Author Archives: Sharon Hamilton
Author Archives: Sharon Hamilton
Met this great guy, Randall Dale, who writes real cowboy stories. I'm going to interview him some day on this blog. We shared a table, and he stood outside with his rope, and boy did the cowboys come. It was fascinating to watch the readers that flocked to him, as opposed to the women reading romance who came to mine. He's a talented writer, I can tell. I overheard the stories about his growing up, stories passed down by two generations of Arizona cowboys, and it was like vitamins for my soul. He won't be there today with his quiet ways, so I'll miss him terribly.
The Festival was wonderful. We had perfect weather…the fans were awesome, and got to see some superfans yesterday. Today, Kellie and Beth and several others are coming by. Kellie will help me from 12 to 2 and then during my talk in the tent (Yay! A Tent Talk – not to be confused with a Ted Talk, but some day – my first ever). I'm at Booth 108, and will be at Booth 178 for the Tent Talk and author's pavillion.
|Isn't this the best tee shirt? His wife bought my vampires!|
Leslie Jones was on the other side of me. We have gotten to know each other over the years of my attending Arizona Dreamin', along with my other pals Kris Tualla, Morgan Kearns and Deena Remiel. Always old home week when we get together, share war stories and just plane goof off. Leslie now has 3 books out. I'm so proud of how her career has gone.
|Courtesy of Lindsay McKenna, another awesome military romantic suspense author!!|
Band of Bachelors: Alex, is Book 2 in the Band of Bachelors. Here's a little excerpt for you. Enjoy! Now on preorder with iBooks, and will be available June 14. You will remember Lucas, and the apartment he was sharing with the other SEAL bachelors? Alex was one of them. A Navy SEAL also wounded in the Canary Islands, he's healed, and back home, and looking for love in all the wrong places. Trust me. He's a piece of work!
You can preorder this book on iTunes here.
Well, Alex has been having his way with me now for about a week. I've been dancing around him, hiding, and he's found me. It's all because my story has been supressed too long because I've been traveling, and doing other things.
I was answering some emails for my Newsletter (are you a subscriber yet???) and something hit me. I fall in love several times a year with new characters. I mean I do have a mental affair with them. Full on. Yup. And when the book is done, they have left me.
I'm very sensitive about the leaving part because I'm not a quitter. I hate people who quit. Sometimes I should do more of it, but I've been mourning the death of my last hero, and Alex has been bringing me flowers (mentally) and coming to bed with me in my dreams and dang it. SO THAT'S WHAT'S BEEN WRONG WITH ME.
I picked up this book about an erotic journal written that the heroine reads, and she is pulled into the journal-owner's story, until it abruptly ends. I'm not going to tell you the name of the book, because I can't recommend it – but I bought it because I have a story with some similar elements, Be With Me. It's about a woman who works in an antique bookstore and has an increasingly real encounter with a 19th Century British explorer. Oh those scenes at the Waterwheel Inn in Kenwood are so damned real, he comes to me, with his handlebar moustache, when I'm swimming nekked in the steamy pool at midnight.
And then it hit me. There is this character sneaking up on me, stalking me, and trying to get hold of my heart, and I've been shutting him out.
I love my rich fantasy life, because it's better than real life sometimes. I go there whenever I can. I like creating the stories as much as reading others, but since I'm a slow reader and a fast writer, it works better for me to make up my own stories.
So now I've got this Alex guy hanging around my desk, whispering in my ear, laughing at how manic I become sometimes. He has told me he'll help me get over the last hero who left me. Because that's what goes on in the heart and brain of this crazy writer. I fall in love, and they ALWAYS leave me.
But now I've discovered the cure: find another fantasy lover. And just like my original Date with Daniel some 6 years ago (an exercise to help me fall back in love with my first hero when I'd fallen for the bad guy), my time with Alex is promising. He's an adrenaline junkie. He likes strong coffee, loves to sky dive. Loves demolition derbys and loves working in the garden with me. In fact, we picked out two tomato plants, some broccoli, kale and some sweet peas. And he made me order Sweet Potatoes from the catalog along with red “sugar” cherry tomato seeds.
I'm listening to romantic Italian music from the 1930's and who knows, maybe I'll go back to that ship in India and go visit the Captain when he stops by the Waterwheel Inn to check on his journal. And then I hear the gypsy music in Prague and I'm all about the vampires again. Oh, what's a girl to do?
|Ricky, Matt and their coach. What an honor.|
I'm in San Francisco at an Indie UnCon, sharing ideas and brainstorming with other author friends. I ditched my writer's hat and went across town to the Mission District Vanguard Properties office, to attend a special talk given by Matt Brown, National Elite-Level Single Scull Champion, and six time American Record Holder on the Concept2, Yale Grad, Masters Degree in Science and Medicine of Athletic Performance from University of Oxford, and Olympic Contender.
I love meeting people like this, because it reminds me of what I enjoy writing about my Navy SEALs. I've always been a student and avid fan of winning, of pushing ourselves to peak performance in all things in life. Anyone who endeavors to become an elite athlete like Matt and his partner Ricky are, understands the mindset it takes to win. And I'm not talking winning that hurts others, but winning for the sheer joy of winning, for the juice of life and the passion of being alive. It's what drives being in love, living a truly artful and passionate life, as well as achieving all our physical, mental and financial goals. I could attend a talk like Matt's every day for the rest of my life and still want more. I hope I never stop seeking this information.
Here's what he said, in a nutshell:
|Vanguard office has a conference room in an old bank vault. Why not?|
1. You have to be coachable, desire to set goals and obsessed with achieving that goal. I counted nearly thirty times Matt used the word Passion in his talk. As a romance writer, I get what he's talking about. Sure, we like our books sexy in the bedroom, fearless when it comes to throwing all caution to the wind and going for that perfect love experience – I get that my job is to deliver that elixir to my readers. And getting there requires I be coachable, that I set goals in several arenas (my energy level, my financial goals, my word count goals and new release or projects goals). Living a passionate lifestyle is what I'm all about. I had the cheesy grin in the back row all the way through his talk. And we weren't talking sex or romance, but it's all the same mental and emotional energy.
2. Passion means to suffer. He used examples of a rowing champion who suffered from severe dyslexia, so severe he sometimes had difficulty signing autographs. He had Type I Diabetes, had a family to support and a string of near career-ending injuries. But he was one of the most decorated champions the sport has ever produced. He didn't walk in and have it handed to him. He carved it out of granite.
Having that desire to fail is what leads to mastery. One of my early Real Estate affirmations I used to shout into the phone with my realtor mentor daily was, “I love rejection. The more rejection I get the larger my bank account becomes.” Not a lot of people get this concept. It really has nothing about money and everything to do with seeking those things that will make us elite at whatever we do. The struggle, suffering that must occur is part of that track to Mastery. SEALs don't quit if they're going to become a SEAL. They practice with pain and suffering so they are ready for every eventuality they can think of. And even after that, mentally train for anything that might come up (and probably will) that they hadn't planned on.
Matt talked about it not being a dream to be an Olympian. It is his obsession. It isn't reasonable or realistic to want something so badly. Greatness transcends mediocraty.
3. Mastering the elite level is paved with tons of little achievements along the way, little daily victories, seeking failure, pushing ourselves to new extremes, never accepting that “reasonable” excuse not to have a life filled with passion and excellence. We used to train Realtors about repetitious boredom. Sticking to the path even when it's not as sexy or fun as we want it to be at the time. Learning to be uncomfortable. As my SEALs have been told, “getting comfortable with Dr. Death.” We get better by seeking to expose ourselves to our limits, and then learn to push beyond them. If we never came up to that limit and push just a little harder, we'd never achieve it.
4. Discouragement and self-doubt are part of the process. It affects some people more than others. I loved his example of how coach Wooden took his dream team at UCLA and began coaching his young elite athlete recruits by first showing them how to tie their shoes. Some of these guys were saying, “Hey coach, don't you know who I am?” Being great starts with the little things, victory over little mindset lapses and emotional quagmires. Seeking them out and getting comfortable with the flame. Being excited about the danger involved. And it starts with the simple things. Wooden was teaching his players not to make the mistakes with the fundamentals. Do seek to push yourself to make the mistakes when you are testing your limits, but never the fundamentals.
5. Compete. I loved his concept of working competitively against another teammate to become better yourself. And what would it take to tell that person what you see as a flaw so that they could get better, therefore becoming a harder competitor against you. But you get great in the process. I love this. My Cheerios this morning! Don't be afraid to go for the gold medal, not the participation certificate. Losing is healthy if you learn from it.
6. Get comfortable with stress. The right kind of stress diverts energy to your working muscles. Mouth dryness when you are under stress is your body's way of giving your muscles every ounce of energy they require to perform at an elite level. But worry, is a wasted energy. Pushing to failure is the good side of it. Worry is the destroyer of everything. I got a great character image of a SEAL I'm going to use in my next book, who will go on a date with someone he's terrified around. It will feel like he's just had a shot of espresso and attending a really nasty Horror film with the love of his life. LOL. I loved hearing this. Nothing is more terrifying than letting go, falling in love and allowing that to become life-changing. “Get those butterflies in your stomach and make them fly in formation,” was his quote.
7. Great competitors are great actors. (Yes, J.D., this is for you!!) To become master at anything you have to take how you really feel, and turn it into the way you need to feel to do the job. I used to say it all the time in real estate. We aren't salesmen. We are entertainers. Being someone who can do something even though they are feeling something else is a skillset that isn't given, it's learned, and actors do it every day. Your brain and body don't know the difference between the real smile and the “fake” smile. Life is about performance, not just living. Religion is a practice. Marriage or being insanely in love is a practice. Living with purpose and passion, playing a role, fulfilling a destiny. Playing big. Feeling strong. Playing for keeps, like it matters, because it certainly does.
8. You have to be tough as nails. Nuts to say we get the most joy out of the toughest things in our lives, but when we are in training for anything in life, it's true. Toughness is learned, again, not organically bubbles up. It's created by the unique little things we achieve every day. The little joys that add up to a life chock full of everything, especially love and the love of life.Writing about Navy SEALs reminds me about that part of myself that is a SEAL.
|Even superheroes need to practice|
I've mentioned it before, but getting comfortable with mistakes, making a fool of yourself, pushing to the next level is how you learn to be tough.
There was much more I could write about, but not all of you are going to read all of this. I make no apology for being inspired this morning. The right people will show up to read this, and it will mean the right things to those right people.
We are not lost, we are found. Have I found you? Have you found me? Are we on this path together?
Have the best day of your life today. I sincerely mean that.
Wonderful to be able to enjoy all the best things in Sonoma County with some of my best friends. We had a turnout of readers better than my expectations. I had hopes it would be a good group, and it certainly was that. Thank you to all who helped promote the event and who showed up and helped the celebration yesterday was. To my fellow authors: Catherine Bybee, Marina Adair, Susan Stoker, Kathryn LeVeque, Carolyn Jewel, Diana Orgain, Lisa Hughey, Pam Gibson, Tiffany Snow and Kate Douglas and Lori Ryan – thank you thank you thank you!! Wonderful women, great players, awesome authors and super friends for life.
I am blown away by the generosity of my writer friends, who spent their weekend, and traveled far and wide just to come share in this vision. Coppola Winery was the perfect location. Yes, I admit, we are a bit out of the way and it isn't easy to get here, but that just means you have to come and stay a few days. We are a region, not a single destination.
|Funning around the Godfather desk|
Today eight of us are going on a limo tour of four great local wineries. Again, I can't wait. And it looks like the sunshine will be out for us.
Readers drove as far away as 4-5 hours away and built their whole weekends around this event. The winery crowd came from all over the world, and we met new readers from Boston, Denver, New York, even a family from Canada visiting Wine Country in all its glory. We had a steady stream of people here for the 5+ hours of the signing, yet the setting was small enough that we could intimately speak with people about our stories, our books, and share our lives.
I'm definitely planning one for next year.
|Our author group at Francis Ford Coppola Winery book signing event|
My voice is hoarse. I slept like a baby last night, finally able to relax after all the worry and planning. But what a treat to bring our world to all of you out there willing to listen and read our stories.
|Tucker from Tucker, the movie. One of only 52 made|
My mind is flooded with ideas and things I can do to help my writing career. I'm also very grateful to all the presenters and awesome authors who shared so freely and gave me such wonderful inspiration. We rarely get to go to things so jam packed with material. Although most of my pictures were taken in front or behind an umbrella drink, most of my time here has not been spent drinking.
I described my mind as “frizzy” like a bad hair day. It will take a couple of days to calm it down.
Getting to meet Hollywood people who have actually read and enjoyed my books was a super rush for me. I learned some things about what I need to do with a screen play to make it more packaged for the TV series I think it would work for. I also learned what had to be done to create the screen play for a movie, which is very different than the TV series.
There were lots of author platforms and retail platforms I hadn't considered using that I will now be doing. Learned the importance of FB ads and now I'll be getting blood with them.
Highlight was of course the Pearl Harbor tour, which I sponsored. The trip to the Arizona Memorial, the Mighty Mo, learning more about the Kamakaze pilot who perished on the deck of the Missouri. Saturday a small group of us signed books at Hickam AFB in the beautiful Community Center building built in the 1930's. I love that style architecture. We toured buildings on grounds that had absorbed divots in the concrete where Japanese rounds had landed. Viewed the flag that was standing that day, and the eternal flame commemorating all those who lost their lives.
I poked my head into the Officer's Club and I did feel like I'd been transported back to those days.
The beautiful beaches, outstanding food and drinks, the shopping, and weather was just a plus. I'd have come here if it was just for the classes, but to have all the other wonderful things about being in Hawaii too, well, it was indeed learning in Paradise. I go back richer in ideas and excitement, a little poorer in the pocketbook, but satisfied.
As you read this, I will be in an airplane, hopefully watch pre-football highlights, or reading a good book, editing, or inspired to write, or talking to some interesting passenger. I'm going to be in Hawaii at an author conference and I'm so excited, they might have to unload me as a nuclear device…
I'm really looking forward to this conference. The company will be outstanding – leaders in the Romance industry, as well as all the folks who help us from Amazon to iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Ingram Spark. We'll be talking about time management, VAs, FB ads, branding, writing series, brainstorming, and there will be time for just hanging around, sprinting by the beach. For a writer, that means writing. Then on Saturday, a great big book signing at Hickam AFB (I even have an official pass) and a 1940's Swing Dance. I got my vintage dress and supposedly some young officer who has agreed to take me on the dance floor and dance with someone who could be his grandma.
On Thursday, I'm sponsoring the Pearl Harbor tour, and the trip to the Arizona and Missouri Memorials. Now that I have my camera fixed, I can perhaps share pictures.
Finished my mentoring on Friday, and now its green lights all the way from the conference to the week before my Coppola Event. Still some tickets left. This will be an outstanding Romancing The Vines, another first in hopefully a string of successful signing in the future.
The San Francisco Airport is buzzing with Superbowl fever. I bought a coffee tumbler with Superbowl 50 on it, and there's a whole group who just flew in and are having Irish Coffees here at the Buena Vista Cafe. Supposed to be in the '70's here in my part of the world, and not a cloud in the sky. Perfect day for a game. Go Niners! Wait…I'll have to wait for that.
I wasn't going to do as much traveling this year, and I've changed my mind. Now I just have to boost my sales up to afford to do it all. But meeting readers, hanging out with some of my best friends, learning and just getting outside my cave is going to be fun.
I can tell 2016 is going to be a brilliant year. Can't wait to tell you about it!
Many of you know we've traveled on some long cruises, usually starting in Italy, and going across the Atlantic. These are not nearly as exclusive as they sound, and are quite affordable. Since there are a lot of days at sea, and the weather is warm, it's perfect for writing. I could hardly stay in a hotel anywhere for the price of these long distance cruises. They have to move the ship from Europe to the Caribbean, or South America when the seasons change and their routes expand, so they take on passengers for a very affordable price. I think the cheapest was like $800 for 21 days, believe it or not!
We opted not to do one this winter, so these pictures are from the 2014-2015 trip. I needed a location that was away from Europe (the Secretary of State meets with a Moroccan leader secretly), wanted the meeting to look like a vacation, and needed it to be close to Africa. The Canary Islands was one stop we've made a couple of times. This was perfect!
I like writing about places I've visited because it not only gives me a point of reference to be accurate with some details, but also because it gives me a focus if I can feel I'm in the place as I'm writing it. Sometimes I search the net for pictures of properties for sale, with lovely photos to choose from. Often we can use these in our book trailers. Getting a “feel” for a place is important. One speaker told me that the location becomes a character in your book. I think that's right.
I try to give variety to my books, not have the same theme, except the arc of the whole series, which is that these SEALs learn to overcome everything: from international events, to local home grown terrorists, to just plan evil bad guys. They save the day. They get thrown into things they didn't expect.
So I guess I use the place as the anchor, and then weave tales around these points, like spinning a spider web, hoping to snag readers and bring them into my world of the Brotherhood. Traveling gives me lots of dreams for my muse. It's fun to bring all my readers along on these adventures, both real and imagined.
Here's a snippet of the new book, which releases next month, and is on preorder, True Blue SEALs: Zak. It is Book #13 in the SEAL Brotherhood Series. Enjoy!
Where have you always wanted to travel? If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
See book trailer here.
My heart goes out to all those who are reading this, battling the cold. And I'm envious of those of you who are having a great Snow Day. You guys deserve all the beautiful white goodness. You have to work so hard to put up with other weather conditions, let us Northern Californios have our rain and damp. It doesn't last long. Besides, we need the rain.
I'm looking forward to spending a week in Hawaii coming up here in a couple of weeks. I love the people, and the scent of flowers everywhere. I come back hearing Ukelele music in my head for weeks. Just like when we go to the Caribbean, I hear those steel drums at night, when I wake up in the morning and often when I'm writing without music.
I am sponsoring a 15-author book signing at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville on February 20. If you are in the area, the tickets can be purchased here. The fee is going towards the awesome chocolate desserts, the wine pairings, and of course the beautiful pavilion we'll be wandering through, meeting romance authors and finding new books! Copperfields Books, a great local independent book store, will be handling all the sales. But there will be goodies as well.
Many of the authors will be staying in Healdsburg, one of the great tourist attractions of our wine country region. Early on it was a favorite for those who cane for the wine, but since then it's become an eclectic collection of shops, galleries and restaurants that rival some of the best tourist attractions in the country. I've lived here 45 years, and I can still get lost for a whole day shopping.
1. Up until 1747, California was believed to be an island. Although Father Kino walked from the mainland in 1698 to disprove this theory, it wasn't until nearly 50 years later Father Consag sailed completely around the Gulf of California in 1747, and only then did King Ferdinand of Spain issue the Royal decree stating “Callifornia is Not An Island”.
2. Although the area was populated with Miwok and Pomo Native American tribes for centuries, the first Europeans actually spotted the San Francisco Bay in 1769. Yes, Sir Francis Drake landed in what is now known as Marin County, at Drake's Bay or Bodega Bay (we aren't exactly sure where) in 1579, he did not travel far enough into the interior and he missed the San Francisco Bay completely. So, around the time of our American Revolution, only a handful of people even knew about California or its Bay, and most of those were the Spanish who had designs to colonize it. Missions were started, the Spanish built the Presidio in what is now Golden Gate Park, for Spanish troops.
3. Mexico rules over California in the early 1820's. A series of Mexican land grants were given out. The town of Sonoma was established to protect the mission, and the young General in charge was Mariano Vallejo, who was given a 66,600 acre land grant we now celebrate at the Vallejo Adobe.
4. In the 1830's and 1840's a series of Russian immigrants came down from the Russian Fort at Fort Ross, investigating the potential for grape growing, and settled in what is now Alexander Valley. Fort Ross is then sold to John Sutter just prior to the gold rush, the Russian immigrants writing, “Local grapes make good wine, but in small quantities and does not keep well.” By 1850, California was added as the 31st state, and Healdsburg had a whopping population of 300. Sonoma was temporarily the capital of California in the Bear Flag Revolt, and they took General Vallejo prisoner for a time, the flag designating Alta California its own independent republic.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake hits (the epicenter was really north, closer to Healdsburg, in Santa Rosa). Several buildings in the downtown collapse. With the rebuild of San Francisco, most of the local forests, much of it old growth redwood trees, are used for the massive rebuild. More railroads, then lights, ferry boats that came all the way up from San Francisco to Petaluma and beyond. Who can forget the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair?
6. Prohibition nearly killed the wine and hops industrues. Remember Burgermeister, Hamms and Schlitz? These San Francisco breweries relied on hops from our beautiful valley. When the breweries failed or consolidated on the East Coast, more and more land was planted for grapes, which turned out to be more able to rebound. German and French champagne makers arrived.
We've changed quite a bit since then. For Californios (that was the self-described title the independent peoples of this region called themselves, not owing loyalty to Spain or to the United States) we love our roots, our rich multi-cultural heritage. Luther Burbank would settle in Santa Rosa. Mark Twain and his young bride would travel on their honeymoon through this region. Sir Richard Burton was spotted here, and Jack London put down roots in the town of Glen Ellen.
Our history is newer than many other parts of the country. But one thing it has always been, unique, and fiercely independent. And like most Americans, we are survivors of generations who came before us and helped make us what we are today.
I get kind of crazy when I'm finishing a book, which usually means I'm anti-social and hermit-like. Not this time. This time, for whatever reason, I'm connected with lots of people. I've been working on Romancing The Vines, book signing at Coppola Winery on 2-20-16, coordinating things with the wonderful event staff there and making sure all of us are on the same page. There's more about that, but I best not put it in writing until after the event.
Then I fly to Hawaii to participate in an author's conference, and then another book signing in Honolulu for military writers. I'm sponsoring a trip to Pearl Harbor, and the Missouri and Arizona memorials. While I'm there, I'll be going to a swing dance (stag), but who knows? Perhaps I'll find a young officer to dance with, since my husband has to stay home this time.
End of February I'll be attending an Indie Un-Con in San Francisco. Next week I give a luncheon address for a group, talking about Navy SEALs and the heroism they display. This will not be my normal group of writers and avid romance fans, so I'm bringing to them brand new material.
We saw 13 Hours, which is a movie everyone should see, and watched some interviews with the real survivors. I finished Black Sails and Mozart In the Jungle, two new programs for me, which rival my previously favorite: House of Cards.
I've completely straightened my writing area, AGAIN! I've uncovered my gym, put material and quilting supplies that were encroaching into bins and boxes so I can see what I have. I've raided the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa and walked out with every aloha shirt I could find for my quilt.
This is behavior I had when I was pregnant! Impossible now, but perhaps the birth of the book is bringing out all the nesting instincts in me. And I'm still enjoying Christmas, even though the tree is torch-like dry. I'm leaving up all the decorations until the book is done. I have other writer friends who are stressing over deadlines farther out, and I've kept my mouth shut.
And I've done all this without coffee, can you believe it? And I've stuck to my diet, and have lost about 6#, perhaps more now.
I guess what's happening is I'm organizing my whole world so my focus is sharp and detailed. I call it Fierce Writing. In the zone, as one of my good friends says. I love writing this way. When I walk in and out of rooms, I get excited because they're clean, orderly and I'm not distracted. I don't feel bad because everything else has been allowed to slide. This is a planned attack, just like my SEALs do in the books I write. Writing fiercely and clear-headed is a practice, a devotion to something hopefully greater than myself.
Interesting that when I decide to clean up my spaces, I write better. My relationships are cleaner. Even three of my kids said thank you to me for being the mother I was. Two of them actually asked for advice!
Yes, I've gone to Heaven.
Okay, now back to the book. I'm working hard, and I do it for you!
|Lucky Heart on a Chain by Monty Monty|
What I love most about being a writer is finding things. Finding people, finding great stories, finding readers, finding tossed away things and repurposing them. I live in a recycled repurposed house. I don't like to throw away “junk” because those things inspire me, truly inspire me. If I could travel the world and explore the junk piles of every country, I'll bet I'd find objects that others throw away that could become incredible pieces of art, when put together.
If you examine this heart, (my new favorite artist from Healdsburg, California, Monty Monty) the piece says so many things to me. It has parts from the Edgewater Hotel & Casino (gamble on love?), gears from a timepiece now silenced (time for love? Love is timeless?) and a small child's heart-shaped pie tin (the passions of youth never flies away). He uses no soldering, just screws everything in place. Things once discarded are now made into a great piece of art I'm going to wear around my neck. Something a writer to muse on. A gift of love for someone special. You can see more of his works here. Other Sonoma County adventures here. More assembled art by inspirational Sebastopol artist, Patrick Arniot.
A writer's life is more than the sum of the parts. I worried about being a good writer when I first desired to be one in grammar school, then high school, then as a young bride, mother, and now as a grandmother. I have to say, this is the best time of my life. Yes my joints are creaky and the gravity still works against me in some respects, and I have lines of sorry and joy-lots of both (see my blog post on the Velveteen Rabbit, still my favorite children's book), but the stories in my head are always there, ruminating, thilling me, driving me forward, like the parts of my life I've lived, found and put together into my characters. In the process what I gain is not only satisfaction, but the friendship and bonding with readers all over the globe. I couldn't have done this in my twenties, thirties, or later. I had to be what I am now, with the stories of a lifetime and the emotional maturity to be able to look at them and organize them into a work of art, just like this Lucky Heart On A Chain.
I am reminded of our friendship with Jack Chandler, a client of ours in real estate some years ago we had the honor to be able to represent. He designs homes that are living works of art with all the whimsy and magic a true artist can inspire. Imagine living in an art piece. I mean, really living inside it!
My travels are calling me home, to Sonoma County, where I've lived all of my adult life. All the big changes in my life have happened here in this region. Like Babette's Feast, which is one of my favorite movies, I'm calling, like a pied piper, other authors and readers to come out and have a reading/signing/romantic Romancing The Vines party with me. Found things coming together. The magic of serendipity, the magic of writer friends I cannot wait to spend time with, and a sharing of the words of the heart, like this heart, all found and rejoicing together. How perfect to do this at Coppola Winery, where the movie sets and the magic and fantasy of The Godfather, Dracula, Tucker and others, are displayed near the tasting room of world class wines. If you are a reader or a writer, like our brand new Facebook page.
As a reader, you can sign up to attend this event here. If you are an author who has “found” this site and “found” me, and you want to come join the party, fill out this form for more information for the event. You won't want to miss it.
Kate Douglas, also a Sonoma County resident and one of the participating authors, and I had a wonderful afternoon together sipping water, nibbling on things at Portalupi Winery (I had to pick up my shipment), and gabbing over at a new coffee house in Healdsburg on the Square. She is like a long lost sister, a fellow writer I could spend weeks getting to know. Our paths have come from different places, but we've both arrived at this point, in this time, together. I can't wait to celebrate further with her, and all the other great authors coming.
Life is made up of found things: things of the heart and soul. Are you lost or are you found? If you've found this blog, I'd say we found each other. Let's never part. I believe in Happily Ever Afters, True Love Heals In The Gardens Of The Heart, everlasting explorations and adventures into the unknown. Please stay by my side and let's explore together!
I used to have a friend in real estate, from Colorado, who always did a ton of business each year, and each January lst, she would call a couple of friends, in a total panic, not sure she could do it again. For some reason, that never happened to me, because what I did was so well planned out (yes, this is me, not some alien), I knew exactly what to do to get there again, even exceed those plans.
I used to coach realtors, especially on setting up their business plans. Here are a couple of things I learned.
1. IF IT DOESN'T MAKE YOU EXCITED, REDO IT. Make the goals specific and achievable, and track them daily. Make sure they make you shiver with excitement, too. If they don't, you aren't thinking big enough. And thinking big doesn't mean being unrealistic, or changing something big about yourself, just something you can stretch into (unlike that one size up stretch thing). Like exercise, if you don't invest in yourself and your direction, you will never have any control over your future. It is impossible to have more than a bit of control, so part of that plan should include “screw around” time, or time for daydreaming, thinking, and not doing anything by the clock, or numbers. Put everything in there that will get in the way if you don't schedule it. It's the law of business: if it will get in the way it will come up fast. Now you get to say, “Oh yeah, that was in the plan!”
2. KNOW WHERE YOU STARTED. Take an evaluation of what you did last year, plan to improve on what went right, eliminate what went wrong. Or make it an interim goal to improve by so much. Don't plan on a 100% turnaround. We used to go for a 20% increase in business each year, then, when our in success was established and we had a certain percentage of business that just walked in the door without our actions (other than being open), we changed that to 10%.
3. EXPECT SUCCESS. We overestimate what we can do in one year, underestimate what we can do in 5. My favorite quote from my friend Tim Woods, is “Do what others won't do for the next 5 years and live how others can't for the rest of your life.”
I wrote this statement down some 5 years before my books started to sell in great numbers. It's amazing to me to see how much of this has already come true. I just ran across it in a sealed envelope while I was cleaning my desk this past week:
|First Christmas Tree, Madison Square Park 1906|
I am guilty, especially this year, of holding on to Christmas, perhaps a little too tight. I will be a mess the day we take the tree down and put away all the ornaments and decorations. I like to buy things after Christmas, and this year I haven't done any shopping, except exchange for a jacket that didn't fit my daughter. It's a do-over.
I wish we could make Christmas a do-over. I have a lot of work staring me in the face in January.
I took a lot of days of rest this December, got well, emersed myself in family traditions, put on a big dinner with 38# of prime rib that was out of this world, gave some presents that were close to my heart. At the end of it all, I still wonder if I did enough. I know I shouldn't feel guilty of taking a few private days for myself – watching Knick in binge mode, going to the movies twice and just watching as the Christmas lights danced in my grandchildren's eyes. The bears were a hit and we got a beautiful video of all three Eastern Grands playing with them.
My dogs have eaten 3 rib bones already, and I've been lovingly vacuuming up white bone splinters here and there. My bedspread has paw prints on it and will have to be washed.
We wore ugly sweaters for Christmas morning breakfast, our tradition, and carried on the tradition of my grandparents some 90 years ago when they were a young newlywed couple. Forgive me if you've heard the story before, but here it is again.
My grandfather was a young preacher in Illinois, at his first church. Many of you know he started from a wealthy family in upstate New York, his mother was a concert pianist and his father was a “man of business.” They had racehorses and a beautiful home that stood above the Hudson River he liked to say the New York Stock Exchange was copied after. My grandfather was training to be a stock broker.
My grandfather witnessed a suicide, a man jumping from an office window, when he'd lost his fortunes. It had such an impression on him, he felt called to do something about it, and so began preaching in Madison Square Park. Yes, it was the park Madison Square Gardens was named after. As a child I was told it was, “On the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway.”
Apparently it was known in the day as a kind of Speaker's Park, where people could get up on a box and begin to protest or to preach. My grandfather became a well-known regular, and turned his back on his wealthy upbringing. A gentleman used to stop by and listen to him, later telling him he should get a degree and become a leader of a flock. He even helped pay for an education at the divinity school. Grandpa got involved in the Riverside Baptist Church, and became an ordained Baptist minister some years later. I can remember a picture of this church was on his wall.
|Madison Square Park today|
His first church, then, was in Illinois. He'd already met and married my grandmother, an invalid he'd called upon, and with the help of his readings and the love of the handsome young preacher, she got out of bed and became his partner in all things. A woman who was supposed to die in her late twenties, she went on to bear two children and live to be 73 (outliving 3 of her doctors). I always loved hearing that story, because it read like the Brownings.
That first Christmas they were snowed in, and Grandma wasn't able to go out and get the shopping done for Christmas dinner. All she had were eggs, canned pineapple rings, and some sausage. She made a dinner, using red and green sprinkles on the pineapple rings, served the sausage and eggs and her famous fresh biscuits. And that has become our family traditional Christmas morning breakfast ever since.
When we went back to visit the 9-11 memorial some years ago, and to visit our son, then attending NYU Film School, my husband and I sat in the park, and yes, I could hear my grandfather's words echoing in the distance, bouncing off the faces of now-famous buildings, one of them the Flatiron Building. I felt the connection to my past, his past.
Maybe this year we'll leave up all our decorations until Easter, like we did one year, until my youngest burst into tears and told me he couldn't invite over his friends because “our Christmas Tree is still up.”
Yes, I am guilty of holding on too much. I never give up on a good story, or a memory. I never forget that who I am today is the result of those who came before me and who gave their life's stories, customs, and history.
But I don't have to worry about it today. I have a book to write, a book to finish, and it's a long time before Easter.
One of my favorite readings at this time of you, is a gift to you. Enjoy. May your Christmas be merry and bright, and your New Year sparkly and exciting. Thank you for traveling with me this year, and hope we stay connected in the years to come.
Excerpt, from The Velveteen Rabbit:
Christmas Morning For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand allabout it. "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?" "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.The Skin Horse Tells His Story "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him. There was a person called Nana who ruled the nursery. Sometimes she took no notice of the playthings lying about, and sometimes, for no reason whatever, she went swooping about like a great wind and hustled them away in cupboards. She called this "tidying up," and the playthings all hated it, especially the tin ones. The Rabbit didn't mind it so much, for wherever he was thrown he came down soft. One evening, when the Boy was going to bed, he couldn't find the china dog that always slept with him. Nana was in a hurry, and it was too much trouble to hunt for china dogs at bedtime, so she simply looked about her, and seeing that the toy cupboard door stood open, she made a swoop. "Here," she said, "take your old Bunny! He'll do to sleep with you!" And she dragged the Rabbit out by one ear, and put him into the Boy's arms. That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse. But very soon he grew to like it, for the Boy used to talk to him, and made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And they had splendid games together, in whispers, when Nana had gone away to her supper and left the night-light burning on the mantelpiece. And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy's hands clasped close round him all night long. And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy-so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail becoming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.
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One of my most memorable Christmases was one year when things were very tight, financially. I mean, it was so tight, I sold the kids on the fact that (and it's true) Christmas isn't about the presents, it's about being together. They took it well, and I'm not sure the younger ones understood, but my oldest two knew something was wrong.
What had started out to be a great lark, living up at our beautiful wine country property in an Airstream Trailer (yes I've done this before) with three kids and one on the way, who was born while we lived in the trailer, turned into more of an adventure than we'd anticipated. The older ones had a tent, a nice big one, with a zipper room divided in the middle for privacy. The baby slept with us in the trailer in his portable crib, and our toddler slept outside the door in a covered canvas room with a heater. It was precarious. We had to wait until our oldest finished his homework before we could fold the table down and make the bed we slept on. But children love adventure and camping, and so we went with that story.
It was to be temporary, idea born in the warm, early Fall, and by Thanksgiving, we'd enjoy a nice turkey dinner in the new home. After all, the structure was there, windows were in, but there were no walls, was no heat and no power or water. Just a few weeks of interior work to complete and we'd have a new comfortable house.
Our restored Victorian in Sebastopol was sold. We were waiting for a group of investors, who had purchased other properties from us, to pay us the large lump sum on an installment sale. We were continually assured it was coming, got numerous calls from the Title Co. asking all the right kinds of questions, like payoff figures and such, our conversations with the “group” were upbeat and happy that we would be in our new home soon.
And then all of a sudden, nothing. As a matter of fact, they stopped returning our calls completely. Finally we got the news: they had spent the money leveraging to buy something else that was such a good deal, they'd risk a lawsuit with us to go ahead with that other project. And they knew we were not very strong, financially, to be able to fight them. They owned our property, collected all the rents, and paid us nothing.
I'll never forget sitting down in the trailer, nursing my son, and wondering to myself how I'd gotten talked into this mess. We had four kids, including a newborn. Living in a trailer and a tent. All our money spent (huge lesson there on not counting your chickens), counting on very wealthy investors who owned city blocks in Marin and San Francisco (another lesson there about who you play with and watch when you get your wish), who changed their mind without regard for us or our family.
It all turned out okay. After 18 months and a lawsuit we were forced to borrow money from my parents to file, we prevailed. We did get paid back in full. Several people nearly lost their real estate licenses over the fraud against us. But during those long 18 months, we also survived as a family, and it motivated us to make some changes in the way we made decisions. Yes, you can call me stupid right now. But the lessons were life-changing, just as the experience of it was.
So what does this have to do with a crystal goblet?
I took the kids to San Francisco that year to look at the Christmas decorations, and to have hot chocolate, as was the custom in our family. Christmas Carol was playing, and indeed, I sort of felt like the Bob Cratchit family with lots of kids (all healthy, thankfully), celebrating Christmas with a lump of coal in my stocking. We walked into Neiman Marcus, which to this day is a store I still love, looking at the beautiful tree that used to be the City of Paris.
We used the rest room upstairs, which was right beside the credit office. I inquired as to the status of what I assumed was a closed account, and found out that was not the case. “No, Mrs. Hamilton, you have unused credit of $5000.”
We didn't spend nearly that. But it did save our Christmas. We bought toys, decorations and Christmas clothes, and slyly purchased gifts for each other. I spent the whole day there helping the kids buy things for each other and their grandparents.
You can say what you want about my money management. I'm guilty as charged. I've learned a lot since then. But that Christmas, I felt like I was overcoming the poverty of my circumstances. There just had to be a way, and I found one.
Before we left, I bought one extravagant thing for myself: the green crystal goblet. It has been my prized possession, to remind me, whether I drink water, eggnog or wine or juice out of it, that there are miracles out there. Sometimes you have to just make them up.
As Tiny Tim says:
God bless us, every one!
Well, it sure feels like Christmas when I listen to my beautiful book trailer, performed by my awesome narrator, J.D. Hart. And yes, that's his voice too. I couldn't be more excited bringing this story to you!!
Enjoy. We are live on KDP, Audible/iTunes and in print.
Posting a few things I enjoy listening to at Christmas. Love you all. May the spirit of Christmas stay in our hearts forever…
A special tribute from Scandanavia.
Two Steps, my favorite group, any time.
Two Steps, Thomas Bergersen – Benedictus (Two Steps From Heaven)
New Life, Thomas Bergersen
Thomas Bergersen – Colors of Love
The Breathless Choir (ad), but beautiful message
Christmas Piece, Thomas Bergersen.
The Breathless Choir (ad), but beautiful message (worth listening to again).
I have so many beautiful pictures I've taken from past trips to Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, and parts in between, and because everyone is so busy this time of year, just thought I'd send some eye candy and a short blog today. Sorry I'm late.
This year we didn't take our winter cruise. Last two times for long sea voyages were hard, especially hard on my husband. But both of us came home and were sick for nearly a month afterward. So, I longingly post some yummy pictures of our last two big ones, and a memory of one of the ones we took when the kids were little.
Spending Christmas away from home is always filled with an assortment of good and bad memories, sort of like a Christmas stocking: some things you love, some things you'll throw away, some things you'll consume, some things you'll quietly tuck away for later or re-gift, and some things you'll keep with you forever.
When we were pregnant with our first, we decided to go to Hawaii when I was nearly 8 months along. I had never been. I will never forget that feeling, driving (like my husband liked to do then, and still does), like a bat out of hell, up the highway to the Polynesian Cultural Center. The BeeGees were playing How Deep Is Your Love, which was still a new song at the time. We were holding hands, looking forward to the change that would ever effect our lives, and the miracle of new life, and incredibly thankful we had created a new little one. The family wasn't in favor of this Christmas vacation, but we knew that from that year on, our Christmases would forever be altered by the sound of children in our household. Every time I hear that song, I think of that afternoon, back before I knew anything at all about parenting (the joys and pain) and what the future would hold for us all.
|Miracle healings at Christmas|
Another memorable vacation at Christmas was a trip we took in the early 1990's to the Caribbean. We were to be on board ship to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A cruise line ship thought they were having a heart attack on board, and since the Captain couldn't raise anyone on an island port, drove the huge cruise ship up on the shore and beached it. Turned out the man wasn't having a heart attack, but had heartburn.
But our ship had to go retrieve the passengers and take them back to Florida. Problem was, we were already in the airport in Aruba, on a stopover. So they flew us to St. Lucia. I will never forget sitting in a sundress and flip flops on Christmas Eve, listening to an impromptu children's choir singing to us with a colorful Caribbean flair. Some of those kids were so into it, they got us all jumping around to carols such as Away In A Manger and Silent Night, and Oh Come All Ye Faithful, songs I certainly had never heard sung that way before. It was certainly something I will never forget.
Fast forward to our wandering the streets of Spain, Italy and Brazil. Well, what is there to say, but enjoy all the pictures.
I hope your travels at Christmas are fun, filled with warmth and love, family and memories. It is a celebration of a child's birth, and that new birth bringing with it love and peace to the whole world. It is a love story, after all.
Last two Christmases we've been on a cruise just prior to Christmas Day. What a treat that was to walk the streets in Spain, France, Brazil and Italy with many local bakers and craftsmen show off their wares. I've seen cakes and jellies and treats as well as ornaments I've never seen before or since.
Every year I enjoy seeing the posts on the lights and celebrations all over the world. Because I have international fans, I've been invited to view local celebrations of towns I've yet to visit. Once of my readers, Rise, is from Norway, from the town my Grandmother was born in: Bergen.
As I look at the stunning pictures, I love the use of all the colored lights, the fireworks and the sense of a community celebration we don't see here. We save the fireworks for the 4th of July. But why? Christmas here sometimes seems like one mad shopping adventure. I'd rather see lights, hear choirs and listen to wonderful Christmas music sung by children, bright lights and candles everywhere. To me, the celebration of Christmas is the celebration of the heart.
How perfect for a romance writer, right?
My children are grown, but I remember going to San Francisco when I was little, to look at the store displays, having hot chocolate at the St. Francis or the Fairmont – places my parents could never afford to stay. But they could buy me a $20 mug of hot chocolate and some treat.
I remember the time my oldest came running into the house. “Mom! Dad bought a scorched tree!” My husband regretted buying that flocked tree, and it was the tree from Hell as I picked up bits of white flocking all over the house that season. Yes, we still talk about it today, some 40 years later. There are some things a man just cannot outlive and this will be one of them.
I do miss my grandparents, on my father's side – so poor they drank Tang instead of orange juice and bought our gifts from the 10 Cent Store. We loved those little things anyway. I remember when one of my biggest treats from my mother's parents was to get a book of lifesavers – all ten kinds in one box! And maybe a package of chewing gum from the Wrigley's factory near Santa Cruz – where you could go to the factory and buy them in 10-packs cheap.
However we celebrate Christmas, it surely changes through all life's adventures. As I grew to adulthood and began to have children of my own it changed. All the holiday dinners I had for sometimes over 30 guests, and the tradition my parents set of inviting a Stanford student from another country to sit at our table, especially if they did not celebrate Christmas in their country. Our little piece of diplomacy to help heal the world. Share our family with others.
So that's what Christmas is for me. Sharing. Sharing the world and our place in it, our love of each other, our families. That is what the culture of Christmas for me. Celebrating a man who showed the ultimate and greatest love in the universe.
Be well. And let your love light shine.
Today we commemorate the death of President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963. This isn't the celebration it once was. I remember those days, when it was the “Land of Camelot” as they called it, the handsome president and his beautiful wife, someone we looked up to, even if we didn't vote for him initially. It was a different time and era in this country, and one I barely became part of. I was in high school when he was shot. I was in College when Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. It was a horrible time with lots of uncertainty. But we survived as a nation.
How soon we forget these things. I remember watching the funeral, sitting beside my mother, both of us in tears, especially when John-John saluted his father's casket.
But most people are surprised to learn that President John F. Kennedy formally recognized and created the U.S. Navy SEALs in 1962. While he didn't invent them, as is sometimes claimed, he was the first to sign into legislation the formal elite branch of the Navy that became the SEALs. Prior to that, SEALs had been known as UDT or “elite frogmen”, since World War II. Learning from some of the heartbreak of earlier beach invasions, under water demolition (UDT) groups were trained to remove some of the land mines and obstacles to future invasion landings. These men were in fact the early SEALs.
In 1962 President Kennedy outlined in his now-famous speech to Congress that he desired to implement an elite fighting force that was well-trained and ready to respond to any “hot spot” or emergency that developed that threatened to destabilize our interests or those of our allies, or American citizens. Most people remember the speech as mentioning “putting a man on the moon,” but he also talked about implementing the birth of the Navy SEALs. Kennedy was controversially interested in restructuring the military to make room for quick, unconventional forms of warfare, to augment and in some cases replace, the massive troop buildup and operations. He didn't create the SEALs, but he was the one who realized their importance and formalized their status and training, and helped gather the funding so the program could go forward and expand into what it is today. He had a vision for us all, some would say.
The two groups formed in 1962 later became 10, with other ancillary teams and crews of special operators from other branches, such that today we have arguably one of the best (not the only) highly trained elite fighting forces the world has ever seen. The gold standard.
You can read more history on the birth of the SEALs here. There is a great quote from Pierre Salinger, the John F. Kennedy biographer, part of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, I found fascinating.
The 1960's were a great time of political turmoil and upheaval in this country. Kennedy's presidency was questioned, frought with problems, and then untimely ended, ushering in another era we all endured: Viet Nam. Those of us who remember those days may find some similarities to events of today. But out of necessity, comes innovation. For a brief time we had Camelot. Kennedy's vision gave us two things: A man on the moon, and the U.S. Navy SEALs.