, and some sausage. She made a dinner, using red and green sprinkles on the pineapple rings, served the sausage and eggs and her famous fresh biscuits. And that has become our family traditional Christmas morning breakfast ever since.
When we went back to visit the 9-11 memorial some years ago, and to visit our son, then attending NYU Film School, my husband and I sat in the park, and yes, I could hear my grandfather's words echoing in the distance, bouncing off the faces of now-famous buildings, one of them the Flatiron Building. I felt the connection to my past, his past.
Maybe this year we'll leave up all our decorations until Easter, like we did one year, until my youngest burst into tears and told me he couldn't invite over his friends because “our Christmas Tree is still up.”
Yes, I am guilty of holding on too much. I never give up on a good story, or a memory. I never forget that who I am today is the result of those who came before me and who gave their life's stories, customs, and history.
But I don't have to worry about it today. I have a book to write, a book to finish, and it's a long time before Easter.
One of my favorite readings at this time of you, is a gift to you. Enjoy. May your Christmas be merry and bright, and your New Year sparkly and exciting. Thank you for traveling with me this year, and hope we stay connected in the years to come.
Excerpt, from The Velveteen Rabbit:
Christmas Morning For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand allabout it. "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?" "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.The Skin Horse Tells His Story "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him. There was a person called Nana who ruled the nursery. Sometimes she took no notice of the playthings lying about, and sometimes, for no reason whatever, she went swooping about like a great wind and hustled them away in cupboards. She called this "tidying up," and the playthings all hated it, especially the tin ones. The Rabbit didn't mind it so much, for wherever he was thrown he came down soft. One evening, when the Boy was going to bed, he couldn't find the china dog that always slept with him. Nana was in a hurry, and it was too much trouble to hunt for china dogs at bedtime, so she simply looked about her, and seeing that the toy cupboard door stood open, she made a swoop. "Here," she said, "take your old Bunny! He'll do to sleep with you!" And she dragged the Rabbit out by one ear, and put him into the Boy's arms. That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse. But very soon he grew to like it, for the Boy used to talk to him, and made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And they had splendid games together, in whispers, when Nana had gone away to her supper and left the night-light burning on the mantelpiece. And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy's hands clasped close round him all night long. And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy-so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail becoming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.
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Last two Christmases we've been on a cruise just prior to Christmas Day. What a treat that was to walk the streets in Spain, France, Brazil and Italy with many local bakers and craftsmen show off their wares. I've seen cakes and jellies and treats as well as ornaments I've never seen before or since.
Every year I enjoy seeing the posts on the lights and celebrations all over the world. Because I have international fans, I've been invited to view local celebrations of towns I've yet to visit. Once of my readers, Rise, is from Norway, from the town my Grandmother was born in: Bergen.
As I look at the stunning pictures, I love the use of all the colored lights, the fireworks and the sense of a community celebration we don't see here. We save the fireworks for the 4th of July. But why? Christmas here sometimes seems like one mad shopping adventure. I'd rather see lights, hear choirs and listen to wonderful Christmas music sung by children, bright lights and candles everywhere. To me, the celebration of Christmas is the celebration of the heart.
How perfect for a romance writer, right?
My children are grown, but I remember going to San Francisco when I was little, to look at the store displays, having hot chocolate at the St. Francis or the Fairmont – places my parents could never afford to stay. But they could buy me a $20 mug of hot chocolate and some treat.
I remember the time my oldest came running into the house. “Mom! Dad bought a scorched tree!” My husband regretted buying that flocked tree, and it was the tree from Hell as I picked up bits of white flocking all over the house that season. Yes, we still talk about it today, some 40 years later. There are some things a man just cannot outlive and this will be one of them.
I do miss my grandparents, on my father's side – so poor they drank Tang instead of orange juice and bought our gifts from the 10 Cent Store. We loved those little things anyway. I remember when one of my biggest treats from my mother's parents was to get a book of lifesavers – all ten kinds in one box! And maybe a package of chewing gum from the Wrigley's factory near Santa Cruz – where you could go to the factory and buy them in 10-packs cheap.
However we celebrate Christmas, it surely changes through all life's adventures. As I grew to adulthood and began to have children of my own it changed. All the holiday dinners I had for sometimes over 30 guests, and the tradition my parents set of inviting a Stanford student from another country to sit at our table, especially if they did not celebrate Christmas in their country. Our little piece of diplomacy to help heal the world. Share our family with others.
So that's what Christmas is for me. Sharing. Sharing the world and our place in it, our love of each other, our families. That is what the culture of Christmas for me. Celebrating a man who showed the ultimate and greatest love in the universe.
Be well. And let your love light shine.
Today we commemorate the death of President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963. This isn't the celebration it once was. I remember those days, when it was the “Land of Camelot” as they called it, the handsome president and his beautiful wife, someone we looked up to, even if we didn't vote for him initially. It was a different time and era in this country, and one I barely became part of. I was in high school when he was shot. I was in College when Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. It was a horrible time with lots of uncertainty. But we survived as a nation.
How soon we forget these things. I remember watching the funeral, sitting beside my mother, both of us in tears, especially when John-John saluted his father's casket.
But most people are surprised to learn that President John F. Kennedy formally recognized and created the U.S. Navy SEALs in 1962. While he didn't invent them, as is sometimes claimed, he was the first to sign into legislation the formal elite branch of the Navy that became the SEALs. Prior to that, SEALs had been known as UDT or “elite frogmen”, since World War II. Learning from some of the heartbreak of earlier beach invasions, under water demolition (UDT) groups were trained to remove some of the land mines and obstacles to future invasion landings. These men were in fact the early SEALs.
In 1962 President Kennedy outlined in his now-famous speech to Congress that he desired to implement an elite fighting force that was well-trained and ready to respond to any “hot spot” or emergency that developed that threatened to destabilize our interests or those of our allies, or American citizens. Most people remember the speech as mentioning “putting a man on the moon,” but he also talked about implementing the birth of the Navy SEALs. Kennedy was controversially interested in restructuring the military to make room for quick, unconventional forms of warfare, to augment and in some cases replace, the massive troop buildup and operations. He didn't create the SEALs, but he was the one who realized their importance and formalized their status and training, and helped gather the funding so the program could go forward and expand into what it is today. He had a vision for us all, some would say.
The two groups formed in 1962 later became 10, with other ancillary teams and crews of special operators from other branches, such that today we have arguably one of the best (not the only) highly trained elite fighting forces the world has ever seen. The gold standard.
You can read more history on the birth of the SEALs here. There is a great quote from Pierre Salinger, the John F. Kennedy biographer, part of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, I found fascinating.
The 1960's were a great time of political turmoil and upheaval in this country. Kennedy's presidency was questioned, frought with problems, and then untimely ended, ushering in another era we all endured: Viet Nam. Those of us who remember those days may find some similarities to events of today. But out of necessity, comes innovation. For a brief time we had Camelot. Kennedy's vision gave us two things: A man on the moon, and the U.S. Navy SEALs.
|View from my window|
I just finished my new novella, Nashville SEAL. It is going to be included in an anthology coming out this December, called Holding Out For A Hero. I plan to release a print and audio version as well.
I've thoroughly loved writing this book, as I do all my books. These colorful characters come to life as I put the story on the page, and I see opportunities to add fun details, sketches of people who would fit in, or, in many cases, don't fit into the story – because I find the deets that don't fit in are sometimes the best and most likeable for readers.
|Fireplace, tossed sheets, what could be better?|
So I put myself up in the lovely Kenwood Inn & Spa in Kenwood, a place I have gone to before when I needed a story “recharging” and what I call growing the kernels of my story in my own cornfield.
It is impossible to live in a heightened state of emotional intimacy 24/7 with anyone, let alone a fictional character, but when I travel to some place like the Kenwood Inn, my regular life fades into the distance and I get to live in my story. I've heard other writers do the same. I try to pick not just a “motel” room stay unless I'm writing about college dorm life. In this case, I was writing about a young singer-songwriter who is experiencing a good degree of success, and decides he wants more out of life, right at the same time something very moving and important from his past comes back on the scene.
|Wine bar writing|
Room service keeps me in the story because I don't have to stop and prepare or share my dinnertime with anyone (yes, this is a solo trip, by necessity), I can go to sleep when I want to, stay up all night and write, edit and doze by fireplace. Just walking the grounds gives me ideas. I have a time-travel romance set in this location, and have referred to it in Underworld Lover, and several of my SEAL books. In my books, it's called the Waterwheel Inn.
With my chapters done and not polished, I decided to finish that job at Las Vegas, since I was going there this weekend for an author signing put on by my friend, Crystal Perkins. I've done events with her in the past. Met up with Lance Taubold, and met a couple of new shining stars in my collection of author friends. I have some posts planned later for that.
|Everyone should lick responsibly, don't you agree?|
So I ran across this store here off the Flamingo, called LICK. Okay, yes, it's a candy store, but OMG I should have shopped here before my bachelorette party at RomCon. Every imaginable thing that had to do with candy, and lollipops, and (ahem) licking, was present. The atmosphere couldn't be more different, but the end result: I still focus on the romance. Watched the beautiful Bellagio water shows several times, wandered along the promenade and did a little naughty shopping. Cherry stuff, like oh, warmers and such, lip gloss, and my Lick Responsibly tee shirt. Some of these things are going to have to stay private, but boy did I have fun! Love the beer cozies, don't you? Not sure where I can wear the tee shirt, but it could be a nice message to wear around the house. Oh yes, the tit mints are kinda cool too. Yes, I am two women wrapped up in one. Well, perhaps three or four, but if you can't have fun, what good is it to be alive?
Even got red Tootsie Pop glasses for my new Romance Rider!
And it gave the right amount of kink and spice I needed to polish the book to it's jewel essence. And I had fun in the process.
I go home to hopefully a pad ready for my Romance Rider, and now that the book is finished, I can start to clean out my office and get her all set up! Life is good!
We've had a wonderful two days at KallypsoCon. I got to meet readers I have never met. We had lots of opportunity to sit, have dinner with, and play games with readers, about half of whom were from the New England area. I had never been in New England in the fall, and, although the bright colors were gone, I still got to see the tail end of it. One more thing checked off my bucket list.
Kallypso Masters does a great job bringing together other authors and readers at every venue she's at. Her loyal fans soon became my fans, and vice versa. In the true spirit of love and friendship, we all help each other as authors, by serving the readers. A reader-centric convention is unusual in this business. In my opinion it is something I wish more conventions focused on.
So what did we do? We had panel discussions about why we write military heroes, how we got started being interested in our genre, what's new for us, and how we write. We told stories and played games that brought tears to our eyes. I met readers from the UK, from Canada, and even Puerto Rico.
There were several husbands who attended, and I was happy to see that. Great to see how they support their author wives, all of them had military backgrounds we could learn from.
Next year's KallypsoCon will be a cowboy theme, and I don't write those, so I won't be in attendance, but if you're a reader and you want to get up close and personal with some of the best cowboy writers in the business, I'd look to book your tickets for KallypsoCon in Casper, Wyoming, early. It will sell out. I already know they have a stable of great authors ready to thrill your reading needs.
We continue this morning with more craft events and some games, and more reader interaction. We had a grat time using old keys from my house fire, making necklaces that readers will enjoy for years to come. Wasn't sure how it would go over, but it was very popular. Now I get to lug that 15# anvil home!!
Sold lots of books, and networked with bloggers and several reviewers who had reviewed my books. It was an honor to be part of this group. Can't wait to get home today, but it was fun being part of this great event.
|Bought this for Romance Glider's walls yesterday!|
I've wanted a writing cottage for several years now. We attended a vintage trailer show recenly, and I bought this 1950 Glider for my writing cave. I need the dedicated space, where I can close a door and be in a different world, without the interruptions of daily life. Not complaining, but I have problems concentrating. My husband has been spending more and more time running his business out of the house, and, though I love him, I can't write around him and his booming voice and shuffling of papers. His personality fills the house.
|My Romance Rider|
My writing area, “The Bridge” is beautiful, but the house is so open, with the acoustics like a church, anything gets magnified. I don't like to have to turn my music down or change it!! So I've got my own little space to do all my crazy writer stuff in. The Glider was beiing outfitted with a new red canopy awning and arrives Tuesday!! So excited!!
|Bunk beds in the rear. Middle bed. Waiting for red curtains!|
This RV is fully self-contained, even having a full bath with shower. The man who restores them redid all the undercarriage, installed AC and heat and completely re-acid washed the outside and replaced the skin on one door and the roof. Everything works. All it takes is for my customizing. I have already raided the local antique market for my 1950's memorabilia, including an original Post Magazine with Perry Como on the cover, and a Marilyn Monroe calendar. I've bought Bakelike utensils and cherry juice cups. My theme will be Route 66/Romance Red.
It's 65 years old, so I won't be taking it on long trips. Except in my head. I plan to share all the pictures as I go along, but there are just a few of my faves! More to follow.
|Kitchen, soon to be outfitted in red accents. My view. The chrome handles are really cool.|
The interior has bunk beds in the back, perfect for babysitting grandkids, and will double as some storage. I'm working on quilting some coverings and curtains. Little by slow, because I can't drop everything to do it – got books to write – I'll have the cottage of my dreams. And how great that, just like my life, just like the house I live in, it's recycled from the past, pulling all the great things in my life forward, leaving behind what doesn't work. Hope you'll go on this journey with me.
Next year, I'm going to get a smaller trailer so I can still have that adventure with the Sisters On The Fly (remember that blog post? No men, no children, no pets, play fair). I became an honorary member in May. I intend to follow that conference. And write romance on an outing. Create a story on the road. What do you think?
LATE EDITION: Thanks to a reader who sent this link. It applies, don't you think? Love Shack. Gitter on the highway…hmmmm. Love it.
My new release, Band of Bachelors: Lucas, will be here tonight at midnight. I've loved writing this story from beginning to end. The idea first came to me when our son moved from New York City, to Park City, Utah, and then home to California. I go into this in depth in my Newsletter this month. Be sure to sign up, if you're not already a subscriber.
We get our stories from real life. You've all seen the tee-shirt: “Be nice to me or I'll put you in my book,” and for some, this can be dangerous. For others, it could be flattering. I'm working on a new story this week for another anthology I'll be in that's due early November, and I've promised the real person I'd make a character that was as yummy as possible. You can bet I'll be taking all the good, and making up the bad.
DJ's experiences living with a household of bachelors in Park City was life changing. I can say here what I couldn't say in my newsletter (did you subscribe? LOL), that in addition to the fact that these men were older and divorced, they were also excommunicated (if this is the correct term) LDS members. I presume that's because of the raucous activity they participated in, namely the use of alcohol. But I imagine their language, general lifestyle and the use of “professionals” for their dating needs didn't ingratiate them to the church. It almost certainly made the possibility of a reconciliation with their wives a zero percent chance of success, on purpose. I certainly couldn't use any of that in the book, not that other authors don't, but I don't believe in knocking anyone's beliefs, whether they be traditional or otherwise. Besides, this has nothing to do with religion, but a lack of faith in something greater than themselves. My hero, Navy SEAL Lucas Shipley, eventually parts ways with them, just like DJ did.
My son came home with lots of material, and we actually had fun thinking up how we could turn this experience into some kind of TV show. The bachelors were always giving him horrible advice. Very bad advice. Being single and young, he knew he had to leave when, as he says in his words, “Mom, I'm starting to believe them.”
And that's the kernel of what began to grow when I thought about the Band of Bachelors. The book trailer J.D. Hart, my awesome Storyteller and best friend, captures it perfectly.