Author Archives: Sharon Hamilton
Author Archives: Sharon Hamilton
In February, I attended a writer's conference in Hawaii, organized by the wonderful author, Violet Duke. It was my honor to sponsor a tour of the Arizona Memorial. I've been before, but wanted to make it so others who hadn't, got to experience it. December 7th is just three days from now.
Words do not do this beautiful memorial justice. I watched the peaceful waters of the bay, the oil still leaking from the Arizona herself, flowing out to sea, mixed with my flower lei I brought to honor those who served for me so bravely and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I really don't get into the full holiday spirit until after this milestone is passed. Just like I don't ever get to Thanksgiving without remembering 9-11 or the assasination of JFK. These are just points in my life I celebrate. And yes, I say celebrate.
The ones who are gone would want me to do so. I can't bring them back, but I can make sure they live on forever. We came together during these huge times in our country's history. All creeds and races, religions. Everyone knew where they were during that time, or remembered going back to visit the memorials if they were too young to remember the live event. We think about those gone, and vow they will not be forgotten. It's our job, because right now, we are the living. Won't always be so but for right now, we are.
I was struck again by the photographs of the young pilot, Setuo Ishino, who flew into the Missouri, and the military send-off he received, draped in a Japanese flag sewn by a crew of Navy kitchen swabs. The letter that was written to his parents, telling of his bravery. The men who saluted as he was returned to the sea. I see the other letters written by the other Kamakaze pilots to their parents before their missions, men who would be screwed into their cockpits for no escape. I saw the picture of his family when the boy was two, holding an airplane.
There is insanity in war. And there is decency and honor even in the worst of times. I am reminded of what someone said, “Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person.”
My little part of this is only to help people remember what bravery and true honor really is all about. The selfless courage of common men and women, who do uncommon things. Things they never dreamed they would or could do, but somehow they just do.
And I say thank you to all who have served and are serving today.
Some of you understand what it's like to be a romance writer during the holidays. Those family get-togethers turn bizarre in a heartbeat, don't they? I know as a child, the weirder and weirder it got, the better I liked it.
My Grandma Fox had trouble swallowing, due to a series of strokes she'd suffered that left half of her body paralyzed. It never failed that for each big family meal, she'd start choking on something, and there were more than a few moments of tension when she'd remove her false teeth, leave them on the side of the plate on the beautiful table my mother always set, with all the finest crystal and china. Grandfather would stand up, and slap her back while she leaned over her dish and expelled whatever had gotten stuck.
She was beet red afterwards, sincerely ashamed for the spectacle. My grandfather never swore, but he could be heard saying something like, “Ah, Shaw,” and we filled in the blanks. We were used to her drooling, and she wore a little purse affixed to her wrist with a strap, lovingly made by one of the ladies in the church, which contained a couple pretty hankies she used all day long. In fact, she was always with a hankie in her hand.
My other grandfather would go off on some political tangent, sure that the whole country was going to Hell quickly, and often we'd wake up Christmas morning to find that he'd had such a difficult time sleeping, they'd packed up in the middle of the night and drive the long way home to Fresno, California. Yes. I was born in Fresno. A good place to be from.
The stories were exaggerated, as family stories go. I'd heard them every year. Every year they'd get more and more fantastic, and I didn't care if they came from morphing, or told by people who always instructed me to take the moral high ground and never lie. They were family stories, and as such, were exempt from the normal constraints of reality. It was a kind of better than the truth: it was fiction. Was there something wrong with me for preferring the morphing stories of our family history? And does it really matter anyway?
By candlelight, those tales were told, passed down from the mouths of people now long gone. And I think I must do some of the same.
We always enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco. My uncle could have made it as a comedian, he was so good with his jokes. Especially during the years when he was drinking. Afterward, he was just as funny, by the way. As an insurance salesman, he had stories of all the creative ways he got past the secretaries who tried to screen him from seeing the execs he wanted to sell to. He called it his Zippo Success Institute.
Between my uncle and my grandfather, the preacher, I learned what it was like to sell. In one case, it was a safety net to cheat death's impact on a family, in the other, redemption and a life everlasting. But trust me, it required a good salesman to do either. I knew long before I married and started having kids that life is one sales job after another. Raising children or being long time married, it's still the same thing to me today.
So I guess the madness of the season isn't really that for me, is it? I can get behind the crowds, though I don't participate in it. I don't mind people selling things, even things I don't need. I get caught up in it just like I did as a child. The stories, the pitch given to inspire change, the way to figure out problems and not get stuck by them, how to alter another's opinion with a smile or the right choice of words. Life is sales.
If it weren't so, we wouldn't take this most sacred of holidays, and turn it into one huge gift giving bonanza in this country. The idea of giving a gift is doing the unexpected. To show to someone what the inside of our heart looks like, to make the act one of love.
That gift is one I shall cherish forever.
Greetings from Frog Haven Winery!
I'm Amy Chambers, your hostess for this Thanksgiving event. Zak and I are so happy you've decided to join us. We've set a table up outside on the porch, so we all have a place to sit together. Zak found some timbers he and Marco Zapparelli salvaged from the winery construction next door. These huge timbers used to hold up part of the tower that fell during the bombing at Zapparelli Winery, and is now being restored. Since they are nearly twenty feet long, we can serve all of our best friends!
Things here are much simpler than over at Marco's winery (and he says hi, by the way). The crush is fermenting and we've had a decent harvest. We've interviewed and are hiring our first real winemaker shortly. Up to now, we've had nothing but research going on and instead of a lab, we have our kitchen. We are getting ready to make our first batch of beer. Zak has been experimenting with fermentations, but without the hops we've grown. I've attached a picture of our harvest.
Marco has brought over his favorite Cabernet Franc blend. Nick and Devon and their little one are coming and they're bringing some of their wines that placed at the LA County Fair as well as the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Sophie's Choice winery has beautiful lavender tee shirts for everyone. Do you like the lavender logo she designed? She's promised to bring some samples of her lavender-infused soaps and salt scrubs, and should have a whole line of bath products available next year.
Next year, some of our first Frog Piss and Punish Yourself Beer will be available in the tasting room, and soon to be in your local store. So, here's the menu:
Hope you come with a big appetite. And come to our table with a thankful heart. Each of us will tell our table what we are most thankful for this year.
I recently ran across an article on Stephenie Meyer and her new book, The Chemist, which comes out shortly. I'd not been following her career and haven't read any of her work except the Twilight series, and did not follow her to the alternative POVs on the saga she wrote afterwards. Now she's tackling more the thriller genre, while still keeping a love story prominent in the work. I cheer for her (that's the sound me me clapping).
In searching her books, I also saw a book I won't even mention, with a title disparaging her name and her writing. And this was allowed on Amazon, in fact, shows up on her Amazon search page as an “also buy.”
I've about had it with some of the things allowed under the guise of free speech. The great Zon in the sky allows a title like that with a four-letter word front and center, demeaning an author, but has a problem with a naked man's chest (or God forbid, nipples showing under his shirt), in their advertising. None of my book covers, for instance, are allowed to be advertised in paid ads. They either contain a man's torso, or a couple looking lustily at each other, or a feather with a little dangerous blood on it in my angel series, starting with Heavenly Lover.
I certainly approve of controls to protect young children from reading or seeing adult content or themes. But children see far worse on the television and in movies every day. They hear rap music with disgusting lyrics and somehow we are taught that this is “mainstream” while writing about sex or a couple enjoying sex, that's a bad thing.
So is degrading an author for being successful supposed to be okay too? So are phony reviews and hurtful things said and done by small-minded people intent on wielding their two seconds of fame on the internet. We are so PC about some things, and not on others. Being a romance writer, or someone who writes happily ever after tales, we develop a thick skin, and endure all sorts of things most people have no idea actually happen to writers.
Conflict cannot survive without your participation – Wayne Dyer. I once got to spend an afternoon with a small group gathered to hear Mr. Dyer speak to us, and got to speak to him over lunch. I found his message hopeful, and uplifting. He had detractors in his career. Horrible things said about him and his writing or his speeches. And he didn't participate in any of that.
I have things all around me that remind me of the good things in my life, not to fool myself, but to remind myself that I've decided to participate in a different game. I've decided to follow my heart's desire and passion for the things I do with meaning. I've also had to make tough choices to protect that creative and willful streak in my being. Sometimes saying No is better than saying Yes. Just like sometimes being kind is better than mouthing off under the guise of “being free.”
Because being unbeatable means remembering that when life is full of passion and hope, all things are possible, no matter what anybody else says or does. We write, edit, put it out there, be awesome and then do it all over again. That's the game I want to play.
We think a lot about horror and fright this time of year. Read an interesting article this week by Neil Strauss, who is someone I follow when I can. He discusses the difference between Fear and Anxiety. He's been doing some studies on this with members of the scientific community and has come to some interesting conclusions. Some I've listed below, and I've added my notes about them.
Most of what you call fear is really anxiety.
He suggests that being willing to enter the doorway of no return, or facing fear head-on, is a precursor to achieving great success. Consider the number of people who go through near-death experiences and then discover in themselves some magic and walk away changed forever. Or pushing yourself to high performance, to the point of failure, without fear, to achieve a high degree of competency. We look to the BUD/S training our Navy SEALs go through, where less than 10% of the class actually graduates, where the recruit is tested mentally as well as physically. Part of the success of that training is in pushing to the limit while setting the fear of failure to the side.
Good decisions are made from this place.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is debilitating, and it is the response to uncertainty.
Uncertainty is so uncomfortable, most people will make bad decisions to create the illusion of certainty.
Uncertainty is defined as something that is unknown or doubtful. The opposite to this, of course, is certainty, or knowing something. And that requires, as a method for ending uncertainty, that something become known, studied or understood. We run away from uncertainty when that will only enhance it. Finding out about what is troubling is the path to diminishing the effects, eliminating the anxiety. We embrace the knowledge of the cause for it, rather than withdrawing from it.
Bad decisions are made from the state of anxiety.
I used to beat myself up about writing things at the last minute, when I actually love writing that way. Not everyone can, but I enjoy it. I call it Fierce Writing, writing with my hair on fire. Inspired writing. If I were writing memoir or poetry, perhaps I would take a lighter approach, do little bits and pieces every day to keep the muscle developed.
But writing fierce is feeling the story like an extreme movie in your head, where all the characters in your tale work together to create that play. Unexpected things sometimes happen and they thrill me. Other times, if I don't feel the intensity of the story, I lay down tracks and then go back and polish the jewels to make it great. But for me, there is no great writing done until I feel the intensity and am actually living in that story, occupying the space right beside my characters, and in some cases inside their heads. I lose myself. I push my limits. I risk the point of no return.
Writing Fierce is also writing without worry. This is why Nanowrimo works for some writers. We write like our hair's on fire for 30 days. We write intense, we embrace the fear and bust through the anxiety.
We would rather not lose than win.
Safety is not always safe. But we'll do lots of things to “feel” safe, including lying to ourselves. We get excited when we gain something (except weight) but we don't like the fear of losing something. Strauss talks about making sure we crunch the numbers, look at the upside and downside of the possible outcomes before making a decision, especially if we are coming from the place of anxiety. He also suggests that if we can't make a decision, we haven't found enough people to hang with that are divergent in their thinking. We could be spending too much time in the “group polarization” process with like-minded people. Change should be embraced. Or too much time is spent on outside forces we have no control over, like the internet or TV News. They tend not to give a person knowledge, but instead help a person feel small. He advises killing your TV. See the world through your own eyes.
I've just completed an exercise where I took a big step and decided to deal with an anxiety I was having about my writing. I had been worrying about it now for some two months. I finally decided to do the old Abe Lincoln investigation where I'd list pro's on one side, and con's on the other, and then look at the whole grid to make my final decision.
Surprising, even to me, and I've done a lot of this in my lifetime through all my careers, was how simple things looked when I took a good, close look at it. It made a couple of decisions I was worrying about much easier to accept, and I took action. I made the decisions with knowledge. I put into motion something that I needed to do. I called several people I trust, I asked questions and listened. I noticed the people who went into hiding and didn't participate, and I kept researching until the answers came to me through my own eyes.
In the relative absence of fear. Amazing.
I'm writing this now at 30k feet, flying into SFO in a couple of hours. I got up early, so my apologies for not having this post out there sooner.
It was fun to get my batteries charged up. Funny how the attention of fans makes one feel excited, even more excited about the craft than we normally do. We hear those stories about what our books have meant to people, help celebrate other people's successes. I look at covers, and marketing and SWAG.
I came away thinking I need to be very choosy about where I go next year. I've already committed to some good ones. Some are new, some repeats, some I will skip for a year. My time is valuable writing. Those are my most expensive “billable” hours. I need to protect it at all costs. There's always that writing retreat, book signing, author event that looks too good to be true and tempts me. Especially when all my friends are going. I'm going to exercise the word “no” a lot more.
Naughty Nashville was good for me. So was the Unmask The Passion event in Valley Forge earlier in the month. I liked them mainly because everyone was so excited and happy to be there. There wasn't much in the way of drama (that I saw), and readers showed up not to browse, but to buy. So, attending those will require I say no to others, and I will. Valley Forge gave me a taste of history, which I loved as an added bonus.
I also learned that readers are inundated with free books, ARCS and overcommitted to Street Teams and Reader Groups. They're more overwhelmed than the authors sometimes! Reviewers are running behind. Readers avidly want to meet new authors, get surprised with new genres, books and series. My job as an author is to attract new readers, while giving my “one-click” readers material they'll devour.
I don't think there is such a thing as a One Size Fits All way of being a successful author. I see things I like and will try. I see some things that don't work and I don't have to spend time or energy trying. Success is one thing to one person and another to another. Even my own definition of success has changed several times this year.
But when the day is over and I head off to bed at night, the only thing I want to say is, “I did the best I could.” That means I wrote my best, edited my best, said thank you more than I received praise, was kind to people I want to throw my computer at, and kept myself focused. I didn't gossip, envy, complain or make excuses. I did my job. and my job–my only job–is writing.
If I do my job well, then I get to spend more and more time in my fantasy world of my own creation. I'm happier there. It's safer there. It's the stuff of magic, and creating magic is what I'm all about. Give me make believe over anything REAL any day.
Some day I'll go there and stay forever. But in the meantime, there are a lot of stories to tell, tales to spin, and people to delight.
What a glorious job that is!
Last weekend I attended a book signing at Valley Forge, at the Freedom Foundation Center building, hosted by Renee Fisher and A.L. Wood. I'd never been to Valley Forge before, and it moved me greatly.
I trust my gut instincts when it comes to events. This one was on my list because I have a lot of readers in the area, and I'd never been here before. I try to switch where I go so I can network with readers. As next year comes around, I will be cutting back, or hopefully so, so I'm going to be careful with my time and money. But Renee and I began emailing back and forth, and I found a new, warm friend, and one who I hope to get to know even more as the years go by.
As events went, it was wonderful, especially with all the planning Renee and her team did. Awesome fans, and people helping her. But the whole area was what made it even more special to me. Cloaked in history, I found myself so moved, it was hard for me not to cry as I toured the State Park and looked at the history of my country.
Remember, politics is completely separate from love of country. I wish it wasn't so, but especially this year, it is. Somehow, as a country we muddle through, because of the foundation that was laid nearly 250 years ago now. I was struck with the sacrifice, not only in terms of life, but title, fortunes lost and titles or privileges removed, including the impact the Revolutionary War had on Native Americans, who fought with either side. Their fortunes were caught up in the war as well. It happened again in the American Civil War.
It's been said more than once that we form an imperfect union. And yet, this union has withstood the battles of nasty elections, strife, intrigue, treachery, greed, and the life blood of the nation, a belief in a principle far greater than all of us combined: freedom. The quote that comes to me when I think about walking around the Valley Forge center is: “I never said it was going to be easy. I said it was going to be worth it.”
In California, we don't have these types of monuments to honor our history of this time period. We have very few patriotic displays in California. Our local post office just repainted their lobby, and they took down all the pictures of the men and women serving in the military, some of whom bore gold stars, which was erected after 9-11. How things change, go back to the way they were before. I see fewer and fewer American flags and more and more bumper stickers for campaigns. I haven't had a political sticker on my car since I had the “Reelect Nobody” back in the 1990's. “Wag More. Bark Less” is another one I had for years.
As I had my tomato soup in the bar at the hotel after the signing, looking at the celebrations of two wedding parties, the glasses crushed, hugs given and kisses shared, the loudness of people celebrating and just going on with their lives, I was pulled back to what George Washington would think if he were sitting with me.
I don't know that I would have an adequate explanation for how our country has fared, except to say, we've made it this far. I hope we will continue. We continue to right some of the terrible wrongs of the past, we continue to try to hold up our system of laws and government that has proven to be the most stable in the whole world. I was reminded about what a special country we have here, how it's bloody roots were hard fought, and how much I appreciate the sacrifices. And just like the fallen heroes, the best thing I can do to honor them all is just to go on. Not give up. Keep the memory of the miracle that is this nation alive in my heart. And maybe to remind others.
Valley Forge is a place everyone should see. 10% of the men who wintered over here that third year into the war were diseased and would eventually not see the spring. Another 10% didn't even have shoes to wear. Dissertions were high, expectations were at an all time low. Our Commander In Chief knew that even in the worst of times, it was the time to prepare. The outcome of the war was uncertain. Philadelphia had been lost. Washington looked across the Delaware, and envisioned a country and it's freedom.
And he decided it was worth it. All those men did. They trained. They healed, those who could, and they got equipment and clothing, often having to seize it from local inhabitants who also needed the clothing and equipment, and sometimes at gunpoint. Loyalties were tested. The army of Washington faced a better armed British army, larger and better trained than our rag-tag Patriots in the Spring. And the Patriots eventually won.
It took 7 years. Even years later things were not stable. I complain about our political season lasting so long. But those woes are peanuts compared to what was fought, and lost during those 7 precious years. Families who were lost, sacrificed, interrupted by something bigger than themselves.
In the end, it was worth it.
Last year I made a minor investment in my writing career by purchasing a 1950 Glider. It's 27′ and she's all original. A fragile babe, like me.
I had my eyes opened to Glamping, which is, camping with trailers, but tricking them out. So here are some pictures that are inspirations to me. My Glider, named, Romance Rider, will be just as cute, but I'm waiting until the power gets turned on, I have a cold refrig for my drinks, so I can run a blender and a coffee maker, and have air conditioning.
I used the idea of Glamping in my new novella, Love Me Tender, Love You Hard. My hero, Derek, interviews for a job at a wild animal park nearby, run by a former SEAL with one leg. Oh yes, you're gonna love this “sweet” novella, (told someone else today my editor is probably going to think I'm writing from a hospital bed), full of quirks and twists. Short, and to the point. All that a novella should be in a Kindle World.
So glamping is a new thing people do now. I know people who collect old trailers for their backyards used as pool houses, or guest houses. Some of the wineries in our valley have started using them in the Air B&B craze, and people pay hundreds of bucks to stay in them now. Especially cool are vintage Airstreams.
While not an Airstream, Glider was made by a sister company who also made (you guessed it), airplane gliders.
I've given you an interior look at my plain Glider. There are two videos: One, Two. More to come. But after a year, it's finally in place. We wanted to build a firm pad to protect the frame, an overhang to product the beautiful aluminum finish and protect it also from the leaves and elements in general. We'll have a deck and two lawn chairs and who knows what else. I even bought a stopsign and a no parking sign.
So tell me, are you a glamour girl or guy? Would you come glamping with me? Just think of the adventures we could have together!
Warning!! If you click on some of these images, you'll be hooked!
Yesterday was one of those days where the pieces just fell into place, where I got to practice some of the things I've been speaking about to several groups over the last few weeks. I got to play with purpose and passion.
Writing is a practice. Living a passionate life is a practice. So is raising a family, maintaining a long-term relationship, re-bonding with good friends and creating new exciting ones. Often I get caught up in what I'm NOT doing instead of celebrating what I do have.
In the writing community sometimes there is this “mouse in the wheel” effect. We want to do everything we are drawn to, or see others do. We wish we had the money or time or other resources to do it all. But the plain fact of the matter is that we can't. We have limits.
But limits are good!
Testing limits is how we get great. We don't start out great, we practice at it until we get there. Or, perhaps we never get there, but we strive for it. We apply pressure, we PUSH OUR LIMITS. We learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everyone has different limits and everyone pushes at different levels. How hard we push or how hard we stretch is based on how hard we want that goal, or that change.
Marina Adair has been a friend of mine since my first RWA chapter meeting almost six years ago. It seemed like there was so much to learn, so much to do, it was overwhelming. But we both had the same excitement for writing, and although we both took different paths, we both got to experience stretching our limits and achieving goals we never even thought possible.
I'm amazed at how sometimes old friendships can turn into new opportunities and connections, and lead the way to more magic and mayhem. Because there is certainly a little mayhem too! None of us does this crazy thing called being an author alone. We give each other a hand up. Just like we have readers who tell other people about our work, people we work with who help make us shine and help spread the word. It does indeed take a community to make an author. It takes a life of watching and pressing against the walls, to become a great mentor to others, and a great writer worth reading.
Living with some degree of stress (my old mentor said if you didn't want any stress in your life, have them surgically remove your brain and spinal cord, and float it in a saline solution for the rest of your life) is actually healthy for us. Putting it in terms of loving someone — we are driven to give them our best, because we care about what they think We are passionate about a relationship when we take the time to celebrate and treat it like the precious box of delights that relationship is.
I'm enjoying my venture in Marina's St. Helena Vineyards Kindle World. I'm also grateful for some of the good as well as the not so good things that have happened to me during my journey to get to this point. I'm not done, but I promise you, whatever comes next will be done full-on and with as much passion as I can stuff into my brain and my heart.
Because nothing else you can take with you. And that's a practice too.
As we honor and memorialize the 9-11 anniversary of the Twin Towers terrorist attacks, I'm reminded, again, how we are all connected. Forever.
We watched the towers fall from our television set in California, while on the phone with our son, who was attending NYU. He watched from the dorms some 26 blocks away.
I didn't know until later that I lost a member of my graduating class at Gunn in Palo Alto. Or that later I'd lose another member of my class in an attack on the UN offices in Algeria. I will never forget, as I'm sure most of you will never forget, where you were when you heard the news. We go forward with heavy hearts, but it never gets old to remember those who sacrificed so much. If we are truly to live, we need to do this as a world. It goes far beyond country, religion or cultural ethnicity. It is a scar on the landscape of the whole world, healed by love and remembrance.
Yesterday I spoke to the San Francisco chapter of Romance Writers of America. My topic was on becoming an Elite Warrior Indie Author. I've had the good fortune to meet, interview and be mentored by some of the greatest minds of today. Hopefully, I brought some of that to focus for the group.
A highlight of the day was that a group of readers came all the way from Sacramento to visit! It became clear to me, as I was preparing my talk, that our stories, once they leave us, no longer belong to us, but belong to the readers. How perfect that they were there.
We all want the easy walk, the life without conflict, tooling down the road of success and happiness like the resolutions in our romance novels. But reality isn't like that at all. The beauty of the fabric of life is that we are all connected. We share our lives with each other. We share our stories. We share our tears, and we share how we all move on.
Thank you for being part of my journey.
One memorable time I was at Acre Coffee in Santa Rosa, I witnessed a couple flirting and dropping notes to each other. He dropped a note to her. She opened it, smiled, wrote something in response, and, thinking no one was watching, dropped it off at his lap on the way to the bathroom. He smiled and did the same. It went on for several minutes. Did they leave together? I hope so, but I missed that part, having to make my own pit stop. My romance mind wanted to think they were strangers about to hook up. But wouldn't it be nice if it was a prearranged date between a very long-term couple?
Why don't we do this after years of marriage or long-term relationships? Well, if I knew that answer, I'd be selling that seminar out there. I suspect it's because as we age, we carve off the wild and crazy parts of ourselves, in favor of the more predictable parts that perhaps cause us less pain. I don't know about you, but I used to love jumping around with the full pot of coffee on Sunday mornings – working in the garden in cutoffs and braless, listening to Chinese music or an NPR interview. If it were today, perhaps a TED Talk blaring out over the 2 acre apple orchard we lived in back then, with a landlord from Columbia we thought might be a drug dealer. Oh my.
I often wonder what our neighbors thought of us. More than 23 cars, working at night because we felt like it with spotlights in the garden. Dancing. Running naked through the sprinklers. Oh yes, there was that day when I had to get in 13 cars in my little white uniform to get one that ran so I could go to work. And that vehicle was a 1941 Flatbed International truck we'd driven back from Indiana on a “vacation.” You know those kinds? Drove to Indiana to look at the truck in 36 hours, via Minnesota to deliver a car to a serviceman coming home and it was a free ride (except for gas). We probably didn't have the money at the time to afford a plane ride, so it would have been a bus ticket home for us. But we bought the truck, and then in Illinois bought me a 1953 Chevy.
I even hitchiked in Baja, back in the day, when it was sort of safe. Met up with a couple of guys from LA and drove all around the back streets in a looooooong red Cadillac convertable. I had more to drink than I ever had before…a lost weekend for sure. But that's another story for another time before I was married…Back to the green Chevy.
I used that green-two-toned Chevy years later when I started to sell Real Estate. People would walk out of their houses to look at it, when I doorknocked neighborhoods. I had the old Girl Scout photo I used in the ads. Even put all 4 of my kids in the back of the car and took a picture, for my brochure (remember those?). I even took all 4 of the kids to City Council meetings and listing appts., which guaranteed they wouldn't go over a half hour long.
Oh those coffee days. A wandering heart way back then. Trying to be responsible, but skirting the edges at the same time.
I think about all these times when I lament getting older. No one can ever take these away from me. And I wouldn't trade a minute for anything. I enjoyed my freedom then, and I enjoy it now even more.
I've been perusing a couple of little books lately. An old standby for me is Sarah Ban Breathnach's Moving On, which is no longer in print, but you can buy here for .01 in hard bound. I literally highlighted every other page in this book after the devastating fire that took our house and many of our valuables in 2008. Miraculously, because I had hired someone (Connie) to help me sort and archive things, all my family photographs were spared. Several boxes I'd recently inherited from my mother weren't yet unpacked and were also spared. But all my old family jewelry, the doll my great great grandmother came over with from Scotland and her box, and a braid of my other great grandmother's hair perished.
The house we had lived in before the fire was one of those I “settled” for and never should have. It was all we could afford, since we were raising 4 kids. The unfinished projects and the Mystery House effect didn't bother me because we were warm and safe. And we were saving for college educations.
Luckily, my kids either got partial scholarships, or went into the military. After they were all gone, my husband and I were left with literally this empty shell of a monstrosity. And then the fire took it all away.
I was grateful in a way. I got to spend time designing a house I would be happy living in. So Moving On was a great book for me. After a messy divorce, she was literally starting her writing career and her life all over again. I did something similar. Gave up my once successful life as a Realtor, for the life of a romance writer. We weathered a couple of very rough years financially and emotionally as well. We were attempting to heal.
Until I started planning my new house, I didn't realize what a toll those 23 years of living in that unfinished and quirky house had taken on me. I began to read about making spaces I would love, things that inspired me, like when SBB found “Newton's Cottage”.
When I read this comment, I was stopped in my tracks. It changed the direction of my life forever, as I pondered writing romance in a new house:
“Rosemary Sullivan (SBB had written about her treatise on falling obsessively in love) is meditating on the emotion women feel when they fall in love at first sight with men; I'm the one making the leap to house fever because I've succumbed to both. Suddenly, without warning (or so it seems) the trajectory of a woman's life changes, becoming “a vicarious route to some essential part of herself that she does not yet fully recognize or understand.” The Beloved becomes “the heroic territory she longs to occupy.”
She thinks she's found him–or home. (We say we feel “at home” with our true love). Interestingly, the name of the greatest lover of all time, Casanova, means ‘new house.'”
My professional organizer, Connie, came back to my house this week, and she mapped out some ideas for me to ponder and work on until she comes back on Tuesday and we spend a couple of hours getting my writing area, which includes the writing computer and the packaging and blogging area, organized. “You're going to have to decide what Sharon lives here,” she said as she walked around my space. Oddly enough, the office I once had, was given to my husband, who wanted to spend more time working from home. So, I was given the “bridge” – the walkway outside our bedrooms, but overlooking the gardens below and the living and dining areas below. And a “bridge” is what it's been. A place between two parts of me not yet put together properly. I have my gardens, and I have my bedroom. Between those two, is my writing. It's been growing faster than the garden and is less calm than the bedroom. The pad is unfinished to accept my Glider, so this bridge I'm finally making peace with. Instead of being temporary, I'm making it permanent. For now.
So, I'm throwing out things, moving things, clearing a space, a landing space so I can work on my projects. And as I'm doing so, I'm thinking about all those Sharons I am. Wife, mother, grandmother, writer, inspired and magical being.
I don't yet have a space of my own belonging, as Sara BanBreathnach writes about. But I have a place I can create from. It isn't an end game, I realize as I clean out, purge and choose. It's just the beginning of the Sharon I am becoming.
And that excites me totally!
When I was little, my parents gave me a record player with one red button on it. The arm was red, and the volume control was on the right side. It played a number of 45 rpm records such as Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and others. The machine, like the one pictured here, had Alice in Wonderland characters painted on it.
This may very well be the exact machine I used to listen to those many many years ago. I was about 3. We had a large house in Oakland, California, and the upstairs had three bedrooms and two attic doors. We later had boarders, “the grandmothers” who helped my parents with expenses. But for a long time, I was alone in the entire top floor of this old home. My fantasy life bloomed into something so strong, I know it will always be with me forever.
We raise our kids on all sorts of stories now, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and others. But back then, I think the very first records for children were fantasy love stories I listened to over and over again.
Alice In Wonderland is celebrating it's 65th anniversary this year. Perhaps that's why this RCA Victor record player had those characters. But my 3 year old mind and heart was stolen by the fantasy of true love. It has been something I carry with me to this day. I can still hear the songs, the music and the voices. I see the dancing. The idea of finding my handsome prince and dancing off in the moonlight is a vision for my generation that will thrill me until the day I take my last breath. I'll sail off to that other world, and hope to meet every one of my fantasy men, who will of course greet me like the queen of romance I am!
We've just spent a week in Orlando at Disney World. Children and adults from all different cultures and races can relate to the magic of family, of love, of finding a place that is safe and wonderful, and, for a few hours, forget the cares of the world and just explore their own childhood. John Lennon's words come to me, “Imagine all the people…” and I saw evidence that people could stand side by side when they have at least one thing in common. We don't ask what we don't share. We live by the things we do share in common.
I guess I could call Disney World and Disneyland (my home turf) my Mecca of sorts. We bring the grandchildren there to share with them what we shared with our kids. Our kids share their love of fantasy with their own children. It's an indescribably wonderful way to spend a few days together, memories that will last a lifetime. Because we never know when we'll be separated.
I once talked to a partner of Disney who said WD had taken his daughters to a park and found the merry-go-round animals had chipped paint and some of them didn't work. He vowed that when he built Disneyland, “It will be a place with no chipped paint and everything works.” His legacy lives on.
My worlds are internal. I am the stoker of the fire. I plant the seed and the reader takes that and grows it into a fantasy of their own choosing. Maybe I am the cage around the tomato plant, that keeps it from falling over. I losely guide the reader here and there, like a painting instead of a photograph. This is fiction. Blurry, fuzzy fiction, with enough grit, heartache and emotion to make it just real enough to ask the reader to come along on the ride.
Aside from trends, the writer in me knows I have to keep it fresh, and unlike other authors. My voice has to be unique. I have to weave universal themes such as true love, love heals, love conquers, and love everlasting. I'm not a billion dollar business (yet), but I'm inspired by the world building and that little touch of magic Disney has given me. I'm grateful my childhood was the way it was, every part of it, even the parts that weren't so much fun.
Many of you know my narrator, J.D. Hart, has become my best friend. But there was a day when we first met in person. Now, this man has read my most intimate sex scenes, and lived the ups and downs of a writer who wants to become more and more successful. It's a bumpy road, and with already a lot of things on my plate, I decided to jump into the world of audio books. We started working together and I think after five or six books, I had the opportunity to come to Nashville for a conference, and meet him for the first time.
Next day he took me on a tour of places that were meaningful to him – these were all things I'd asked him to show me. We saw where he first lived when he came to town as a young songwriter, where he wrote music, where other famous stars had lived, or performed for the first time. I got to meet his lovely wife, Cherokee, and have dinner at the Grand Ole Opry We went to a Country Diner taping at Northstar Studios, where I personally met Roy Clark, Larry Gatlin and others.
This talented actor, singer-songwriter, voice over artist and now narrator has done for me what no one else has ever done: take my stories and turn them into additional works of art.
As he told me about his many stories, I asked permission to write a story based on him as a character. So, Nashville SEAL, the novella came out last year as a Christmas present to my readers and you guys loved it. We then recorded the audio book and it was in high demand, still is. J.D. sings in this audio book some original works he performed years ago. Book 2, which is to be released tomorrow, is Nashville SEAL: Jameson. It is the ongoing story of this young CW star who marries Lizzie, and who goes on his first deployment with SEAL Team 3.
My SEALs are buying a vineyard and will be expanded into Wine Country as a theme in upcoming books. Since most SEALs don't stay in 20 years like perhaps other branches of the military, some of your favorites, like Nick, Zak, and others, will find their way to Sonoma County to get into the wine and beer business. Oh yes, they'll have Frog Piss beer, and it will be green.
More will follow in upcoming stories, but I hope you'll read along with me as we continue to tell the stories of young brave warriors who change, take different life choices, fine the women of their dreams, and still remain in a very tight community as they raise their children. I plan to have other authors write in this Wine Country world as well. More about that later!
Enjoy Nashville SEAL: Jameson!! You'll get to hear J.D. sing again…I promise you'll love it.
Join us on Monday for the big release party. We know how to party! Link here.
I've been reading those little books again. None of my favorite shows are on TV these days and I've watched everything I want to that's streaming. I'm having a productive summer writing. My garden is doing well. This morning I harvested the first of my corn.
My mother used to talk about how in the midwest they'd say “knee high by the 4th of July” and I always think of that when I look at my corn. I just planted some new starts this weekend, so in California, it's a bit different. But the promise of “knee high” gives me hope that even though my garden isn't perfectly manicured, I'll have corn. And I do!
I bought a big strawberry candle at Mollie Stone's market in Palo Alto when I was there for the reunion party, then found it online and cheaper, of course. I enjoy that fleeting strawberry scent which is perfect for summertime daydreaming, or writing, or whatever. Candles and music are big for me, as is the ambience of place, so I can get into the rhythm of the story. I'm listening to Jim Wilson and Ludovico Einaudi almost non-stop.
I've said before that a story is like a patchwork quilt, made up of different colors and patterns, like the characters in the book and the past and emotions they bring to the story. If everything was “perfect” from the beginning, we'd soon lose interest. I do like to show some perfect things all throughout my books, but I want to show how close to a precipice the perfect, or order of my character's lives is. How easily it can fall away, be neglected, or ignored intentionally for other pressures.
So is it harmony we seek? I know my readers love the Happily Ever After, and I will deliver that every time without fail, or I can't call myself a romance writer. But worshiping the hero or heroine is worshiping the choices they ultimately make. This holds true whether we are talking about a good crime fiction, romantic suspense or inspirational romance. We celebrate the choices that are made, showing the change in the character from the beginning of the book. We show how he or she has learned something new.
I learn something new as an author with each book. I have my doubts sometimes at the beginning or in the middle (they call it the soggy middle for good reason), like I think everyone does. Of course, I keep those to myself, until the story “gels” for me, and that's when I feel the movement of my soul, pouring it out there for all to see, and hopefully enjoy. As a writer, I go through that change just like my characters do.
So creating art is a process, but it's also a practice. Loving is a practice. Marriage is a practice. Being a good friend is a practice. And writing a bestseller is definitely a practice we get better and better with each book we write. We turn our doubts, our chaos, our many parts of the story into a beautiful quilt of emotion and theme, just as we practice patience and allow all those chaotic parts to come inside us.
I have a good excuse for why this Sundays With Sharon is late. But I don't want to tell you! I'm becoming a nocturnal writer. I understand now those who are with their families during the day and then command the night to write. I have come full circle. I am one of those now.
Our tour of San Diego took us to one of the several SEAL bars (the touristy one) in SanDiego, run by a former SEAL. I make it a habit of not naming real places, so if I want to change them later, I can. That way I don't get lashed by the fact police. So, I won't tell you the name of the bar we hung out at with our little group of Coronado touristas.
The book I'm finishing now, has a beautiful sex scene before and after the arrival at the Waterwheel Inn, which is a favorite place my SEALs like to go. It is filled with romance. It just seems like the place to fall in love. It's where my SEALs spend a week's salary to take their ladies on a special night. The real name of the Inn is the Kenwood Inn. I say this because they want the publicity, and my son works there so it's good for him too.
I've used the lobby of this place in several books. It's also in one unfinished book, Be With Me, where my heroine places her palms against the glass of a case and the old pen that was once held by the strange man coming to her in her dreams rolls toward the glass all by itself. And then later she sees him looking up at her. He's standing in the mists of the azure pool at midnight, by full moon, and she is being pleasured by her then-partner, who stands behind her and does not see the vision. She will travel across space and time to find him because she instantly knows he's the love of her life.
The image of that scene is so stamped on my brain, I think it might be the last thing I think of when I finally close my eyes at the end of my days. Life was one way. My fantasy life was another way. Did I ever get there? Only time will tell.
So, when I sat at the Scupper in San Diego, I felt my SEAL Team 3 guys sitting in the corner, watching a ball game on one of the big screen TVs, or outside by the firepit watching the little hotties walk past. Fiction makes real what was formally unreal.
I bought challenge coins on the strand. I ate an ice cream like so many of my SEALs do. I put myself in my story, so I could write it from the inside out. And yes, fiercely. Because what I'm describing are not the facts, but the feeling about what it's like to be one of my characters so I can be inside their skin when I write their dialog. So I can feel like I'm on my honeymoon again, in a place where a mysterious man comes to me and I fall in love all over again, just in time for the next book.
My little brother, after years of commuting from Petaluma to the City and beyond, is retiring. I'm so happy for him, for his roses, his garden, his lovely wife and his beautiful daughter. They will finally get to spend more time with this wonderful man.
Would you believe in all the years growing up and even now, we have never argued? I mean, not once! Considering how I seem to get into it with other family members from time to time – not often – but I speak my mind – we've never had a cross word. I don't know how that happened, but nothing was important enough to blow our friendship over.
Getting up to Roseville was a long 2+ hour drive in nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic. And coming home was no different. My husband drove 5 hours total yesterday, but it was so worth it. I left my purse there, but luckily my daughter will return it to me today.
Darrell has lots of things he wants to do with his time – volunteer work and things he's never had time for until now.
Will I ever retire? I laugh to think my YOUNGER brother is retiring. Do any of us ever really retire? I don't think so. Not if we have a long, loving and family or friend-filled life. Not if we do the things of our heart and soul. Not if we bring value and love to other people's lives.
Our parents are gone, but I think the spirit of their love and support was there yesterday. We shared many memories of family events from the past, and many of the cousins and relatives from nearby, some driving greater distances, shared in the celebration. We miss those gone, but we celebrate life and life's changes.
Oh yes, and I got to pass out some bookmarks. Like I said, I don't think I'll ever retire. And that's a good thing, right?
I'm reading a great new book co-written by one of my favorite authors, Laura Kaye, also known as Laura Kamoie for her historical books, America's First Daughter. It is so fitting that this weekend, as we celebrate our nation's independence, that we review some events that took place in the lives of key players at the birth of this new nation. This book is about Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Patsy, and her relationship with her mother, her father, and the woman who was her blood relative who also became Jefferson's lover, bearing several children for him, and remained at his side until his death, Sally Hemmings.
I have said over and over again the truth is stranger than fiction, and this story is no exception to that. The two authors researched over 18,000 personal letters written to and from Jefferson, and gives us a good glimpse of what it was like to live during those dangerous times. The details of their circumstances and the closeness between Mrs. Jefferson, and the slaves she “owned”, inherited from her father, all the while recognizing that some of them were her half-siblings, shows what a remarkable woman she was. Her daughter, Patsy, would come to know the playmate she had as a child, rumored to be her relative as well, become her father's long companion after her mother's death. To say this very public and important family had issues and secrets, is putting it mildly. The story, as told by the daughter, Patsy, is so riveting it plays like a movie and I forget where I am while reading it.
While I can't begin to write a historical novel, I was first drawn to the book because I have a futuristic novel I'm currently working on, involving a direct descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. There are similar themes, such as the concept of Freedom, the price and meaning of Independence, and the true definition of Liberty. And yes, that's all you're gonna get today. You'll be seeing some excerpts in the coming weeks and months when I'm ready to finish it. My tenative title, while I work on the story, is Free To Love.
They say circumstances don't make a man, they reveal a man. What I enjoy reading, and writing, are stories that acquaint us intimately with characters who make decisions in a hopelessly flawed and dangerous timeline. Moral absolutes become sometimes life-threatening and compromised. Often the decisions are between the lesser of two evils than the difference between a shining star and a grease stain. I love the rich conflict of this story, and hope that some of that will rub off into mine.
America's First Daughter helps me understand how precious our freedoms are, and appreciate the costs others who came before had to pay for that freedom I enjoy today.
Remember, evil exists when good men do nothing. If good men did nothing, we might still be a colony, struggling under the yoke of a controlling empire. Or, we might all be speaking German. Maybe with all the events happening this July 4th weekend, we would do well to remember that.
They say freedom isn't free. Are you willing to pay the price? Some of us may have to. And some of us are innocents, but just like those who lived and died during the times of our young struggling nation. Not just soldiers paid the price. Their families and loved ones did too. And in the end, it was worth it.
I admit to being somewhat of a tee shirt junkie. But it's also my uniform. I should hang them in my closet on hangers, instead of folding them, and get rid of some of the St. John suits and jackets I'll probably never wear again. Letting go is hard for me. St. John has been replaced with tee shirts.
This one spoke to me, and if I'm not careful, I'll be buying everything in their online catalog. You know me already: 100 Koi, 60 Chickens. I'm a collector of things, not only stories.
So last night was so wonderful, attending my 50th high school reunion. Palo Alto was not the town it is today. It has grown, and in the maturing process, I'm glad to see some are still holding warmly like an old teddy, the roots that made it so magical. We were a collection of kids from differing backgrounds, able to come together and share our commonness, politely and with respect. Can you believe I never heard a word of politics? And we had a Congresswoman there! How refreshing!
They even warmly welcomed this smut author! What a treat for me. I actually had been a little apprehensive of it. Now I wonder why.
Funny how life's importance changes through the years. Not about what we do, but what we've experienced. What we've loved. We loved living here. We love being from here. I could live here again, but then, I say that every place I visit, don't I?
Do I regret there is no longer a way to have a little bungalow somewhere near downtown Palo Alto so I could dip into that familiar pool, have stimulating conversations and perhaps re-experience what a magical place it was growing up?
I regret my children didn't have this experience like I did. Maybe it was the year, the times, and a whole host of magical things converging to make it so. Maybe it was us. Maybe it was fate that so many leaders and great people came from this group. So many of us have changed people's lives, and still live to tell stories about the process and enjoy the prospects for a bright future.
I go home filled up. My tank being nourished from the completion of my last audio book, Band of Bachelors: Alex, and spending time with my best friend, J.D. Hart. Maybe it's from spending time with people who understand who I was then, and who I am now. (Not everything, but enough so that I feel appreciated). How special to reminisce about wearing 3 pairs of stockings we got for .33 each in those little blue boxes, so many that our garter belts sometimes flipped open when we walked down the hallways.
And like a true romance novelist, I want to know who they loved, what moved them, and what they are looking forward to. Not what is gone.
Life happens when we are making other plans. John Lennon is credited with this quote, and I think it's the wisest thing he's said.
If I could, would I move back? Or, would I take up another adventure, perhaps living on a beach in English Bay on Antigua where I'd have to take a motor ferry to get to my cottage? I think I'd choose the latter.
There is still so much for me to explore, but at the same time, it's so nice to feel like I've come home.
Yesterday was like that for me. What about you?
Being a father isn't automatic. I think the biggest test of fatherhood is being one when times are stressed, tough, when your kids are perhaps not as grateful as they should be, when you've made mistakes you are ashamed of, when life seems to post more challenges than the day is long.
Often we overlook the difficult times when we talk about fatherhood. Taking resonsibility for a child created out of wedlock (a favorite of mine in romance tropes), being there to love a child who someone else brought into the world are two of my biggies.
Because a true test of a man isn't what's in his pants, but what's in his heart. The gentle part of a man is what we herald today. Yes, we need and love the protection his loving arms brings, so that we feel safe, so that we find the courage to go on when times are tough. And I feel sorry for those men who cannot find it in themselves to really love and cherish a woman, or a child.
One of my favorite stories of fatherhood was when I was about 3. My father told it to me when I was an adult, and I didn't know this story until he told me, with love. We were standing in my grandmother's big kitchen, at the parsonage in Napa. She had a large gas stove that had grease drawers, about 1/2″ deep, one on the right and one on the left.
I came up to dad. “Daddy, do you want a cracker?”
He answered, “Well, sure.”
I went to the grease drawer and pulled out one for him and one for me and handed it to him.
I had found this place, my secret hiding space where none of the adults would look to find the crackers I'd been given as a reward, and saved for a rainy day, or a day when I could give something back to my dad.
I love that image. I loved loving my dad, who, sadly, is now gone. But his heart and the love he gave me lives on forever. Thank you, Dad. I am richer and blessed because of you.