Monthly Archives: April 2012

Y is for You’ll Know When You Get There

Welcome back to almost the end of the A-Z Blog Challenge. My theme has been the Letters of Gratitude.

Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm in San Diego, taking a class for my Real Estate business. It is 3 intense days from 7:30-7:30 at night. I am exhausted. Not been on the computer much (well, I guess I can do that afterall), and trying to cram all the numbers and ideas into my head. Honestly, I can't think straight.

So, in order to lighten up my day, I'm posting the top ten reasons YOU'LL KNOW WHEN YOU GET THERE.

*****Idiot Alert*****This post has no redeeming value*****

10.  One of the several characters in your head said you'd arrived.
9.    No one else is anywhere around you.
8.    You now know being lost is normal. Being found is close to going to jail.
7.    Your computer keys are worn out and they smell like salmon.
6.    The review you got for your last book made you blush, and then you realized it was written by your father.
5.    You find yourself staring at kissing couples.
4.    You talk to books in the library.
3.    The books talk back.
2.    You're starting to think the garbage men uniforms are sexy.

And the number one reason you'll know when you get there is:

1.    Your dog whispers in your ear, “I always knew you were crazy.”

Humor. Friends. New Words. Good Books. Jimmy Thomas. Great stories. For all these things, I'm grateful!


X is for Xanthoma

The definition of xanthoma, the meaning of the word Xanthoma:  n. – A skin problem marked by the development (on the eyelids and neck and back) of irregular yellow nodules; sometimes attributable to disturbances of cholesterol

Why Xanthoma, you ask? Hear me out a bit.
I'm in San Diego, attending a class. I've been on a special food plan now for about a year, off and on. I'm told often I'm too willful for the program. I don't disagree, but there's been lots on my plate: both good and bad. And that has had nothing to do with eating…
This is the first time I've gone somewhere for 4 days and PACKED ALL MY FOOD. In fact, I checked most of it in my luggage this time. 
Not. A. Good. Idea. 
Perhaps now you are beginning to get the connection with the development of irregular yellow nodules on the skin. Disturbances of cholesterol, they say.
I had packed salmon, chicken, tri tip, cooked brown rice, apples, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cottage cheese, yogurt and apples. Along with a container of cut pineapple, my oatmeal and flax seed. My menu for 4 days was all beautifully scripted and entered in my food journal. 
Just from looking at the picture above, you can 
imagine what I found when I unzipped the bag. Firstly, the pineapple and rice containers exploded. Thank goodness I had packed everything in an XXL storage bag with the zip-lock top. 
The salmon and chicken? Indistinguishable. The soggy deli boxes are outside my motel room door, along with the remnants of the XXL bag.
And my clothes smell like salmon-cum-pineapple. I've washed my hands 2 times, and I still smell like salmon.
The strawberries I brought I had to hand carry on the plane. But they leaked too. 
So, to tie all this in, I'm thinking I might break out in something that resembles Xanthoma when I wear my clothes tomorrow. 
 Ah! Another adventure to write about. All this from the girl who mailed raspberry ripple ice cream to a friend in college. It was still frozen when I took it to the post office. She'll never forgive me.

W is for Wedding Disasters

Wedding disasters interest me. Don't ask me why. In my romance novelist world of the happily ever after, I guess I just have this sick sense of humor for things that go horribly wrong.

In this case, my post will be short, because the attached Press Democrat article says it all. In the end, it wasn't really a disaster, and I'm happy to report the couple is still married, which is saying something, considering the stats.

One of my critique partners, Robin Moore, shared a YouTube video of her daughter's wedding. It went viral after they posted it, and, unfortunately, is now blocked. It came in second place in a contest, entered by some guy from Africa whom they never met. It was played on the Ellen DeGeneres show. I had it posted on my blog at the side, so I could come back and have a laugh on a day when I sorely needed it. But hey, I understand their need for privacy, and I would feel the same.

Enjoy this article on their wedding disaster. What you cannot see is a huge wave completely overtaking the bride in all her white finery, the rainy day that almost blew all their tents over, and the love that warmed everyone's hearts that day. Needless to say, this photo was taken a few seconds before the big wave. Sort of like God's blessing to them, right?

 I happen to think it was a perfect day.

Couple's Sonoma County beach wedding becomes YouTube sensation

Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 2:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 2:38 p.m.
A couple’s Sonoma County beach wedding video is fast becoming a YouTube sensation, one of those everything-went-wrong, but-it-turned-out-all-right weekends capped by the bride and groom being knocked over by a rogue wave.

Bryan Solari and Kathy Moore.
The video has “gone viral,” with an estimated 500,000 hits from pirated versions on the Internet.
Jay Leno played it on The Tonight Show on Wednesday, and The Weather Channel has too. A Japanese TV show also interviewed the wedding couple, Kathy Moore and Bryan Solari, both former Sonoma County residents who live in Sacramento.
Moore, Cloverdale’s 2002 Citrus Fair Queen, is a speech and language pathologist at a Sacramento elementary school. Solari, a former Rohnert Park resident and Cardinal Newman grad, is working toward his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Sacramento State University.
They met eight years ago in a weight training class at Santa Rosa Junior College.
The Oct. 23, 2010 wedding at School House Beach, north of Bodega Bay, seemed doomed from the start, with near torrential rain and steady 35 mph winds threatening to blow down the tents.

Forget the leaky tent dripping on the bare shoulder of the bride during the ceremony, or that the groom locked the keys in the RV — while it was running.
And the wedding party even survived the arrival of the fire department and paramedics after a guest hit her head while cleaning up.
Just when it seemed like nothing else could go wrong, the newlyweds returned to the beach — skies now sunny and clear — two days later.
The idea was to have their first dance and pose for photos on the beach. Kathy’s parents, Kevin and Robin Moore of Cloverdale, were there. Mom was shooting the video.
As the camera rolled, the couple, their backs to the ocean, had one more big surprise.
A freak wave rushes in, toppling Moore in her white wedding dress into the water, along with Solari.
“Our plan was to stand near the water. My dress was already sort of damp,” Moore explained Thursday.
The intent had been to capture some flecks of ocean foam in the picture. They had been watching the waves break at what seemed a safe distance.
“It was a one in a hundred wave that comes in and takes off. It really surprised us,” she said.
Solari said he felt the oncoming water hit the back of his feet and thought “crap, this thing’s huge,” as it bowled them over.
“All I could think was “I’ve got to keep Kathy’s head above the water.’”
While it was a humorous moment, the newlyweds also are aware that sleeper waves on the Sonoma Coast have drowned unsuspecting beachgoers.
But fortune smiled on the couple. “It didn’t pull us out at all,” she said.
The dunking ruined Solari’s phone and wrenched off his oversized, new wedding ring. But their crazy luck changed again when they spotted the glint of the gold band in the wet sand.
The 6½-minute wedding highlight video captures many of the setbacks, which the good-natured pair took with a lot of laughs.
The images have the perfect accompanying soundtrack with Dinah Washington singing “(I’m going to love you, like nobody’s loved you,) Come Rain or Come Shine.”
The back-story to the video involves its worldwide distribution. The couple put it on YouTube around Valentine’s Day, basically for relatives and wedding guests to see.
But someone, apparently in Africa, uploaded the wave deluge and sent it to The Weather Channel to enter into a video contest of wild weather moments.
Solari said he spent countless hours this week tracking and trying to remove some of the unauthorized uploads of the video to various parts of the Internet, including strangely enough, its link to adult websites.
Though they’ve gotten some modest offers to sell the video rights to comedy shows, they aren’t really interested.
“Our original intent was to share with friends and family and not make any money on it,” Solari said.
The video remains a testament to when all the things go wrong for two people who actually consider themselves quite lucky.
“There’s nothing you can do to change the weather. So much of it was totally out of our control. We had to laugh about it and look at it like the glass half-full,” said Moore. “I’m glad we got our extreme beach wedding and I’m happy to be married.”

V is for Violas

I love violas. They are cheerful, easy to grow, and make me look like I know what I'm doing as a gardener. They are perfect for filling in a potted grouping – they just grow where there's space and fill in the gaps other plants create. They are like the connectors in the flower container world, like Alyssum, another favorite of mine.

There are many beautiful varieties now. I usually grab them all. Last year I found some that were nearly black in color. Can't find them this year.

Even with all the rain we've had in April, these showy blooms brighten my spirit and tell me there are warm summer days ahead. And that's when they disappear!

I want color year-round, so I'm grateful these guys bloom their hearts out early, as the warm-up act to the showy zinnias, day lillies, roses, snapdragons and sweet williams that bloom for me in the summer.

So, from my garden to yours, have a wonderful April day.


Understanding Balance

I was going to originally title this post: Understanding winning and losing. But that has the wrong connotation, because if someone “wins” that brings to mind someone else “losing.” And isn't life a tapestry of both? And many would say you learn more from your losses than from your wins.

That doesn't mean we should strive to lose, but I once had a great business coach who told me that if you want to succeed, you had to fail faster. I believe it was Earl Nightingale who said, “The degree of success you have is directly related to the difficulty of the questions you ask yourself.” 
Looking at the balance of life lessons as a tapestry, and admitting where we were wrong is a huge part of making the adjustments we need to make to have a fulfilled life.
I spend 1/2 hour every morning in quiet time, and I ask my higher power for guidance. I thank him for my yesterday and pray that today will be a good day for me. I list my gratitudes and ask for strength for my failings. “Bring kindness, peace and light into my soul,” is usually what I end my prayer with. And then I try to remember this during the day. Especially when I fail.
Old patterns die hard. Easy to blame someone else when we caused the “failure.” Sometimes we just had to learn the lesson, like getting burned on the stove when we were little. Like a plant that is grown in a hothouse and then set out in the mid day sun. It will wither, because it hasn't been tested, honed and strengthened by the cold or harsh elements of mother nature. If we were totally protected, or protected our children so that difficulties never came into proximity, we'd be like that withered plant. Not only would we be no use to ourselves, but to the ones we love as well.
I still love the quote: We over estimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. Patience. Content with what I do have, not focused on what I don't have. Progress not perfection. Working hard so that when it is my turn, I am fully ready. Making good choices.
I'm grateful that I get to live in a place where I have the opportunity to even think about these things and have so many choices. Millions of people in this world would love to switch places with me. I'm not going to waste this gift.

T is for Tomales

Tomales, California is a great little coastal town, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, in Marin County. We used to take long drives through the countryside when my husband and I were first married, so I've driven these winding roads through forests, grasslands and over craggy outcroppings with stunning ocean views many times over the years.

It's been over 30 years since I started the trip this way. Though I've been a Sonoma County resident for almost 42 years, I've been doing it backwards, not from South to North. Saturday it was like driving on them for the very first time. A different perspective.

Took my breath away.

Before children, a group of us young marrieds would gather together at Marshall or Nick's Cove, and eat oysters (and yes, drink a little bit of vino) until we could barely walk. You could spend $20 on food and drink and not break the bank. Saturday's lunch, for instance, without all the extras, came to just under $100. The cottages they rent are spectacular, and would not have been available to us starving students, but are on my TBD list for later in the year. Things have indeed changed.

But not the stunning scenery, or the beautiful little town.

I grew up in Silicon Valley when Los Altos was dusted with apricot orchards. Moving to Sonoma County felt like stepping back in time about 50 years. I've read stories about Jack London haunting these places, and how he used to steal oysters by moonlight. Robert Louis Stevenson and his new bride honeymooned in parts of the Valley of the Moon. Even Sir Richard Burton made a trek through these parts in 1860, the year before he returned to England to marry Isobel, in his search for the spirit of the west. Among other places, he visited Brigham Young in Salt Lake City and his 17 wives.

The remnants of bawdy roadhouses are now upscale motels and bakery/espresso cafes, perfect for a long meandering afternoon of caffeine, conversation and reading.

I'm a great fan of just getting in the car and getting lost some place. Discovering something new. In this case, re-discovering why it is I live in Northern California, and why it feeds my writer's soul.


S: The Sexiest Man in Print

This is a reprint of a blog I did back in 2010. It was an interview with Jimmy Thomas, cover model, actor, martial arts practitioner and all round great marketing guru. No matter how you slice it, Jimmy Thomas is probably one of the sexiest cover models out there. And the most prolific. I think he's over 2000 covers now, and counting.
And although some people take pot shots at him right and left, I can't help but admire his business accumen and the relentless hard work that has gone into building his career. I don't know anyone else who works so hard at doing what he does.
So, Mr. Jimmy Thomas – you are the Sexiest Man in my book, today. You make my stories sell. I would consider buying any book with you on the cover. I've had friends that think you can't have the same model on every book, and I don't care. I really don't. I like him there. He's on my blog. He's on every cover I have, but one. And guess what – that one doesn't sell 1/10 as many books as the others. I have your autographed calendar, and I love looking at your pictures.
So here's the interview he gave me two years ago. Some of his stats have changed in this period of time since. But not the man. The person behind the picture is still the same. That's why we love him:
Something Tasty This Way Comes: Jimmy
Thomas Interview
This is
a reprint of a guest post I did last November 2010 used with permission. I
interviewed romance novel model Jimmy Thomas, who has graced over 1000 book
covers, on his way to obliterating the competition. He is not only a model, but
is a personal trainer, an actor, and has studied extensively and competed in
several martial arts disciplines.
I wanted
to present a different glimpse of the man, his passions, and some funny stories
about his photo shoots.
What do you look for in a woman?
JT: Confidence, sincerity, non-jealous, respect, beauty. I want
someone who takes care of herself internally (eats healthy) and externally
(exercise or is active in something physical), who is passionate, someone who
loves animals and children. I love women who are fun, adventurous, spontaneous,
easy going, down to earth, a bit tomboyish. Prefer a Cancer, Scorpio or a
Virgo… my most compatible zodiac signs
you consider dating an older woman?
JT: About 50% of the women I date are older than me
What would be your max age difference?
JT: It’s not about age, it’s about maturity, how well they take care
of themselves, how we get along, if we have great conversations, etc.
What would a date with you involve?
JT: Depends on the date, could be dinner and a movie, a day at a
theme park, hiking, camping, a picnic, or cuddling up to a movie rental and a
bottle of wine.
What type of covers/photo shoots do you enjoy doing most?
JT: Sensual and Erotica. They have the most passion in them. 
I’m VERY passionate and love it when a woman expresses her passion in the
physical form and facial expressiveness.
do you like to read and why?
JT: My emails, lol.  I read only one book throughout high
school (Old Man And The Sea), just to see if I could finish. I read Jurassic
Park before the movie came out–was hounded over and over again by a friend that
I read it. I thought it was GREAT.  I’ve never had the patience for reading
though. I’d much prefer watching a movie made from the book instead.  I
read books when I’m on a plane. I’m so busy now with my career, I don’t have
leisure time to pick up a book and start reading it cover to cover. I
nibble on them.
What are your favorite movies, TV shows, types of music, etc?
JT: Action adventure, sci-fi blockbuster thriller movies!  For
TV… House, Chuck, Two And A Half Men and True Blood. I DVR and watch them when
I can. For music, anything upbeat, full of energy, high/fast-paced, dance-type
music. Music like that motivates and energizes me.
What’s the most erotic cover you’ve ever done?
JT: MANY!  Sexathon,
Whenever We Meet, Simmering Seductions, A Christmas Interlude,
Afterlife, many, many more!
Were you ever embarrassed about taking your clothes off, or
nearly naked?
JT: During a photo shoot? 
Embarrassed no, shy? Yes.
Sexiest song?
JT: Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game”
How did you get started?
JT: My sister did a few photo shoots that came out great and she
suggested I should as well. I thought “Hmmm???… Nah!” My ex-girlfriend taught
Taekwondo and cardio kickboxing classes and we ran into each other. I was
heavy into weight-lifting, mentioned that I wanted to lean-up but hated cardio,
and she suggested I take her cardio kickboxing classes. I thought “Hmmm???…
Then I
was out at a night club and the most gorgeous woman I had ever seen in my
life (still to this day), walked up to be with a huge smile, (I instantly
looked behind me to see who she was looking at, lol…) and her first words were,
“Tell me you model?!?!?”
chuckled, looked behind me again, and said “Ahhh, no. Why?”
said, “You need to and should!”
We hit
it off, began dating. She fell in love with me but, for some strange
reason, I couldn’t fall in love with her… bad timing I guess *shrugs*. But, her
suggesting, or rather insisting, that I model, had me take my ex’s cardio
kickboxing class to lean up. I shot with my sister’s photographer, and that is
where it all began
What is your favorite cover–? Why?
JT: This changes almost monthly as new covers come out (I’m
currently on about 30 new covers each week).  Initially, my favorite cover
was my first one Solar Heat, then Seducing The Sheriff, Lucas.
There have been so many I really liked, but recently I was sent Carly &
the New Foreman
which blew me away. A few more that really stood out: Love
Immortal, Who’s Been Sleeping in Her Bed, Tatiana, Solstice Seduction, Dying
and Araton’s Destiny.
are so many more between the beginning and now, and I know there will be
plenty more. Just like how we all had a favorite movie in high school. May not
be our favorite movie now, but it is still in your “favorites” category. I
could never have just one favorite cover–I’ve been on nearly 800 covers.
Have you ever been so turned on during a shoot you got an
erection? How did you deal with it?
JT: Only if/when a girl is um, groping my junk. Otherwise, my mind
is so much on getting great images. I have to focus on us both being in our key
lights, not shadowing each other. Our hand and arm placement being correct, our
hair not being messed or blocking our faces, her hair length as well as mine
always showing. Wardrobe not being wrinkled twisted or messed up. Our
expressions being together, while still staying in a romantic, sensual,
seductive, sexy character. There’s also stopping often as my photographer
adjusts his lighting when we move into a different position. It’s not like we
turn on a few lights in our direction and he just clicks non-stop as we do
whatever we want.
As for
how did I deal with the times I have been aroused, I simply went with it and
let her do what she wanted to do 
 I’m single, who am I to stop her… she’s in character dammit!
How many disciplines of martial arts do you study? What’s your favorite and why?
JT: Kenpo Karate was my first and foremost style, but I’ve also
studied Jujitsu, Shotokan, Taekwondo and Kickboxing, with Kenpo and Kickboxing
being my favorites!
What makes a sexy cover? Erotic cover?
JT: Chemistry, passion, a strong and real connection between the two
models. It’s not just posing in a position that looks hot. That chemistry can
be shown in the facial expressions, in the body language, hand positioning,
head tilts, etc. So many different variables make up great couples’ images…
those variables I only give away to my co-models so that they do them
What was your most romantic date?
JT: Hmmm, how can I answer this on an “Erotic” blog?    All my dates are romantic. I
don’t label being romantic necessarily by specific things you do that are
listed as romantic (romance 101 things). For me it is about how I converse with
a woman, hold her, look at her, caress her, kiss her and move with her. These
are the reasons why I am told I am romantic, as well as the little things I do;
although those things are then seen more as sweet
makes a woman sexy? At any age?
JT: Confidence! A woman who knows what she wants and voices it, expresses
What about the male form is sexy, in your opinion?
JT: Holding
his sexiness in a great, confident posture. You could be thin and toned or big
and broad, but if you stand and walk with sincere confidence, not arrogance,
then you are very appealing to others.
Can you share with us your hottest or raciest cover? Photo?
JT: I guess that is in the eye of the beholder. Look on my facebook
page in my Cover Albums for your favorite raciest cover (,
or through all my images on my stock image website  You
tell me    THE
raciest photo of me is not publicly shown anywhere, nor will it be  (Ed note: good answer, Jimmy. He’s such
a politician.)
Jimmy Thomas
Fitness, Print & Romance
Novel Cover Model (794 covers)
NASM Certified Personal
Trainer (since 1998)
Self Defense & Kickboxing Instructor (since


R is for Ride the Back Roads

Welcome back to the A-Z Blog Hop Challenge, Letters of Gratitude. Today is the letter R for Ride the Back Roads.

We took a drive today in West Sonoma and Marin Counties. If you don't know where that is, it's 60 miles north of San Francisco, and west of Petaluma, at the coast. We traveled from Sonoma County South, into Marin County, through green cattle-grazed hills in bright sunshine. No fog, and very little wind. We have a client moving here from out of state, who is considering purchasing some acreage out there, and today was the perfect day to go check it out and send him photos.

We've had so much rain, the hills are still green. After viewing the property, we headed to south to Nick's Cove for some oysters and some chowder. We ran into a local Motorcycle Club, Iron Souls, from Oakland, California. I think there must have been about 50 beautiful Harleys there.

Overlooking the inlet, we had warm cauliflower salad, cioppino and BBQ oysters. The place was packed. Afterwards, we walked out to the Boat House. People were playing Monopoly,  cards and READING!

I think I've found a great place to hole up when the fall storms come along. At the Boat House they stoke up the fire and you can stay there well after sunset – perched over the water. Do you see the fog beginning to show itself over the trees?

We took a tour of a couple of the cabins. One is an actual boat converted to a one bedroom rental.

I'm grateful I get to live in such a beautiful spot in wine country, California. Many people come here for vacation, and I get to live here all the time. Just 30 minutes from my house, I can be on the water, overlooking clam and oyster beds Jack London used to steal from by moonlight around 100 years ago. It probably looked very similar then.


Q is for Quiet

Welcome back to the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my Letters of Gratitude. Q is for Quiet, especially the quiet hours of the morning.

The favorite part of my writing day is the very early “wee hours of the morning,” as the song says. Before the house wakes up and the activities of a busy family begin, the early morning quiet has always been so important to me.

My husband and I have gotten into the habit of soaking in the hot tub, waiting and watching the sun rise. These days, there is the shadow of a chalky moon in the sky, and the last few stars. I love the canopy of black turn into a deep vibrant blue, and then lighten until everything is covered in a golden glow.

Hard not to be inspired with this splash of color. Nature's bounty. Evidence of a great day unfolding. I also spend a half hour writing in my journal, and reading some select pieces that bring me things that enhance the quality of my life.

But when the owls are hooting and the early birds are just beginning to stir, there is a magic that descends over my laptop. I love the words written then.

What about you? What do you do in the early “wee hours of the morning?”


P is for Persistence

Welcome to Day 16 of the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my Letters of Gratitude.

I've said it before here on my blog: We OVERESTIMATE what we can accomplish in a day and UNDERESTIMATE what we can accomplish in a year.

PERSISTENCE: Do it and stuff happens.

I've always been a big one for goal setting. I used to coach people in business. For two and a half days each week I would talk to clients every half hour for 8 hours a day. My job was to help them become more productive.

Most people would come to the phone feeling they'd been missing something, that they needed that secret that would propel them into the stratosphere. Our level of production at the time was so huge, they couldn't see themselves being able to do a tenth of what we had accomplished in business. “Sharon, what's that missing piece? What's that spark that motivated you to go to the next level?” Everyone thought there was some secret to high levels of achievement. They hired me to give it to them.

My job was to help them realize that the secret was within them all along. You don't have to be smarter, faster, prettier than anybody else. Every writer alive has been told, “You're a natural.” We all think we are all so special, don't we? Yes, we have to believe in our work. But the truth is, TALENT IS OVERRATED.

It's persistence that gets us to where we want to go. If you want to do and go where others haven't gone, you have to do what others won't do to get there. Everyone wants a shortcut. A magic bullet. A technique or brilliant answer to all our problems, without learning through trial and error, what we should be doing. 

Bella Andre taught me this. I don't think I've ever run across a harder working writer. And she reads a book EVERY day, too. She's managed to turn her career from mid-list author without a contract to megablockbusting Indie author phenom in less than 2 years. She did it by doing what others wouldn't do.

How many of us would have quit if we had a big deal withdrawn? Who picks up the pieces after the Snoopy Dancing when there is no party? When the bride and groom don't show up to the wedding? Bella went to work. She got very good at literally running over every obstacle that could come her way.

She became persistent.

Did she fail? Sometimes. Did she have doubts, disappointments? Of course. But just like the Realtors I used to coach, and I've coached probably 200-250 of them during my time, I would tell my clients what they needed to do to be successful and less than 10% would do it. It's probably even less than 10%. 

But not Bella. What about you? Do you show up every day and do your best? Like I said in the letter O post, are you Open for business? Really?


O is for Open Hand

We are over halfway there on the A-Z Blog, letters of gratitude. I'm grateful you're here, too. Did I say that before?

Open hand. When we think about it, and open hand is an invitation. A calling to take someone's hand and walk. A chance to receive a gift. An indication we are open and not closed to the other. Opening ourselves up to our compelling future.

What an open hand is not is a fist. Fists hold things tightly. Like the monkeys they catch by putting holes in trees or pumpkins and filling it with treats. The money won't let go and then can't get his little hand through the hole that would give him freedom. If only he would let go and open his hand. He would be free.

Fists are also used to defend ourselves. When our stomach and psyche is balled up in a fist it is cold and hard as a lump of coal. We protect, and therefore become smaller, focused on defense rather than logic, rather than receiving. We stave off blows with a fist.

Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for battle. I have the scars to prove it. I have the stories. There are those that are trained to battle for us, so we don't have to. So we can live a “normal” life without having to worry about our safety.

But I find most my own personal growth has come when I receive, rather than fight off. When I listen and not speak. When I think before I act.

What is the next right action? That's where life is. That's where the growth is. Where happiness is. Connection. Abundance. That's where the really good stories are…

Are you open for business in your life?


N is for NEXT

Welcome back to day 14 of the A-Z Blog Challenge and my Letters on Gratitude. N is for NEXT.

When we began this race, we expected to win. We didn't plan to lose. But something came along, and got in the way. We slow down and focus on the wrong things. We say, “Oh no, not that!” and then that thing happens.

We learn from our mistakes, if we can extricate ourselves out of the hole we sometimes dig, blaming ourselves or others for those errors. You've heard it said before, “when you're in a hole, stop digging.” I like this statement because it contains the dose of humor we so humbly need when we have been challenged, and perhaps didn't fight the war as cleanly or swiftly as we should have. We focus on the disappointment of the now, rather than the possibilities of the future.

But we survived. Perhaps that is what we should be grateful for. We live to fight, love, write, do whatever it is our work is on this planet, another day. We have accomplished  enough to have a second chance at that challenge. It hasn't defeated us. It has, in fact, made us stronger.

Regret is a debilitating emotion that does no one any benefit. We live in the past when we regret something. We second guess another choice and how that would have benefitted us. We don't see the perfection in what has happened, what was accomplished. A friend of mine once wisely said, “We get negative when we forget all the great things that have happened to us.”

In truth, being grateful for what we have received (again, the donut analogy), and not focused on what we don't have is renewing and life-bringing. Being grateful requires we be in action. We do the tools we know help us. We sharpen our sword of discernment, we oil the mechanisms of our tongue and our body language, we become calm and receive messages rather than send out hateful ones. This is how we prepare for the battlefield of the mind. We contribute. We defend against the darkness by receiving the light.

We get up, dust ourselves off, and say Next. And we look forward to our compelling future.


M is for Mother

Welcome back to day 13 of the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my Letters of Gratitude.

I had a lot of choices for the letter M. I'm running 2 days Late, which could have been the one I did yesterday for L, but life is doing what life does. And I've had some good insights in the last 24 hours about what it takes to be a mother.

When your children grow up you have to let them do what they are going to do. We always want what's best for them. Always. We raise them as best we can, given the tools available to us. I think most of us mothers have some kind of intuitive sense of what is right and good for our children. But there are times when stress, or other factors affect our decisions.

There's a fine line between helping, and truly loving our child, though. We can all look back on our own childhoods, and see evidence of mistakes made that have perhaps caused us unnecessary pain. We swore we would not do the same for our own children. But like I said, life gets in the way, and we are, of course, not perfect. Does anyone else hear their own mother's voice when we've had those unpleasant conversations, or when we were angry? I know I do.

Part of loving your child, or anyone, is in remembering the boundaries we need to establish for ourselves. I've been guilty of putting myself second many times. Not good when it causes confusion and pain. And often the recipient doesn't understand the cost. No one can monitor our internal cost like we can.

And then I have to remember I don't control the world. I have to let it all go, just do the best I can. A quote on my mother's funeral program reads, “There are two things you give your children. One of them is life. The other is wings.”

How perfect for a beautiful Sunday morning. Thanks, Mom.


L is for Love

Welcome to day 12 of the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my theme of Letters of Gratitude. I think I can safely say I have been addicted to love. Hardly been a time in my life when someone else wasn't at my side. How strange that now that I have had all these years in a long term relationship, that I could actually see that I don't NEED it, but WANT it. Instead of fixing it, tweaking it to become perfect, I can LET IT BE. And, if I had to, I could live without it.

I'm not talking about losing love, or reminiscing on lost love. I'm realizing that I choose to love another the way they are, the way we are: lumps, warts and all. That life is perfect just the way it is.

Another lesson I've learned this year is to Let It Be. I admit to being a drama queen. We've had some family drama in the past couple of days. The Big Kahuna of Drama with the capital D concerning one of my kids. But family is all important to me. My writing, my blogging, my other friendships outside of my family are also important, but they take second to my family. I can't fix everything in their lives like I'd tried to do as they were growing up. I have to love them, warts and all, the way they are.

I think when you love someone with pure motives, the very best in yourself comes out. It's one of the themes in my writing: Love Heals In The Gardens of the Heart. It is what drew me to romance writing in the first place. I enjoy living in the hearts of my characters as they discover the “other” and the effect they have on their lives. In the claiming, the connection, comes the miracles and the freedom to feel limitless. There is trust, faith, hope. It is almost a spiritual experience.

Another thing that Love isn't is doing things. I've been a “gotta do more” type of gal. If packing for a volleyball tournament is important, I adopt the fill-my-Suburban-so-full-that-there's-no-room-for-my-daughter kind of mindset. When she stood there in the parking lot, looking up to me and asked, “Mom, there's no room for me here,” I couldn't believe I had been so focused on the “things” for our week-long tournament, and not my daughter, who I was doing it for.

If you can this weekend, go rent Love Actually. The movie explores several couples and their struggles with love, and love lost. What character do you see yourself as? What actor/actress would you trade places with for just a few minutes? I'll bet you can guess who I'd be.


K is for Kindness

Welcome to Day 11 of the A-Z Blog Challenge, letters of gratitude.

When I was in my 20's, I couldn't understand how anyone managed to like living to be 50 or 60 or older. I would look at people's faces and see all the wrinkles, the lines. How their bodies morphed into something resembling an apple from an hourglass.

Though there were always exceptions to this rule, I just couldn't see myself getting old. And I wondered how anyone could do it.

But time and gravity plays tricks with us all. I'd suck in my tummy (which is getting smaller every day, thank you) when I used to look at myself in the mirror in the morning, and I'd see a young woman of 20, not the one that was there. Until recently.

Now I see my body for what it is and what it is not. Wrinkles and all. Lumpy parts and parts that still manage to stay smooth and soft. I am seeing more and more the reality of who I am. And okay, I will admit it publicly, expensive underwear helps!!

Part of my journey this past year has been to learn to do with less, to learn how to manage the big stresses in life, when it looks like it all will be taken away. At some point this past year I realized that I didn't own my stuff, my stuff owned me. A friend reminded me that I stressed over giving up some of my stuff because I placed too much importance in it. Otherwise, it wouldn't cause me so much pain to lose it. The really important things in life are not made of stuff.

I read blogs by young women who should have their mouths scrubbed out with soap, and regularly. I've made the mistake sometimes of speaking my mind, to object to something, or someone's attitude when it would have been better to zip it, and I've caused problems for myself. I get to feeling righteous when there is only one who can be truly righteous.

A great competitor of mine in my former business gave me this quote that I love: Don't wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty. But the pig likes it.

Yes, I am grateful for the wisdom that comes from years of making mistakes, saying the wrong things, and learning how to listen more and speak less. Being kind is a virtue that comes gracefully with age, and from appreciating every living being, regardless of the odd little worlds they drag around with them. It comes from releasing the resentment or fear I hold onto. Making an extended hand instead of a fist.

After all, salvaging a relationship is always better than being right. And that can't be bought or sold. It is given, by one who is truly kind of heart. It rewards the giver more than the receiver.


J is for Journey

Welcome to day 10 of the A-Z Blog Tour, and my month-long topic: the letters of gratitude.  J is for Journey.

A much wiser person than I once said that our lives are not about the destination, but the journey. What we learn along the way is the value, not the where we wind up.

“No person is your enemy, no person is your friend, every person is your teacher.” (Florence Scovel Shinn) 

“Sharp, pointy people help polish you into the jewel that you are.” (Kristen Lamb) 

“Life is what happens while you're making other plans.” (John Lennon)

So I guess I would have to say I am grateful for every event in my life — ones that are labeled “good” and ones that challenge me. Either way I win. If I endure something I gain in experience. Life becomes its own reward. I'm on a boat, being ferried on a river I cannot control, I learn because I remember to have faith that the journey is the reward.

Teachers are everywhere. I love the saying, “I know what I think I know, but I can set it aside for what I have yet to learn.” When we're ready, the teacher appears. I've also learned that a chest full of pride makes me cautious. Something is out there waiting to teach me a lesson I hadn't anticipated.

These are truly magical times, then. I hear so much pain around me. People in this country are being challenged financially every day, questioning what is needed and what should fall by the wayside. What is good and true and pure and what needs to be shed like an old skin. All those discoveries are good for us, but not easy to go through. Sometimes I wish there were a softer, kinder, gentler way, but there isn't. I have to remind myself to be grateful for what I have and not what I don't. Someone said this weekend to focus on the donut and not the hole.

Although, in my case, I can't focus on the donut either. But that's a story for another time.


I is for Indie Authors

Welcome to day 9 of the A-Z Blog Hop. My month long topic is on things I'm grateful for.

I have some traditional writer friends who think it is almost sacrilegious to speak of Indie publishing, and that makes me sad sometimes. I am happy for their publishing success, and God knows, it's tough to get a contract these days. But being Indie doesn't take anything away from them. If someone can sell books without a large publisher, so be it. I have friends making upper 6-figures and higher, doing so.

There is no question that being a Hybrid Author is better. Those that have a backlist, and are able to take advantage of this trend, are being rewarded for years of being mid-list authors who made very little money. Writing is fun, but don't misunderstand me. It is work. I write to get paid for it. The fact that I enjoy it only makes me able to do it.

I think there is perhaps some fear some NYC published authors have that the Indie craze is hurting their sales. Not true. I think when there is more variety, there will still be those books that will stand out, no matter what source they sprang from. I don't think people who order books on Amazon look to see if it is Indie published or not. People buy because they hear about the book or the author, from blogs like this one, or they search by category online. Bookstores are a whole other world, and they will always be there, but the trend is toward more electronic reading.

So I'm grateful for the many new opportunities to read a variety of authors, and have my works out there for others to enjoy. Would I sign with a NYC house some day? Of course. But in the meantime, I'm doing  my job working on my brand, learning about what it takes to be successful. Sticking close to my writing friends.

And working on being the best romance writer I can be. Because with Indie, I can.


H is for Honeymoon

Welcome back to day 8 of the A-Z Blog Challenge. This month I am doing the letters of gratitude.

I read an interesting story yesterday in the local paper. A woman bought an old dresser or trunk, and inside the piece she found some letters written during WWII from a soldier to his new bride. They couldn't wait until they could go on their honeymoon, which was postponed due to the war.

The woman who found the letters located the couple, still living in the area, and returned them. What a miracle it was that they were both still alive and they were able to re-read the letters, and pass them down to their children and grandchildren.

I thought about what a great romance that would make. Sometimes I wish mainstream romances involved older lovers, sometimes. Seems like what sells are books about people falling in love in their 20's and 30's, and believe me, there is nothing wrong with that! Maybe with the Indie opportunities, another kind of love story could be written, and sold. And wouldn't it make a great story about a honeymoon taken maybe 50 or 60 years later? People finding each other after years of marriage and raising children, and perhaps burying their spouses?

The picture above is my honeymoon in 1971. We left for Europe the day after the ceremony, and spent the next 3 months driving all over England, Scotland, Spain, France, parts of Germany, Belgium, Italy, Yugoslavia (called that at the time) and all the little countries in between. We camped the whole way, cooked over a fire pit and met people from all over the world. We had bought our car in the Netherlands, with Dutch license plates, so no one knew we were American until they talked to us.

It was a wonderful trip. Towards the end, in Spain, we were robbed. Don's passport and all our money was stolen. We spent this day in the American Consulate in Barcelona, applying for and receiving a small loan and papers to get his passport re-issued so we could leave the country.

In the lobby was an assortment of people: An American woman who had gotten married to a Spanish man the night before after a raucous party, and now wanted an annulment; a barefooted teen spacing on acid who had lost everything somewhere he couldn't remember and couldn't string two words together in a sentence; a father who had lost his son on a train accident, and was trying to bring his body home since he had been buried as a John Doe.

It was a good look at the life of a consular official in the 1970's, and I can imagine it would be a tough job, dealing with all these problems. But none of this could diminish the glow we felt on our Honeymoon, and the love coursing through our young veins. We were literally drunk on love, and being penniless and without passport made no difference. Even trying to communicate with the police officials to report the theft (and I had to speak French because they didn't understand Don's Spanish), we laughed off as just another experience we'd talk about for years.

Some of these stories would fit into an Elmore Leonard book, and I've often thought he could write about The Honeymoon From Hell type of thing I'd enjoy reading.

Watching people has always been a pastime of mine, starting way back before I was married. It makes me the kind of writer I am today. I love the creating characters, putting them in places they would not normally be in, getting them into jams and getting them lovingly out.

So because today is H and stands for Honeymoon, let me do a little shameless promotion. Here's my blurb for Honeymoon Bite, now available on Nook, Kindle, and Apple:

Anne caught her husband cheating with the maid of Honor before their wedding cake was cut. She decided to take her planned and paid for honeymoon in Tuscany, alone. On the evening of what was to be her wedding night, she gets bitten by a female vampire.

Marcus Monteleone has waited three hundred years to find his fated female, only to discover her dying in his arms. He saves Anne's life by turning her, and then works to gain her trust, to cope with being a newly-formed golden vampire. 

But when Anne finds out Marcus has not been completely truthful about his past, she vows to live as a human, and shuns the vampire world. Alone and unprotected, she falls prey to the very villainess who took her human soul, and who now takes the only man she’s ever loved.

Which lover will have to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the other before they both are lost?


G is for Gardens

I grew up in gardens my mother tended. Her favorite was roses. It's too early to show you, but later, when all 50 of my rose bushes are in full bloom and the scent is so strong I leave my bedroom windows open all night and dream in technicolor, I'll show them to you.

So in this A-Z Blog Tour, Day 7 of a month of gratitude, G is for Gardens.

So I inherited a green thumb. Even the years when I was required to do weeding as part of my weekly duties as a teenager, didn't dissuade my love for green growing things. A friend of mine in high school gave me a rabbit from a litter of jack rabbit-4H white rabbit crosses (done unintentionally he says) and I found Nibbles pebbles of pooh to possess magical powers. We had the tallest, sweetest corn that summer. Nibbles escaped that summer too, and went off to find love in probably all the wrong places…

My husband and I became organic vegetable farmers way back in 1971 when we were first married. We'd go out in the garden and work up a sweat, come inside and have sex, then coffee, then more sex, then more gardening. We were poor students without any money to speak of, but with a lot of passion and love that has carried us forward to this day. In fact, when we sold that house, I told the Realtor we had to disclose that it was a very easy house to get pregnant in, as one of our brood of 4 was actually conceived in the garden…I digress…

So gardening has been a thread throughout my life, like raising 4 children on our now 60 acre piece of Heaven, surrounded by woods and a 1200 acre open space. We have views in all directions, but my favorite one is of my meadow. No lights. No organized gardens. Just green, with a few wildflowers I scatter every year. My tribute to my mother and the many angels that live here with me.

I took a collage class in Marin a few years ago and created this piece I call Gardens of the Heart. A portion of it is on my FB page timeline background. I get goosebumps every time I look at it. Growing flowers and other things just seems like the right thing to do. Not for profit. Not even for spiritual gain, although the gain is there without a doubt. Just because I can, and because I like to see what shows up when I put hand to soil. It's like setting a small part of the world right–the only part I can control.

And for that, I'm grateful.


F is for Falling In Love

F is for Falling In Love!

Welcome to Day 6 of the A-Z Blog Challenge. I'm talking about a month of gratitude.

Where would we be without love? Do you remember that fuzzy feeling in your belly when you've just met that “special” person? You can't sleep. You don't want to eat. You run into things and say words you have never said before. You do things you never thought you would do, like go skydiving, go hot tubbing in the nude, wear a string bikini or don Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland. You open the sunroof at night to watch the stars with the heater on full blast. You take more walks, hold hands, go see more movies. You smile a lot more.

In writing romance, I absolutely live for the scene when the hero and heroine meet. If I get that right, the whole book stands up and demands to be written. I mean, take no prisoners. Shout it from the highest hill. It makes me sing along to music in Safeway and do handstands on my shopping cart. I feel like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

Romance is defined by two things:
     1. The woman always wins
     2. There is always a happily ever after.

Fact is, I think reading romance novels is actually good for your health. We live in a world of harsh reality. What's wrong with a little fantasy now and then? I've heard it said that great sex is between the ears. Do you doubt this in your own life?

You can call it animal attraction, or a divine gift from a father who only wants what is good and healthy for us. But falling in love, although invisible, can be measured by the actions it produces. I leave it up to your imagination.

Hey, it's spring. Did you think all my posts on gratitude would be heavy? Let's all get the heck knocked out of us by love. And feel grateful we can feel, we can love, we can have hope for a bright future with someone from our dreams.