Author Archives: Sharon Hamilton
Author Archives: Sharon Hamilton
While I might dream about being in the company of some of my models (just for fun, mind you), like the gentleman here, my writing sisters are the ones who inspire me the most.
Being a writer today can be very lonely, but none of us achieve any degree of success without help from our other writing buddies, our families and friends, and other professionals in the business. It can be a long distance from a great review, or a huge pay day, and while I don't write for those things, they certainy spur me on and inspire me.
There are so many shiny objects out there, things that we want to try, things others have tried. And the constant rush and push to get the next book out. I have some friends who can do one book a month. I have some writer friends who are envious of those who can do this, and feel less for not being able to keep up that pace.
For me, it's all about reminding readers about my backlist between my new releases, and all the wonderful heroes I've fallen in love with when I wrote them. I can't think of doing anything more fun.
Thanks for being one of my readers!
I love the energy I get from collaborative efforts with other authors. I enjoyed our series in 2017 and 2018 with Sleeper SEALs, and now this year, we have the Second Wave of SEALs coming your way: Silver SEALs.
Cat Johnson's SEAL Strong, which launched last month, was a huge hit. And readers have loved SEAL Love's Legacy as well. Thank you all for your support and for loving my books. I truly had a blast writing this particular one – something I've wanted to do since reading Suzanne Brockman's The Admiral's Bride. It was the image of an older hero, who was a friend of the heroine's father, falling in love with the daughter that has haunted me for years. Thank you, Suzanne!
And I like writing curvy girls. I wasn't sure how it would go, but last year, with the Bone Frog Brotherhood Series, I began that venture, and it paid off big time. Readers loved it. So, I'm continuing on along this vein, and am announcing here that I have a new book coming out in April!
It's Brandy and Tucker's third story, a full length novel, releasing in April. I'm writing this story now and loving it.
I enjoy writing older heroes, with flaws just like all men, and women with realistic hangups, coping with society's values on beauty and “perfect 10” syndrome. The world is made up of millions of those people who don't look like a 10, and yet, in their hearts, they are.
While you're waiting for this book in April, don't forget about the other Silver SEALs, continuing on with MaryAnn Jordan's SEAL Together, which looks like a fabulous read.
And if you like another great wounded hero story, there's always my True Navy Blue: Zak. This story was based in part on a true story of a Navy SEAL who lost an eye in combat and re-qualified and re-joined the teams.
And who could forget Fredo's Dream? One of my most beloved SEALs, who has a story of his own – not about being wounded, but about grappling with his own worth as a man when he finds out that he cannot father children. You don't want to miss this tear-jerker!
Be sure to sign up for my Newsletter, and my Rockin Romance Reader Group, where we have fun, and you get to learn about all the new things coming your way! Can't wait to share with you!
In the meantime, have a LOVELY Valentine's Day! Know that I love you all! Look for this paranormal bundle to go on deep discount sale Monday!
I loved writing SEAL Love's Legacy. It's been a trope I've wanted to write for some time: older guy, who is insecure about how strong he is after 20 years in the military, and comes up against a rather plain school teacher, on the plus size, and falls hard. I love all the healing, redeeming qualities of this trope.
I also added the story arc that she's also the daughter of my hero's best friend, who died while serving with him overseas. She has memories of him bringing her father home, and he doesn't see the woman before him as the pictailed freckled daughter he consoled years ago.
One of the things I've gotten more comfortable writing is unique and diverse characters. I try to show different backgrounds and nationalities, which is accurate when describing the SEAL Teams. I also like to show bad boys who find love in spite of their mistakes and some of their pasts. Second chances is another topic I used in my SEAL My Love book. But this one really spoke to me as an older hero, finding true love with a woman he had to wait for–after deciding he didn't need a woman at all, to now discovering he wanted that kind of a life.
Like every book, I use things from my personal past! We had a chicken named Blanche, who was mis-named because indeed we thought he was a pullet. Turned out to be a very nasty rooster, who tried to dig his spurs into me any chance he got. I had a gardener who helped me weed, and he was always afraid of our old sheep, but it turned out to be the rooster he had to run away from!
This couple could easily take a second book, which is another thing I'm considering doing, going back and making second books out of the first ones, giving further updates to old stories.
Here's a nice excerpt I especially liked. Shows a little bit of the early tension between these two. Enjoy!
“Mimi ripped herself out of bed, grabbed the phone and dashed into Garrett’s bedroom without knocking. Startled, he came to his feet immediately as she showed him the phone.
In his big hands, the screen lit up again.
Tried calling. Help me escape.
Garrett whispered, “Ask her where she is. How can we contact her other than text?”
Mimi did so. They got the answer.
Somewhere in Oregon. The People Farm. I’m watched. Sorr—
The communication stopped. Several times, Mimi tried to get a response.
“Should I call her?”
“She said not to. Don’t want to tip them she’s trying to reach out to you.”
Mimi then noticed he was wearing his drawstring pajama bottoms in red, white, and blue flags.
But. He. Was. Shirtless.
His hair was disheveled, going in several directions, his beard uncombed, and his neck and cheeks unshaven with salt and pepper stubble showing. His massive shoulders and upper arms formed a mountainous protective barrier between her body and the bed from which he’d just come.
His eyes began to roam down her long-sleeved nightie that she’d unbuttoned quite low and was dangerously gaping. Her legs and thighs were protected from his gaze by the white cotton fabric, but it wasn’t flannel. It was fairly see-through. And her hair was thrashing around her face and neck like a wild horse’s mane. She could see the view wasn’t unpleasant to him.
Then, just as fast as the spark came, it died. His eyes cooled. He looked to the side and clenched the fist not holding her cell, extending the phone back to her.
“We’re gonna have to wait until she messages again. She knows you’re willing to talk. Now that she has someone to communicate with, she’s going to call back, unless this is a hoax,” he whispered. Toward the end of his sentence his eyes softened again as he quickly snuck a peek at her lips.
“Even if it is a hoax, she—or whomever—will call back.”
“Exactly what I was thinking,” he murmured back carefully.
But Mimi knew exactly what he was thinking, and she was right there with him.
She pushed the phone back to him. “I think it would be better if you kept it. I nearly didn’t wake up the first time she texted me. I don’t trust myself.”
Their fingers touched around the phone. “I’d offer to keep you company, or perhaps you could stay here, and I’d make sure you woke up, but then, I don’t trust myself, either.”
His eyes drew her in. Something lonely and long-overdue brewed there. Her heart began to race, sending lightning throughout her chest, her midriff, her thighs, and every place in between. Her desire for him had begun to burn in ways she could not ignore any longer.
He was looking at her mouth. Their faces got closer and closer until his lips brushed across hers and then stopped, pulling slowly away.”
I've been blessed with two adventures to warm country: one to Hawaii in December and one to Florida and the Caribbean this month. And now I come back to the rain.
The trade-off is that I enjoyed myself, spending much-needed time with other author friends and readers, and family, despite the fact that I didn't get as much work done — okay, being totally honest, got practically no work done. I should know better. And the older I get the more it happens that way.
But I come back refreshed and anxious to dive into my writing. Just so happens I also had a ton of promotion to do as well, which is a little stressful for me. It isn't one of my strong suits.
But, like old friends, my hero and heroine waited for me to continue to polish up my next story, which I love. And it's coming easily. Got the days lined out and my grid of goals and my brand new office, which is very inspiring to me.
No pictures for this post because once I came back, my iPhone quit updating. Time for another dreaded visit to the Apple Store. As I've said before, the waves part when I come in, and suddenly the salespeople don't make eye contact. I think they're saying, “How can she make a living using computers when she gets so mixed up?” when I leave.
The nice thing is while change is disruptive, it's also stimulating and gives me the opportunity to grow. I might learn something about this syncing some day, who knew? And it's perfect that my brand new planner is late in arriving — the one that's supposed to keep me focused?
Oh I do love shiny objects and windmills. But I'm in the home stretch and time to put on my big panties. My bed is the most comfortable one I've ever had. The apartment is brand new. My desk is uncluttered (yes I have a few unopened boxes), but there's light there, and a door I can close.
The most valuable possession I have right now is my concentration. And, of course, the love of my writing. It is the Happiest Place On Earth.
One of my favorite finds this year was this book, and I bought 5 copies I was so inspired. I sent one to each of my daughters and daughter-in-law for reading to their kids. I don't think we can underestimate the power and lifesaving force of books and reading.
It's like air, love, frienship – but it has all those things and more. Enjoy!
Are you one of those people who buys about ten planners and by the end of February, hasn't kept up with any of them? That's me. I've started the New Year super organized, and started the New Year hap-hazardly, and honestly, it makes no difference. Now, doing a statistical analysis would take further planning, so maybe I'm right and maybe I'm wrong.
I'm starting to get sick each time I see one of these new planners advertised, like I should be doing something I'm not. I love to create. I don't love to plan. First, I'd have to figure out what type of person I am. That can be painful. It can cause sleepless nights.
I have my author planner for 2018 with no entries in it past April. My QuoVitas was the same way, nothing posted since February. But when I moved, I located many planners that had nothing written in them. I reminded my husband that some of them were so old they could fit this year's dates. All I'd have to do was scratch out the year on the front and I'd have a beautiful rare vintage planner no one else was using this year.
I've spent nearly $100 every year on my Erin Condron planners, which I dearly love. And I have three years worth of blank ones so precious I never used them! OMG how beautiful they are. Some with a custom photograph or inspirational saying.
But, when it comes down to it, planning for me has become a job, because I wasn't sure exactly what I needed to do to achieve those lofty goals. Then I read something recently that said we should have big goals, and aim for them, not plan for them. We can execute training for how to do various parts of our work/responsibilities, but “aiming” has become almost a dirty word these days of highly digitized and over Uber “success” systems. As if aiming isn't enough.
It is for a sharpshooter. It is for a bowman or for a pub dart player. But that also assumes some detail work, like practice.
So maybe planning is really practicing for success. I become a better writer by writing more books, not less. By reading more, not less. By dreaming more, not less. But no amount of planning will help me when I have those weeks when I can't write a shopping list. Or how I take it when my husband explains to me in great detail how his shirt wasn't folded correctly (it sounds worse than it is–NOT COMPLAINING!).
So, here's what I'm aiming for this year:
What about you? What are you aiming for this year?
There are a lot of wonderful things I've discovered this Christmas. Some are gifts from others, some are gifts I'm giving this holiday season. Some are just wonderful discoveries I've made in December of 2018. I have a lot to say about what's coming next year, but for now, I just wanted to show you what has recently gotten me excited.
The Wonky Donkey children's book. Get it and read it to your kids or grandkids. It will have you laughing.
My new Hawaii Fire bag, made from old jackets and tarps from Hawaii Fire, lined with Hawaiian print.
My JamsWorld patches to make a patchwork quilt.
My new All For Love journal from my narrator, the wonderful J.D. Hart. Thank you, J.D.
My new Blind For Love tote bag I purchased in Hawaii. Love it!
My new Brighton Purse with Love and a heart on the front.
But most of all, I've just been excited for all the wonderful family time I've had. Everyone is healthy (relatively) and happy, though much of my immediate family is separated. I'm grateful for family, for all the little ones coming along I get to make new memories with, for my new apartment (we actually got to sleep on our new bed last 2 nights!). I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Hawaii with our daughter and the grands.
It's been an abundant year in all respects. So, I leave you with my favorite passage from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco, which reminds me so much of the spirit of Christmas:
“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.”
Hope your Christmas is the best ever, and that you remember all those who love you and whom you love, with great abandon. Remember, no one ever said you could love too much!
I'm sitting here eating Peppermint Chip Junior Mints while it's raining and grey outside. I miss Hawaii. I'm not glum, but I miss the sun and warm balmy weather, the water, the beach, the sunsets and the music at night. We liked to leave our room slider open to the lush forest of palm trees and sound of surf below.
The Christmas spirit is all around, and we're enjoying all the lights. The neighbor next door did lights on a huge tree in his front yard. I love it at night when I sit with my interior lights off and revel in the red, green and yellows bouncing off the walls. The rain makes tiny marbles of light against the window.
I enjoy my bed of flanel dog sheets and the memory foam pad. I like the way our heater woreks. But it's still not Hawaii.
It's a nice backdrop while I wrap presents I'm going to send back east tomorrow. I have catchup to do. Emails to finish and backattter to revise. It's a reminder that life goes on after everything. Even Christmas won't last. Just like the Hawaiian vacation didn't last.
But I still have the memory of the days when I was so excited to open the presents I could hardly sit to eat my breakfast. Just like I recall those Aloha days. They are with me forever. I bring them forward. I will see the christmas glow in my grandchildren's eyes and think about that as I wrap and remember. That's what grandmothers do. They remember the stories to tell the llittle ones where they came from, and what is possible.
It's kind of a cool job, isn't it?
I'm writing this as the sun is beginning to rise. I'm one of the first ones on the beach this morning, because I'm meditating, and now I'm with all of you. That's how important my writing is. I want to connect with you.
Our family took a vacation to the Disney Aulani resort on O'ahu, and I'm still sane! Having such a good time, I might not come back! We had a nice sunset dinner last night, the kids at the Auntie B's shack (until they called and wanted to be released). We took pictures, laughed, ordered those frozen wonderful coconut/pineapple/run drinks I can't pronounce and never hope to spell. We watched airplanes appear out of thin air as they emerged from the sky on their way to a safe landing in Honolulu. I wave to one right now. The pilots didn't flap their wings. Don't they know who I am? (that's a joke).
This year has been a lot of packing, moving, traveling and trying new things. It was a last-minute decision to come here. I've forgotten how wonderful the land of Aloha is. The first time I came, I was 7 months pregnant with D.J., our first born. Then I was pregnant with Christen the next time, and found out later we got pregnant here with Jaime. I guess you'd say Hawaii has been inspirational for our family.
I think it's safe to say beaches are important to me. The waves hit the shore and turn rock to sand by their repeated efforts over the centuries. The white sand feels soothing between my toes. It's a place for lovers, for loners, for fisherman and for partygoers, as well as normal folks that turn into lobsters or crispy raisins. It harbors fish of all kinds, plantlife and covers up centuries of history, both good and bad deeds. Long before we had airplanes or rail or cars, it was our primary mode of easy transportation. Cultures were discovered and melded with other cultures, worlds once isolated were connected and made part of the patchwork of humanity.
Beaches to me mean something new is brewing, something will emerge, drenched in the healing waters, and will come toward me and fill my soul. I could never discover all of the beaches in the world, even navigate all the oceans. Beaches are for children and that first time experience of seeing and feeling warm water while being safely tucked in a loved-ones' arms, or their tiny hand encrusted in our mother's. We are introduced to the water like it was an old friend, or sacred ritual. It remains that to me all these years later.
I'm overcome as I see little ones arrive here this calm morning, couples walking, families taking pictures and the staff readying the paddleboards and catamaran for people to use. I see such a beautiful life as I remember all those lovely beach days with my grandfather at Santa Cruz (well, specifically Rio Del Mar), and the fireworks at Capitola when you could lay on the warm sand and watch the sky explode into millions of bursts of light. I remember putting sunscreen on my aging grandmother who only had the use of one arm, and I remember being yelled at because I wanted to stay in the water all day long. I remember the first ride I took with Don when I was pregnant with D.J., we drove up to the North Shore, the whole area green and lush, the BeeGees singing, “How Deep Is Your Love,” and I was feeling it right then, going to be a mother for the first time and loving every minute of it.
I've loved the pirate tales in Antigua, Nelson's Dockyard, and the little houses I want to rent some day to write for a whole month straight. Having a Cheeseburger In Paradise, a few beers and watching the sunset.
How lucky I am to have these memories. How lucky I am to be anticipating many more. The Land of Aloha is part of who I am. I hope it will always stay that way.
What about you? Do you have a Land of Aloha you escape to when you seek that re-leveling in your life? I'd love to hear about it. Honest.olgu5DpSQdqQnOJV7GH6%Q
Are you a fruitcake lover? I have to admit I am. But like many others, there are parts of the fruitcake I love and parts, well, I try to avoid, even pick around. I love the candied fruit and the walnuts, raisins and other spices. If the bread is soggy, I am not a fan. If it's a little dry (not too dry) I can nibble on it all day. I can't sit down and make a full-on dessert of it, though.
There are parts of this business that are just like that. The writing can be long and luxurious some days, other days, it's like clipping your toenails–something that just has to be done so we can meet our deadlines. Writers are a funny lot, and we think that our next great book will come when we are most inspired. Well, it certainly helps, but, like fruitcake, sometimes our favorite isn't the readers' favorite, or sometimes a book will take a second round to get discovered months, even years later. Parts of each book are favorites to some, and not others. Duh. I wish I'd gotten this a lot earlier in my career.
I've learned to experiment with tropes, locations, level of sex scenes and action sequences. Thank God not everyone loves all the same things! And the beauty of writing Indie is that we can test the market, instead of go entirely on what publishing professionals deem worthy. That takes a layer of stress off the writer, but it can also wind up getting him or her into a writing ditch with a series that later has to be abandoned or scrubbed, or re-written. And any of those is fine. Don't we learn most from our mistakes? I learned long ago not to chase trends in anything, no matter what the business, unless we want to be chasing windmills. And (I know it's overused) even a stopped watch is right 2 times out of every day.
I think most readers like a wide variety of genres and tropes. They love to laugh, cry, and even screw up their noses in parts, or hold their breath. But romance readers love the completion to a Happily Ever After. Sometimes it wraps up quickly at the end, and sometimes it follows in chunks, building the anticipation followed by the HEA.
And don't you change what you want to read from time to time? Even long-loved books I go to over and over again — I always tell people my favorite pleasurable reading makes me feel smarter, when I'm in awe of the writing craft, like with Diana Gabaldon's books. Sometimes I read in my genre, and sometimes I want to go the opposite. I'll go from sweet to smut in a heartbeat. There's always something every book has to offer. I appreciate what the author is trying to do, and how he/she crafts her book for a desired effect. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I can't figure it out, sometimes I don't want to figure it out and just let the enjoyment enhance my day, but I always love the journey.
Some writers fear reading other authors might inadvertently copy something they shouldn't. Exception to that for me is reading craft books, or research books, which I'm robbing all the time! But most smart authors have discovered the art of reading more, because it is part of their job. Like anything, it requires sometimes that we create a new habit, even if we are born with some form of dyslexia, like I have. We can reverse the effect and form a new habit just by doing it. And, like fruitcake, some books really pack a punch, and others we wade through.
Learning not to read critically has helped me, too. Looking for things I love instead of what I don't, makes me a better reader. Who said I was the Queen of all things SEALs or Military or Paranormal? (No one ever). I learn how other authors describe scenes, heroes or heroines (in all genres), and how they write dialogue, as a pattern. Like a quilter, we might make the same pattern, but the design will look different in the finished product. Plus, reading is my other way of walking with my readers, by taking the journey right alongside them. Writers buy lots of books.
I never want to stop growing. Just like taking Tucker for a walk, some days he meets friends, like Mika (the Great Dane puppy) or Bean (Golden puppy), other days he wants to chase the little yap dogs here and it's all I can do to hold onto him. No two walks are alike on any given day. The morning walk is different even than the afternoon or evening walk. But Tucker gets socialized, and I am along for the ride, enjoying the good parts and controlling the dangerous ones. Thank goodness we have the options we have in reading romance today!
And, unlike other trends in our world, the world of reading will never go out of style. Now, that's a windmill I will never stop chasing!
Most of you know I'm known for my SEALs. And a lot of you know I started writing thinking I would be a paranormal writer. Our house had burned down, and I was taking a break from all the high pressure sales in Real Estate to just take some time to breathe, and then decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. All my suits were smoke-filled or burned, I was living in the apartment, at the same address we'll now be moving into 10 years later. Time has come full circle.
We rebuilt the house and loved spending our years there, re-establishing some of the gardens that never got to their original glory, getting back into vegetable gardening after a three year hiatus. After all, the place was a construction zone and when we moved in, it was still not finished. But I had space again!
So, when we decided to sell, put the money in the bank, and downsize, getting our Diesel pusher, we wanted a home base in Sonoma County so we could feel good about staying here while coming back to visit our 3 grandkids and get our banking, taxes and other things done. Don wanted to fully retire from real estate. We want and still plan to travel.
It made the most sense to remodel one of our 4-plex units we still owned, and so we've been working on that since September. It looks like sometime the end of this month or in early December we'll finally be in! Everything will be brand new: added a bathroom, and divided the space to give me a small office (I can close the door!), new kitchen and laundry area. It spilled over to remodeling the studio next door when we lost the tenant. And we did some upgrades for the upstairs unit, so everything on that building will look pretty darned close to new. Palm trees, bright colors, a nice yard area for Tucker, and voila!
Most people would wonder how I could move from nearly 5000 SF on 60 acres to a 900 SF apartment. The answer to that is, I did it before after the house fire, and I knew I could do it again, this time with everything new.
Living in the bus has been like camping out, and I haven't minded it a bit. But I'm ready for a real place with a foundation. We've met some wonderful people here, who travel full time. These aren't folks who live in a coach because they can't afford anything else–many of them are just like us, they've sold the big place with all the upkeep requirements, and trade in the fixit weekends for travel. It's a very valid decision. I haven't talked to anyone who regrets it. We've met a former astronaut, former DOJ and Defense officials, a symphony conductor and his wife (and dogs), several teachers, several retired business owners who could never get away from their businesses until they sold everything. I also like the idea of moving between weather patterns we don't want to live in. Everyone will tell you about their home town, and everyone says, “It's great, except for XXX or XXX.” Well, we get to move when that happens.
California is changing, and no, I won't go on a rant here except to say that the expense of living here is not equal to the quality of life. Don and I bought our first house before we started a family, even had an investment property when I was pregnant. My daughter, who has a Masters Degree, can only afford a condo. When you travel, you not only have the expense of the travel, but you still have to make the upkeep and mortgage payments, so we didn't travel much when we were in the thick of growing our real estate business.
Now, most my best friends are writers, or some of my fans. Through them, I've gotten to experience lots of wonderful small towns and areas in parts of the US and Canada I never knew about. We'll be doing some investing, buying places we can either Air BNB or own as a multiple unit, that will pay for itself, while we have a base to stop by and stay awhile, hopefully debt-free. I love the flexibility of that. I believe in investing in real estate, I just don't believe in being a slave to it any longer. There are things way more important.
So what does this have to do with writing a favorite book? I started writing Guardian Angels when I lived alone in the apartment ten years ago because I saw angels all around me and wondered what it would be like if a Guardian fell in love with her human charge. I thought several movies with that theme really botched the storyline up so bad, I wanted to write something I'd like to see as a movie, or a good story in book form. And, since I'd always been a fan of Anne Rice and later JR Ward, I wanted to explore vampires because I'd fallen in love with their worlds. But again, I wanted to make them in my own image of what the experience would be like if I fell in love with one.
I think it was one of my first RWA conferences when I met JR Ward, and she said, in front of the room of fledgling authors, “Is there anything so alpha or sexy as a big, dark, male vampire who has all sorts of super powers?” I was hooked. I went back to California and started to write Honeymoon Bite. The next year, I wrote Mortal Bite. And after attending another event, an editor told me vampires were dead. I was crushed.
“Write a hero.”
“They are heroes.”
“No, I mean, write a hero like a sports hero, a policeman, military man, firefighter.”
“How about a Navy SEAL?” My son had started his rotations on his SEAL Teams three years prior.
Well, the rest is history. But now, I'm circling back to the books I first wrote when I was in that apartment (upstairs that time), and wrote those “big, dark, huge, vampire males”. And I've loved it. I've had fans who have waited nearly 6 years for my new vampire book. I know in my heart of hearts that it's worth the wait.
Even though it's a novella, I loved writing this book, because it's firmly planted in me the fact that next summer there will be another book, Midnight Bite, Book 4 in the Golden Vampires of Tuscany.
No, I'm not giving up SEALs. I'm giving you the chance to explore something darker and supernatural, to stretch your boundaries. I hope you trust me enough as an author to do so. And I can't wait to start on the new book.
Here's an excerpt:
Lionel Jett had always thought Christmastime was more about angels, than celebrating vampires and their vampire society. But the emotional responses within his soul ticked like a timebomb. On the one hand, the beautiful candlelit services, held at night so he could attend, were striking and revived in him his higher calling to protect the innocent and all things good and pure. To eliminate evil.
Christmas celebrated the birth of an innocent, after all—a birth that would forever change humanity. Mortals believed that a woman conceived a child without having sex. Well, Lionel had seen many things in his three hundred years of life, and he couldn’t rule out that this legend was actually fact. For if that occurred, then the possibility of redemption for himself, existed, as well as the chance for peace amongst the two vampire species.
His thick frame was forced to hunch a bit, his shoulders rounded so he could fit into the pews made for much smaller beings, mostly mortal. The wooden, hand-carved benches weren’t constructed for huge, dark coven vampires, unless they were designed to say, “you are not welcome.”
The Gregorian chants reverberated throughout the halls of the chapel where Marcus had first met his fated mate, Ann. Lionel watched a woman and her children light tiny, red votive candles in the alcove at the side. The light made their faces glow with that effect only mortals had. It was as if the goodness in them showed through their transparent skin, laced with the life-giving blood of their species, an elixir to some, and the highly prized substance others would die to protect.
Of all their traits, mortals’ best gift to the world was that of love and innocence. Though some of their race claimed to be warriors, they would never be matches for the evil likes of the strongest dark covens.
But their God had told mortals they could achieve anything if they had faith. They had the gift of belief because their lives were so short. Of course, they believed in miracles. Unfortunately, they’d never live long enough to see true miracles or the way the world really was.
He could sign on to safeguard those ideas. It was something that spoke to him as a true warrior. He’d be able to defend those who had no clue they needed protecting. And he might die doing so, without any observance on their part.
Mortals were a strange combination of emotions and traits. They scared easily. They sometimes maintained bravado, like the David and Goliath story from their bible. They were underdogs, but like in the beloved story, they never stopped fighting though the odds were against them. They sometimes allowed anger to interrupt their lifeline or justified its benefits when it really never helped them.
But their most stunning quality was that of compassion. On that, they could teach the world. They had the gift of living a life untainted, if they so choose. Trusting in their God when, in actuality, their unseen vampire brethren were responsible for much of their safety. They believed in the laws of nature more than the laws of vampire. Lionel found this humorous.
The delicate children’s choir made their way down the center aisle, each child holding an inverted paper cup with a white candle stuck into the base, so their little hands would be protected from any dripping wax. Their voices were soothing. He could make out every one of them, and it left him gentled, like listening to a babbling brook with water flowing over pebbles beneath the current. Each child had a distinctive series of tones, sometimes with thoughts laced in there, if the mind read was strong with them.
He remembered the night they said mass for Maria Monteleone, the only woman in Lionel’s life he ever loved. He’d gladly foregone any chance at having a sexual relationship with her just to be in her presence and had begged her to live on after the death of her mortal husband, to take the turning late in her life. It was always a difficult decision for every Golden, all born as mortal children, and given the option to take the turning ceremony beyond after puberty. Most chose to live a life of immortality. But she, like her predeceased husband before her, refused, smiled, touched his cheek with her dainty lavender scented palm, and shared a tear with him.
“Lionel, my trusted protector, I know what’s in your heart. I am given life enough with the knowledge that it’s there. No need for us to speak of it or demonstrate it to anyone but ourselves. Our eternal secret.”
He’d wanted to take her in his arms, but he would never shatter what they had. He was the only one she would take on as a protector, and the family knew Lionel would die doing so, if necessary. It was beautiful Maria who had saved his life by asking he and his two brothers be made vampire when she found all them left for dead after an attack by a dark coven lord who had obliterated their family.
The elder Monteleones had decided a trusted dark would do the turning, so that there would always be distance between Maria and her dear Lionel. He always wondered if she’d argued for another choice for him. Had she desired he be made in her own image or requested she be his maker? That question haunted Lionel for centuries.
He was there when she married Marcus and Paolo’s father, was there as she bore him the dozen children, and as she continually turned down her husband’s request to turn together. As a faithful husband, he dutifully remained at her side, mortal, sharing their short love and family.
Lionel was with her as her mortal life left her, on a starlit evening when the real stars were in her eyes, until they became fixed on him and then floated away. Like a piece of tissue paper, her spirit was gone, to become one with her God of Humans and her Mother Nature.
The hole in his heart was still the largest pain in his life. There wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t wonder what would have happened if he’d chosen to take a more active role in that relationship with her or could have fought stronger for what he knew was something like an inter-species fating that never could be consummated.
He looked up at the bleeding figure of Christ nailed to a wooden cross, and he understood the man’s pain, the regrets he might have had, his need to protect and love his flock, and to die for them. The miracle had been sent, only to have the evil factions of the mortal crowd kill him off. He walked amongst his people understanding this, all the while he remained on earth.
Lionel hoped that he still lived somewhere they called Heaven. For he and his vampire brothers and sisters, death was usually just the end of a long, long life. There was no Heaven. There was no happily ever after in the clouds that sent rain and wind and sometimes covered the sun and the moon. It was just death, with nothing beyond.
And yet, as he listened to the beautiful chanting and allowed the scents of mortals to envelop him, he felt the heat of their bodies, and some of their thoughts and worries. He’d like to pretend he believed in a time that would last, where everything would be perfect and not end. Where love, like the love he had for Maria, would reign eternal.
He was hopeful. It was a silly thought, but it was something that warmed him from the inside, as if he was a mortal again, as if he still held that innocent light inside.
The wedding feast had begun. It was humorous that the Monteleones made a great show of eating to excess, though Lionel knew they’d be sick as dogs afterward. But they were stubborn about their secrecy, and as long as it was a mixed crowd of both trusted mortals and vampires of both species, the ruse would be continued. He stood with his arm around young Lucius while they watched his father, the handsome Paolo, and his new bride, Carabella, dance to the alluring viola music around a huge firepit stoked with logs the size of most humans. Paolo’s face was filled with the mirth Lionel had always envied.
Out of the blue, Lucius asked his question. “Do you miss your brother?”
Jeb had traced the dark coven lord, Dag, to a desert somewhere on the other side of the globe, to end him, saving Lucius’ father’s life at the cost of his own.
“Of course, young prince. But his time had come. He’d had a wonderful and exciting life, keeping all you lot safe so your family can save the world. Don’t you know that?”
Lucius thought about that for a short time. His six years was not commensurate with his knowledge of the ways of the world. He’d seen a lot in his brief time as son to one brother, only to find out he belonged to the other.
“Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone?”
“Careful, young Lucius. I am bound to tell the truth, always.”
“I know it. But I want to tell you anyway.”
The boy’s eyes followed his new stepmom and his father across the ampetheater. Lionel remembered days when there were dark coven sacrifices held in this space. He remembered the blood rituals of those difficult times, shortly before Maria’s boys were grown. Although he was not sure, some of his relatives might have lost their lives in this very place. He shook off the vision and answered the boy. “You can certainly trust in my confidence.”
“I don’t miss my mother. I like that Cara is going to be my new mother. I think she’ll bring me a little brother or sister.”
Lionel was struck with this thought. Cara had been made, and the turning had taken place, which wasn’t always successful, just before her mortal death. Paolo had given her his own blood. Even so, he wasn’t sure Cara and Paolo could have offspring.
Lucius looked up at him. “Am I evil for saying this?”
Lionel knelt, placing his plate-sized hands on Lucius’ forearms and elbows, his face eye-level with the boy. “You are very lucky, young princeling. Your mortal aunt was forgiven for your mother’s demise because she protected all of you in that action. Maya would have not been the kind of mother you deserve. You deserve—”
He saw a group of young Goldens arrive, all of them in their teens and early twenties. Some had taken the turning, but several were clearly still mortal. He understood them to be friends since childhood.
As the group parted, some took to the dance floor. A tall dark-haired beauty swayed to the music, engaging the troupe of fiddlers who enjoyed her sultry dance moves. She was a curiously carefree mortal woman and Lionel couldn’t take his eyes off her. She threw her head back, swung her hips from side to side and sent her light, peach-colored, mortal arms reaching out to the sky. She pulled up her long curls, holding them atop her head as she swiveled her hips and turned in his direction.
When their eyes met, her mouth dropped open and she became motionless, though the lively music continued behind her.
Lionel’s heart leapt from his chest. Grateful she was not yet turned, he did not have to make some excuse if she heard the kettledrum in his chest that pumped his life force into overdrive. He resisted the urge to run to her, pick her up and carry her away, where he could satisfy all his questions.
Was this woman Maria, come back to life after three hundred years? The Maria he first knew before her marriage, her family, and her death?
The woman who stood across the bonfire from him looked identical to Maria.
Lucius wiggled free as Lionel had gripped his arms and gave his young charge welts.
“I’m sorry, son. I just thought I saw something. Forgive me if I hurt you.”
Lucius remained two steps away from him, watching, as Lionel rose to full height, slowly uncoiling his enormous body. His mouth dry, his fangs aching, his mind reeled from the erotic thoughts that came at him like a firehose.
All too suddenly, she was gone. She’d pulled a brightly colored shawl over her head and neck and ran into the heavy foliage at the edge of the clearing.
Lucius turned to see what he was focusing on.
“The young woman who was dancing over there, she should not have gone into the forest alone. I fear for her life,” he told his charge.
Lucius nodded. “Then go get her. Protect her, Lionel—or—” he peered up at him with a question on his face— “don’t you want to?”
“It isn’t that, but I’m to stay and protect you.”
This part was true. He caught the attention of his younger brother, Hugh—“huge” as he was known to the ladies he bedded—and angled his head towards the woods. Hugh had a lapse in judgment and traced, instead of running like a mortal. Lionel scanned the crowd, and no one seemed to have noticed.
What am I looking for, brother? Hugh asked telepathically from behind the wooded surround.
“The spitting image of Maria Monteleone. Tell me it isn’t so, brother. I pray to god she’s safe, but I also pray it isn’t her,” he whispered.
“What?” asked Lucius.
“Sorry, I was giving instructions to Hugh.”
Seconds later, a group of the young Goldens came screaming from the woods, followed by a dark vamp dressed in black rags. He stopped at the site of the campfire. His flesh peeled, and part of his face had been scratched off. His tongue hung limply, dripping bloody saliva.
The fiddle music stopped as several males from the partygoers came within feet of his disgusting frame. Several in the crowd began to moan, and there were a few suppressed screams. Precious seconds passed while the dark vamp and his would-be attackers held the standoff. Lionel scanned the young Goldens and didn’t see any sign of the young Maria look-alike.
The dark vamp began to grin, his chest heaving. He fingered something around his neck Lionel had missed. It was the colorful shawl the young Golden had been wearing just moments before.
Lionel didn’t have time to look for his brother. He traced to the creature, hoisting him high up into the sky and tearing his head from his body out of eyesight of the crowd below. He threw the remnants of the vamp’s torso into another bonfire he found several miles away, at a distant farm. Before he let the body loose, he removed the shawl and stuffed it into his shirt.
Damages, brother? Are you there?
All is well, Lionel. She is alive, and safe. He was a rogue no coven to back him up. But it has us all shook.
He won’t be back, Lionel told his brother.
He traced to the edge of the celebration, then walked through dense foliage toward the circle of fire. They had brought the young Golden toward the heat, and a group of elder men surrounded her, so he could not see her fate. As he pressed himself towards the center, he could see the ugly, bloody bite on her neck and the rivulets of dark ooze descending down her chest, meeting between her breasts. Her eyes were dazed as she rolled her head back and cried.
Paolo was there, giving her first aid. Lionel sat next to her mother, who brought warm compresses and was whispering questions.
“Will she be infected, Paolo? She is still mortal and a virgin. Will this affect—?”
“No, Freya. She’s intact. He didn’t do a blood rape. She’s intact.”
“Oh, thank God,” the woman sighed, leaning into Lionel’s chest. Paolo gave him a frown.
“I have Lucius,” said Hugh from the back of the crowd.
Freya’s daughter stubbornly righted herself and accepted the salve that was applied to her neck taken from the kit Paolo carried with him 24/7. Her eyes swung around, perusing the crowd until she saw Lionel again, and their stares locked.
Her gaze lowered slightly, looking at something on Lionel’s chest.
“He’s gone, Madame,” he told her. “He will no longer trouble you, or any of us.”
But she was still peering at his chest. Looking down, he saw the remnants of her flowered shawl sticking out from the buttons on his white shirt. He drew it out, damp from the mixture of sweat and bloody detritus. He extended his arm and handed it to her.
She didn’t look at the shawl. As she grabbed the cloth, her eyes were fixed on Lionel like he was her lifeline, her future.
He was instantly hit with the cold facts of their state. She would most likely be not his lifeline, but a straight ticket to Hell itself.
If I don't talk to you before, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and the start of your Holiday Season. May your joy be overwhelming, your feasting to excess, and may you love with wild abandon!
I started doing NaNoWriMo back in 2012. I attended the Night of Writing Dangerously in San Francisco for two years straight. I learned to write with people talking all around me, coming up and interrupting my flow. I learned to write a sex scene at a table with 8 other writers all writing sex scenes, and having someone look over our shoulders and read out the words occasionally! I learned to write in coffee shops with other distractions. Wrote with high school kids, grannies and everyone in between–even with some in our pajamas!
The premise of the write-ins are to prove to ourselves we can write 50,000 words in a month. So far, I've done more than 90k in one month–not very clean, and this was a book that had to be edited over 50 times. But it exercises your writing muscle.
There's good news and bad news with that. You learn in a pinch, you can write fast and good. I also learned I love to write under pressure, to make a deadline I'm almost going to fail at–my stories are better, my plots more gripping, and the whole outcome is a nicer package. I also learned that I could write shorter books that were as compelling as longer ones. That was a big one for me.
Now for the bad news–procrastination! What do we do between deadlines, when we know we have to get it done? I get into the weeds, looking at promotional things I could do, design a new cover or series. Yes, you have to have time to just daydream, and I do that well, but because I'm not on a rigid meal of 3000 words a day I used to do when I first started, sometimes I give myself too little room.
I guess I would say it's not really procrastination, but feeling like I have the time to explore other things. And yes, sometimes my best stories come to me that way. I have time to take a day trip, go shopping, have lunch with friends, attend another mastermind group meeting (I love those!) and plot or time write with other author friends.
I've also learned that when there is a lull, when some of the pressure is off, it's time to do housecleaning, or work on the projects I'd neglected. Improve my writing area, get my filing done, pay some bills and yes, taxes! Because when it all comes down to it, when I'm crashing toward the gates of deadline, all those things go by the wayside. That's when those little problems come up that drive me nutz–personnel and other business things that fry my brain and make me go crazy.
It's sort of like a loose screw that holds everything in place so it works, but eventually falls out and the trailer comes off the hitch at the least wanted time! Those are the little clean-up things I need to take care of. It's also a good time to read again those long articles I bookmarked and wanted to study. Let's face it–the world doesn't know when the right thing for me to read comes along–it sends me these delicious tidbits right in the middle of the Writing With My Hair On Fire moments. I save them and read them later.
Are any of my books written under Nano? I think most of the early ones were, at least part of them were. But unlike some authors, I can't say “this book was written during Nano”. I've done the April challenge as well. I have the tee shirts, the winners badges and angel halos for being a donation angel. I've brought others into the fold. I've sponsored classrooms of kids writing.
I encourage every writer or wanna-be writer to try Nano. You will learn some important things about yourself and how you write. These might surprise you!
Now I don my helmet and continue with my story. Onward!
Every time I walk outside and smell the firepits burning around the KOA, I'm reminded of those nights at camp when we told ghost stories that made us practically pee our pajamas. These were stories so horrible, no one dared get their slippers on to run to the rest room.
I remember one year my dad made a robot costume, complete with a big square cardboard box head with wires stuck out of it, covered in duct tape. It had two small holes for eyes, and at the end of my trick-or-treating, my entire head was soaking wet. I've paid lots of money for those types of steamed facials today!
The tractor is pulling a cob-webbed wagon around the campground, picking up kids in costumes like a pied piper, and driving them in and around the capsites. Families have decorated tents. We have witches feet extending from under door frames, creepy sound effects, orange pumpkin lights strung over coach mirrors and bumpers. They're having a best costume contest tonight.
I'm reminded of the tragedy that struck today. Just like those who have lost their lives overseas in combat, I choose to think they'd want anything to interfere with the enjoyment of life. First Responders have once again put on their uniforms, and put themselves in harm's way to help keep us safe. While I grieve for those lost, I also am moved by the bravery of those whose job it is to drop everything and run to danger, not the other way around. I can't thank them enough.
I've also been re-reading Mortal Bite, my second Golden Vampires of Tuscany book. The story begins on Halloween, with a stunning costume party where the hero, Paolo Monteleone, dresses up as himself: a vampire, and runs into a college professor who studies and teaches myths and legends of the dark arts. Of course, she schools him on vampires, and for a time, her conversation is amusing. He holds back the urge to glam her just to find out if she's really humanly attracted to him. Cara has no idea the handsome dark man is in fact the real deal, in more ways than one!
I'm working on a Christmas surprise for my readers, and there are going to be some great announcements next month. I also know most of you are fans of my Navy SEALs. I'm hoping you'll give yourself a treat, broaden your boundaries, and come dangerously away with me into the dark lands of Healdsburg and Tuscany, where this story takes place. It's much more than a vampire story. The roots of this legend go back to 300 AD. And where it will end up is something that will be revealed all in good time!
Here's a little taste. Remember Paolo is over 300 years old. He's married mortal women and held three as they passed away in his arms. He was looking for just a little fun and distraction with the mortal crowd:
Like a dark whisper, the limo slid to the sidewalk in front of the grand ballroom. Marcus’s driver got out, opening the rear door for Paolo. The night was crisp and without rain. People flocked to the doors looking like actors waiting to go onstage for a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The grand old hotel, steeped in history from trysts of the San Francisco elite over the past two centuries, sat stoically with its secrets amongst the bevy of faeries, butterflies and princesses. There were stewardesses and nurses so scantily clad they appeared to have costume malfunctions. Several dark vamp women clung to men dressed as pirates or gentlemen, astronauts and, yes, more than a few vampires. A group of blue unisex Smurfs arrived and crowded in behind him, giggling.
Paolo was surprised that tonight, for the first time, he enjoyed appearing as who he really was. Somehow, he was glad he had chosen to become vampire instead of remaining mortal. He’d spent nearly three hundred years regretting the decision to change which was made in haste when he’d seen his mortal parents die.
He didn’t really understand why tonight was oddly different. He only knew that his vampire skin felt like his elegant, comfortable cape. Appropriate, dashing and fatally attractive.
Blaring music echoed through the hallway as soon as he stepped out of the metal cage elevator. Warm brown, heavily marbled stone marked his path to the ballroom. His pumps tapped down the stone corridor to the beat of the drums. Music throbbed in rhythms so strong that they tickled and thudded in his chest. His limbs felt the vibration of the beat, and his pulse quickened.
Excitement. It had been centuries since he’d felt this way.
He walked under blue and silver twinkle lights covering two tall tree boughs which framed the ballroom entrance. The photographer’s flash blinded him momentarily, but he smiled and nodded his head as he accepted a chit allowing him to purchase the photo later. Perhaps he would. It gave him another thing to smile about.
The heavily gilt walls and ornately carved walnut paneling of the ceiling reminded him of some of the ballrooms in Vienna and Paris he’d seen as a youth, when he and Marcus had danced their way through the lovelies of Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.
I feel at home.
His instinct was to find a dark table in a secluded corner away from everyone else so he could scope out the crowd. Homing in on the perfect spot, a table with only one shimmering gauze scarf next to a top hat, and the rest of the place settings unoccupied, Paolo selected a chair several spaces over from the party of two, brushed his cape to the side, carefully adjusted his tails, and sat, prepared to enjoy the revelers.
Sparkle dust was in the air, tickling his nose. The amber-colored candle on the table filled the air with the fragrance of blood oranges, Anne’s favorite scent. He should know, he chuckled to himself, since Marcus had placed hundreds of them throughout his villa for her.
Paolo watched faeries dance with trolls, and idly ran his gaze over a scantily clad woman in black with huge breasts as she undulated and massaged her body over her partner’s. There were werewolves, storm troopers, kings and queens. Some men and women danced with partners of their own sex, some cavorted in groups.
He removed his cape and left it dangling over his chair as he went in search for a good glass of port. He preferred to have the enticing sweetness of port on his breath, should he meet a lady he wanted to speak with. His fangs craved the flesh of a mortal woman tonight.
The scent of jasmine was strong as he edged his way between the dancers and a table filled with donuts of every size, color and confection. The pastries were resting on a bed of candy corn and caramel popcorn. Paolo’s teeth ached at the thought of tasting the over-sweet treats.
Lucius would have loved this. Paolo smiled as he mused how sick the boy would have been the next day.
Something soft bumped into his backside. Something that smelled wonderful.
He turned and brushed intimately against a beautiful, auburn-haired woman with green eyes, whose curves made the most of a white Renaissance gown with a plunging neckline. Feathered wings were sewn on the back of the dress, and her long, draping sleeves almost touched the floor when her hands were down. Everything he’d lectured himself about not getting involved with mortal women flew away with the blink of his eye.
Upon seeing Paolo, she raised her palms to her face and hitched her breath, as if startled.
“Oh, my. What have we here?” she said.
To a mortal, the loud music would have made it impossible to hear what her voice. Paolo could hear every breath, every syllable rolling off her pink tongue as clearly as if she’d whispered it in his ear. Something silky slid down his spine as a door within him opened.
“I am a vampire, madam, at your service.” Paolo bowed and kissed her extended fingers.
Did I make her offer her hand, or did she volunteer it?
“But your lips are warm. That means you are an imposter.” She smiled and the world lit up.
“I assure you, madam, I am no imposter.” He felt his groin go rigid. He noted the blue pulsing vein at her neck quicken as her heart fluttered, sending her scent to his waiting nostrils.
She turned and gazed over her shoulder at a young man dancing madly into oblivion. Her partner did not notice his date had been distracted by the charms a new dark visitor. Someone who could be dangerous to her health.
Modern men. So naïve. They let their women wander way too much, allowing them to be gobbled up by straycatchers…
She turned and looked up at him, as though she was expecting Paolo to say something.
“Would you like some refreshment?” he finally asked her. His insides began to flutter in tandem with the beating of her heart.
Her eyes took on a momentary sparkle that thrilled Paolo. She turned and regarded her young dancing partner without much interest. Putting her hands aside her mouth, she shouted to him, “Johnny!”
The blond dancer jerked, then broke out in a toothy grin, raising his palms and undulating his torso in tune with the grinding music. Paolo didn’t like the sexual sway and suggestive jest aimed at his new interest.
“I’m getting something to drink,” the woman mouthed her words silently and followed it by drinking from an imaginary glass in her right hand.
Johnny gave her the thumbs up and started to go back to his wild gyrations, but hesitated as he looked at Paolo. A frown of worry marred his sunny countenance.
She shook her head and waved him away from across the dance floor. Paolo heard her say, “No problem. You have fun,” but doubted Johnny had heard a thing.
A glittery faerie dancer came up behind Johnny and slid under his knees, pressing into his backside that drew a whoop from him. The young man was instantly distracted by the way the little one rubbed herself all over his trousers.
Paolo’s new friend leaned back and laughed, her neck and shoulders sparkling with glitter. He could smell how good she would taste. He saw as well as felt what she liked sexually and knew he could satisfy her—do things, make her feel things, she had never dreamed possible. He stole glances while she was distracted by the bodies writhing on the dance floor and the sparkle of the costumes.
Then she turned. Paolo and his mortal beauty and her red lips faced each other fully at last. Her reddish-brown curls called to his fingers as his mouth anticipated kissing her, tasting her, making her shudder in his arms.
The woman was waiting for him to lead the way. Paolo held his breath. He wanted to be sure she was coming of her own accord. He refrained from glamoring her.
Does it matter?
He decided that tonight it did.
Paolo tucked his arm under hers and led her to the open bar, and away from the loud music. There was a fireplace and a deserted table nearby.
“I’ll get us something to drink. Why don’t you claim that table over there?”
“Claim?” she asked. Her green eyes reflected tiny fires from the twinkle lights in a canopy of stars overhead. She bit her lower lip, but obviously couldn’t keep the ends from upturning into a smile. Her fluttering eyelids danced, flashing fireballs at his heart, allowing himself to be seduced by her mortal charms.
“I figured we’d start on some port. Something deep and red.” He waggled his eyebrows, and she giggled, leaning against him. He could feel the firmness of her breasts against his upper torso. He swung his arm around her waist and pulled her even closer with a gentle tug. She arched back and examined his face, while he brushed the laces at the back of her dress, fingering every eyelet and silken strand.
He couldn’t resist touching her, and spoke, releasing his dark power as he covered her with glam.
“I’m entranced by your scent. Do you taste as good?”
She was still for a second while she considered his question. Could she feel the threshold they were stepping through like he did? Caught in each other’s gaze, he heard a throat being cleared behind him and turned to face the red-haired bartender.
“Something to drink?” the man asked. The bartender’s bulbous, deep purple nose seemed to fill his entire face. He held a wet towel in his chubby right hand while he tapped fingers on the bar countertop with his left.
“Two ports. The oldest and rarest you have.” Paolo turned and whispered as he stroked the length of his Renaissance angel’s cheek and let his finger trail over her red lips, “Rare as the lady at my side.” Her eyelids fluttered under the weight of his control. He loved how she was so susceptible to his power, seemed to crave it.
He almost leaned in to kiss her, but couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of her vulnerability. He cursed himself for his lack of manners. He held onto her with both hands at her waist, righted her firmly on her feet, separating her warm body from his and waited for her to regain sense of herself.
She shook her head. “Whew, don’t know what came over me. I got dizzy there for a second.”
“Why don’t you sit down, then, and I’ll come along with our drinks? Maybe the fire will warm you.” He pointed to the corner again.
“Yes. That’s a good idea.” She shuffled with tiny steps, holding her palm to her forehead and mumbled to herself.
He watched her body move under the silken gown, her hips, her small waist, and the small of her back outlined by a row of lacings that stretched all the way up to her shoulders. He wanted to see her naked. Wanted to rub his hands all over her flesh and kiss every inch of it.
If she’ll let me of her own free will.
And if that didn’t work—well, he could always use his vampire powers of charm and confusion. He could make her see him for the first time all night long. He could conquer her over and over again.
And no one would be the wiser.
He suddenly didn’t want the evening to end.
Look for further information about the continuation of this series. You'll be glad you dip your toe into it. As one lady said this past weekend in Orlando, “I don't generally like paranormal. But if you write it, I'll read it.”
Most people don't understand what a writer goes through when they write and market a new book. If people understood this, fully, we'd have probably fewer writers even try. But like everything in life, if you don't love it enough to wade through the muck, then you shouldn't be doing it.
Lest you think this is going to be an old-fashioned rant, read to the bottom. I always bring a Happily Ever After. I promise!
I'd love to say my experience is all hearts and flowers. A lot of it is, but a lot of it is just doing all the things we have to do to promote and get our stories out there, which isn't as much fun for me as it is for some authors. I don't like living on the computer or tied to social media 24/7. I have a life, a family, and I have books to write. I don't like selling myself, but this is what's required. Writing a book and putting it up on Amazon is free. It's the emotional cost that sometimes gets expensive.
I keep looking for easy ways, people to hire, to do these things for me. Bottom line is, there is no one. Here's my dilema.
Having a full time PA is costly, but you are limited to what they know how to do. Often the problem is you don't know what they don't know how to do because they aren't going to point it out to you. It's not even on their radar. I always know when I've turned the corner on someone who helps me when I start asking questions and instead of getting encouraging smilie faces, I get hesitance and excuses. It used to happen to me in Real Estate. Those people didn't last very long in my world. But getting rid of them frees up the space to bring in someone better.
I guess I'm not as trusting as I used to be. I never used to ask my teammembers in real estate what they thought was a good idea for me to do, yet, in writing, we're surrounded by people who supposedly know what they're doing (you pay them for this knowledge), and then find out they know less than you do. They tell you to do X Y and Z when they really have no clue. And I'm back to where I always land, with my own intuition, doing things my way.
My way has gotten me USA Today and NYT letters. Doing things another person's way has gotten me difficulties, even caused me to lose some friendships with other authors because of miscommunications handled on my behalf. It sickens me to think about all the bridges I've had to re-mend due to this. I always think I'm hiring people who are a good reflection of me and my values, and frequently I have to adjust that thinking. Well, I'm okay with adjusting. I'm learning that even at my age I can adjust and I'm proud of that.
Writing for me isn't a hobby or just something I do to make me feel good. It's great when that happens, but I'm creating an environment where I can sustain the lifestyle I desire, communicate with people of like mind, and find new audiences every day. I like to think my readers go along with me because it's an adventure and I'm always doing something different. I hope I never stop doing that.
Just like pruning my roses, sometimes the dead wood has to be clipped off, the duct tape has to be applied so I can hear the voices of my heroes and heroines in my head and not the little Messenger jabs that annoy me. Don't get me wrong, some of the best messages in the world have come from there. But I have to filter what I let in, where my energy goes. If it takes too much time or emotional energy, I'm outta here.
I have some long-term readers who will understand this. I have my long-term author friends and of course my deep loving friendship with my narrator, J.D. Hart, who understand this. I have their backs as much as they have mine. Nothing will shake me from this.
And when I get annoyed at having to prune again, I just have to remember the beautiful roses that always came in the early Spring to my garden in Bennett Valley. They grow in my heart and mind now, and yes, with proper pruning, they will come back strong after the winter of cleanup and fertilizing.
I flew to Nashville and spent three glorious days there, soaking up the people, meeting my readers and loving the area, the weather (yes, I love the humidity), and the possibilities my future has in store for me. I could see myself living there. So I have to work very hard to get there. You can help me, dear readers! You can help spread the word and share what you read of mine that touches you. You can tell people to subscribe to these blogs, my newsletter, share my books and show up at my parties and signings. I love that part!
At SFO I met a new fan at the ticket gate. Dear Marj was so sweet, I gave her a tee shirt, and sent her some books and just got a heart-felt response from her this morning. I'd love nothing better than having that kind of interaction every single day, and most days I do. I met another incredible gate agent flying home, and I was able to give her a couple books as well.
My winner of the gift basket at Naughty Nashville, Iris, was a dear and someone I've seen several times at signings. Her warm smile and happy countenance always cheers me. I'm so happy someone so deserving won the basket.
These are the people I work for. I love working for women who want to feel the power of true love and how it heals, how it cleans out everything that is dusty and “cobwebby” in our hearts. We forget to feel, to love, to open up and to love with great abandon. If I can just remember to be that way, and stop getting caught up in the weeds, I'm good. I'll write until they send me in the wood chipper (if you haven't seen my recent FB page, you won't understand this). I'm hopelessly addicted to feeling wonderful when I write love stories. I want to share them with the whole world.
It's not all marketing. It's magic, and it's going down that path of finding true love, even if it's only in stories. If we can conceive of it, it can happen, right? We make the world a little bit brighter with these love stories. We blot out the news, and the miscommunications like yesterday's garbage. We look forward to a bright future, walking hand in hand.
I truly love this business, even on the days I get to wade through a bit of muck.
Here's a link to some pretty music, and yes, a tiny teaser from a new series I'm writing. This book will be outstanding. I promise you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7B6YUSKtWg&index=2&list=RD0danI-1AhAk
This is an unedited excerpt of Be With Me, a book coming out next year, a Time Travel Romance!
The old man continued after I gave him more drink as shadows danced across the dark crevaces of his lined face. His lower lip was quivering and he spilled a dribble of the clear amber liquid down his chin, then handed me the cup and revealed a toothless grin.
“Thank you, traveler.”
I’d seen skulls in the desert many times who grimmaced back up at me just as this man did. He appeared to concentrate the effects of the drink on his mood, and then continued.
“The passion is what is worshiped. It comes before the feeling. It’s before there is feeling.”
“Like an energy field of some kind,” I suggested.
“Like the gas from the stomach that travels along your belly, tickling your insides.” He cackled at the look that must have been on my face.
“You are going to have to explain that, my man. I don’t find passing gas to be anything someone could devote a life to. Rather something I’d be anxious to be rid of.”
“Yes, yes. And there are those who will say the same about the passion. And view it as such. But they can’t stop it. We let it out by glorifying and worshiping it.”
“You say it like it’s a thing, not a person, or a diety.”
He clasped his hands together with a glowing smile that lit up his cheeks like a school girl. “Yes! The young have it. Have you never worshiped at the altar or an innocent girl? All that unselfconscious beauty and grace, without any knowledge of your lusty thoughts?”
I adjusted my seat and was hesitant to answer.
“You know that energy. We aren’t cruel men who would take advantage of her. We stand in the awe of her being and feel the passion we will not act on. But you understand it’s there, all the same.”
“I’m glad you clarified that. I have enough male friends who probably don’t restrain themselves, and should.”
“We’re in the land where there are no rules, so there are no violations. The passion in your soul is a calling, a string that comes from here,” he demonstrated by bending the fingers in his right hand into a point, and extending out as if pulling an imaginary string. “And pulls you behind it. You allow it free access. You allow it to guide you.” He flicked his wrist and I saw sparks from the campfire rise to the sky.
I was stuck. “I’m back to the same difficulty of the actions and how it’s appropriate for a gentleman to behave.”
“You are looking at it from a prism. You cannot focus on this living thing inside you unless you stop filtering it with your social rules. Know this, my young traveler, before you color this discussion and loose the thread completely: it will never lead you astray. But it might take your life.”
I was getting more confused by the minute.
He rubbed his eyes. The campfire was making my eyes sting as well. I placed several small slivers of cedar and one large log onto the pit, brushing away the sparks, watching them fly up into the sky and disappear. The stars were huge, as the camp activity had died down. Everyone else at the spring was inside their tent. Even the animals were quiet. The campfire crackle brought me back to him studying me, waiting for something. Then he spoke again.
“Tonight, you will lie and feel the pulling of the stars in your chest. Feel the tiny hooks reach into your flesh and lift you from here. Don’t be afraid of what you see or feel. Only things that can hurt you are of this world, in this desert. The stars, they tell the way.”
I followed the trajectory of his finger, noticing the stars becoming brighter, hung in the fabric of the night’s dark canvas. I lay back on the cloth cushion he’drawn up for me, smelling of camphor, sandalwood and coriander. There were other scents mixed in as well, but as I gazed at the jewels glistening above me, I heard his voice trail off…
“Find her, traveler. Dive in to the passion and there you will find her. She’s waiting for you there. She’s that young woman who knows not what you know. You have to show her the way.”
I’m not sure how much time passed, but I was aware I had traveled some distance. The desert had been overwhelmed by green foliage. I was surrounded by hillsides covered in rows of grape vines, several small lakes and wide spanses of brown fields. Crickets chirped as a bright yellow moon revealed itself from behind a puffy cloud looking like our campfire smoke. I saw the ripples on a lake and felt a breeze transform the glass surface to wavy lines as if a dark finger had scraped across a bowl of water.
The air was cool. The hills were untamed. Eyes of creatures on the ground reflected like gems appearing and then abruptly turning off their internal light. Several stars fell. I heard the sound of water and was inside an old mill building. I could not see it, but somewhere a large water wheel churned and bubbled.
I thought about the string the old man showed me, and with my hand on my heart, drew up to the sky, feeling some connection between my chest and my palm as it traveled. I flicked my wrist open and was flooded with the feeling of excitement unlike what I’ve ever known. I felt a hunger and ache for something, or was it someone? Was this the her he was speaking of.
I wanted to see her.
“Be With Me,” I whispered.
In my vision, I saw the back of a woman’s neck as she turned and I saw her in profile. Her hair was drawn on top with a clip. I reached out and could not touch the skin that looked like it was painted on velvet, the pinkish ear lobe pierced by a single dangling gold charm which caught the moonlight as it hung from her ear. I held my breath.
“Be with me,” I whispered again.
Her hair was mahogany brown, shiny in the moonlight. My words had caused her to take a swift inhale, like she heard me?
Voices appeared out of nowhere, and I suddenly smelled the campfire. Two people were having an angry conversation in one of many dialects of the caravan, from inside a tent.
Everything stirred around me. But the woman was gone. I could barely still hear the sound of her breathing, and then nothing at all.
What do you think? Are you hooked? Love you all!
I thought life after (well I'm not telling now because someone said I should stop talking about it) was supposed to slow down when you're semi-retired. OK, retired. Not if you're a writer.
I'm sitting here in the Admiral's Club lounge, waiting for my flight back to San Francisco, and I'm looking over my notes from the fantastic mastermind conference I just spent 3 days at. Wow. And, like I told many there, I feel like I'm flattened to the wall, plastered with a firehose of information. My first reaction was to burst out and cry after the first day.
I have so much to do!
Some are little: tweaking, changing some blurbs, perhaps changing some covers, arranging my schedule. Others are huge, like rebranding my entire series, tossing all my covers and even titles! EEK!! redoing my website (I'm heavily invested in this), even combining or rewriting books. I'm not going to do all of those.
This move, selling the house, was good for me. I have no more excuses. I've learned to embrace change. I've been looking forward to the new routine becoming more familiar and “friendly” to me.
Uh-oh. Except that's not the right attitude. The only way I'll keep growing as a writer is to keep changing. So this third step isn't “getting comfortable with the new routine”, it's “pushing myself into more change.”
And I paid money for this?
Yes, I did. But it's all good. It's also nice to be inspired by a group of women half my age. I'm learning from women who are the ages of my daughters, doing fantastic things.
I think the day I'll truly have to worry is when I stop sending myself to these environments, stop wanting to change, stop embracing the full-on feel of being so freaking enthusiastic that it scares me.
That's the place where the magic and color of life is!
Oh yes, do you know my new book is out today? SEAL's Goal is out on all platforms. You'll love it!
I'm learning to adjust to the Glamping thing. Our coach is everything I'd hoped it would be. Coming from a large two-story home on acreage, where I had my own bedroom, now sharing a bed with my husband and usually Tucker, our dog, has not been as difficult as I feared. Helps that the bed is wonderful to sleep on. The room is dark, which is something I never had in my old bedroom. I mean, even the stars would keep me up at night and the moon used to glow right into my window. I could hear animals in the brush all night long, and even the sounds of owls would keep me awake. I was opposed to black-out shades. Stubborn, you know.
But our tiny bedroom is cozy, and always smells like laundry since I do a load nearly every day. That's a pleasant smell for me, and brings back memories of my mother, who liked to do laundry like I do! Something about clean clothes and things fresh from the dryer with those wonderful scents. I use lavender for my delicates and sleepwear, and cool breeze scents for my jeans and shirts.
I also wasn't sure what it would be like to live so close to so many other people. I rather like it. I've met folks from all over the country — including a woman from the UK who was a hippie and just this year finally made it to San Francisco. Some people come in million dollar rigs, others in little tear-drops. Since we walk Tucker 2-3 times a day, we've socialized with other dog owners. Met a guest conductor, several horse trainers, a retired Pentagon official, retired cattle rancher and a bank manager. This week met two couples from Virginia and Texas, both who had sold their big homes, and were permanent travelers. And more and more of their friends are doing the same.
Last night I was struck with the sounds of children playing. I remember those days, with our four. I'd forgotten what a lovely sound it is. Growing up, I used to love family gatherings in the Central Valley, (my grandmother and two of her sisters married my grandfather and two of his brothers), where I was one of the oldest cousins. My favorite cousin, Ronnie, and I would run that little band of ruffians all over the ranch. We had a ball. I can remember going to bed at night all sweaty and breathing so hard I wasn't sure I'd ever catch my breath! Last night I watched teams of pre-teen boys chasing pre-teen girls — that age-old game of cat and mouse. It was so refreshing that it didn't involve any politics, or religion or international affairs. We barbequed hamburgers and made somemores. It felt just normal.
I love looking at people's set-ups, how they set their tables, how they arrange their lawn chairs, what activities they do. This one picture with the small chairs and small table all set up was priceless!
People decorate their coaches on Saturday nights with lights and solar flamingos — it's kind of a contest. I love the smell of the campfires and the music or TV programs coming from the coaches, the families or baseball teams roasting marshmallows over the firepit. Before dark the park owner drives a small tractor through the park, pulling several “buckets” of kids he picks up along the way. They brought in a couple of minature horses yesterday, and the jumping pillow (trampoline) was full. So was the pool.
Living so isolated, I had missed all this. I have to say I'm thoroughly enjoying life. I find it's stimulating for my writing as well, as well as soothing to my soul. It's almost like I've plugged in. Oh yes, I'm still behind on some things, but part of my routine is to daydream, to dabble, to wander and get lost and find myself again. It's like being in an airport for me. I love watching the people and their interactions.
I thought of myself as a recluse. I've proven that I'm more connected, and need that connection. And, especially these days, it's way more fun to watch the campground drama than just about anything else. It's humorous, colorful and bursting with life!
Got here late last night. Petaluma has a great KOA, with a petting zoo, swimming pool, jumping pillow, and a dog park. We have a beautiful space with a large patio and chairs, an umbrella and a swing. I plan to go swimming this evening!
I was asked today what it was like to do with less stuff. I have to say I love it! I was able to vaccuum this morning in less than 5 minutes! We have everything we need, and because we've had to think about it ahead of time, I've only brought with me clothes I love to wear and just the cosmetics I use TODAY, not the stuff I might use some day!
Decisions are easier when you have less to choose from.
Tucker enjoyed the pet area, including the bright red fire hydrant! He just met his first goat, and a pregnant one at that. He wasn't so sure about the chickens when the rooster crowed at him. He met two sweet little girls on bikes who stopped and gave him some loves.
Today we go visit the apartment we're remodeling to give us a home base. But I'm enjoying this total shift in my life, to a simpler time, with fewer stresses and lots of new things.
What about you? Have you ever downsized or chosen a more simple existence? What did you love or learn about it?
There are new forces at work which are making it so that many of you on my NL or mailing list won't be getting updates from me any longer. We are scrubbing everything we have, and only those who have recently clicked or commented will get them. Make sure, when you get my emails, that you at least open them, even if you don't email in return. That will keep you in my cue. I don't want to lose touch, but I cannot risk being put in FB jail for having thousands of email addresses of people who don't open my messages.
You might check to see if you are still subscribed to my Newsletter list. Go to my website and click on the subscription button, and opt-in. That way, you won't be in danger of not getting my updates.
We all have to adjust and change and simplify our lives from time to time. I had nearly 50k subscribers, but now am going to only have a few, committed readers and friends. I want you to be one of them!
Thank you for being my friend and for reading my romances! Have a wonderful Sunday!
Even though I try to sleep on planes, I love to leave the window shade open, especially when I'm flying above beautiful cloud formations. Today, flying non-stop from Philadelphia to San Francisco, it was the same.
With my favorite music (I have about 21 days worth on my phone) I soar above like some kind of superhero. I can time travel, dive into one of my stories, or just dream. Of all the three choices, I usually pick dreaming.
Dreaming is planning. I even have that sign that used to hang over my desk. If I can ever find it again in the some 500 boxes in storage, I'll put it over my bed in the coach when we get it.
One of the things I enjoy most about traveling to different parts of the country, is how each area is unique, the stories unlike ones I've heard before–people's histories about old houses and bats in the attic warmed me. But what I also notice is that through the love of romance, both writing and reading, we have so much more in common. And it transcends everything else that's shouted at us every day if we fall prey to it, namely religion and politics. It's as if, at times, the whole world is shouting: THIS IS WHAT I THINK!! LISTEN TO ME!!
Yesterday I got the honor of co-hosting Salute With Love in Valley Forge. We may do this a year or two out again, but it was a avid reader group who bought way more books than I had planned on selling! It was such a pleasant surprise.
Since I write military romance, my heart is always with my heroes. And, like I said to that group yesterday, those who wear the uniform are heroes because they chose to be. They didn't do it for Facebook likes or Twitter followers. They didn't do it for money or fame. They did it because they were called to servce.
What a perfect venue to celebrate the love of our military heroes, who are flawed and conflicted just like all the rest of us. I hope that we never forget that because some died and sacrificed, we have the freedoms to write smutty books and celebrate with a lifestyle the early Americans could only begin to dream about. Maybe if they got a chance to fly at 31,000 feet they'd be amazed.
They lived in an age where there was no TV or social media. And they carried out the nearly impossible. Valley Forge is a remembrance of just how close they came to failing in their mission.
I hope we live wisely and fully. And never forget to say thank you.
What about you? Do you enjoy reading about heroes who do it just because it burns in their hearts? Doesn't it make your life feel sweeter in the remembrance?
I am blessed by some of the collective wisdom of several other writers I follow, and one email this morning touched me more than most. The writer, Neil Strauss, was talking about how we are so goal-oriented, that we focus so much on “outcomes” and how all these “good” and “bad” decisions are sometimes illusions.
I nearly fell off my chair as I read his words. He doesn't know it, but he writes for me, as if I am his only fan. Of course, I am not!
I've trained under people who have followed Earl Nightingale, Zig Ziglar, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and others. I've always been a goal-oriented person, with family, our businesses, especially real estate and investing, and now with romance writing.
I track sales, follow the “steps” deemed necessary to progress to the next levels, etc. There are so many “must do's” and “epic fail” mistakes that are touted. Some of them I've agreed with, and many not. Some have worked, others not. At times, it's confusing.
Neil's email this morning made me understand that wisdom of “doing the best I can” as the centerpoint I always seem to drift back to between mastermind sessions, conventions or author get-togethers. It's my reset button, back to the middle, square one. There is only one outcome you can control: And that’s doing your best job at any particular project, given who you are today, and completing it to the best of your abilities.
We often overlook what these pundits have been saying, and now I see the lessons learned coming from a different angle. Neil's right: the outcome is not the outcome. I love that saying, “There is a happily ever after. If it's not, then you haven't gone far enough.” Some of my worst tragedies have brought be the greatest enjoyment, or breakthroughs. I had to be reduced to a 1000 SF apartment after our house fire in order to begin my journey into writing–or I never would have tried. Out of the ashes comes the victory.
This decision to sell our big property, and move into an apartment (AGAIN!) and travel in a deluxe coach is indeed like walking through this next doorway. Things change. Who knows what new adventure awaits? I can but guess, and be excited for the future.
But if I drag the history of my past mistakes with me, it will affect the outcome, not the decision itself.
MY FOCUS NEEDS TO BE WHAT I'M DOING RIGHT NOW, not what I did, or what I might do. Here's what he says:
The outcome of a project or life event opens up a new door, path, or change.
And whether the project succeeds or fails by your standards doesn’t actually matter. It still leads you to the next event in your life.
I've been wondering when it will hit me that perhaps I'll miss this place. You know what? There might be times when I will. But I'm beginning to think that I won't.
Each result in your life is just a fork on a path that is endlessly forking. And it is impossible to predict where it is leading.
I said good-bye to some good friends last night at a party at our home – our last one. “I'm not going anywhere,” I told them. “I'm just going to greet you through another doorway.”
Just like any of our decisions, it isn't good-bye to the past or our lives as we know it, it's hello to the next chapter.
Here, in his words, is the parable he wrote about:
Once there was a poor, hard-working farmer, and one day his horse—the only horse he owned—ran away.
His neighbors consoled him, “Such bad luck, I’m so sorry.”
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. “Who knows whether it’s bad or good.”
The next day, the horse returned, and it brought with it three wild horses.
“Wow,” the farmer’s neighbors exclaimed. “You’re so lucky.”
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. “Who knows.”
The next day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses, and he was thrown off and broke his leg.
“That’s a shame,” the farmer’s neighbors said. “I’m sorry for your misfortune.”
“Maybe it’s misfortune, maybe it isn’t,” the farmer replied. “Who knows.”
The next day, war broke out, and there was a draft. The authorities came to the house to enlist the farmer’s son. But when they saw that his leg was broken and he couldn’t walk, they let him stay at home and he didn’t have to go fight in the bloody war.
“Wow, you really got lucky there,” the neighbors told the farmer. “You must be so glad that horse threw your son.”
“Maybe,” the farmer said. “Who knows…”
This story could go on forever.
And the point is…
The outcome is not the outcome.
Thank you, Neil.
What about you? Our futures are always under construction, right?
In my new release, coming out Tuesday, Love Me Tender, Love You Hard, I used fire as the villain, not a person, like I usually do. As I was finishing up the book, the fires had just started in Southern California but had yet to develop in Redding.
Since I lived through the fires last October here in Sonoma County, I was more drawing from the experiences we went through there. We were under voluntary evacuation then, and it happened to be when my daughter was due to give birth at one of the two hospitals that had to be closed down because the fire had crossed the freeway and infringed on the hospitals themselves. What a scary time.
We relied on the local news media, namely the AM station KSRO, and kudos to them for doing an outstanding job of spreading the word, since not everyone had access to cell phone updates, or television. They reported on the shelters and what they needed, as far as supplies, and of course told everyone what was being done with the fire itself, with stray pets and messages to where to find loved ones. They told us how to get updated maps of the current evacuations mandatory and not, and where the fire lines were.
I did my own little part, donating clothes, and all those itty bitty bottles of shampoo and soaps I've collected in my travels – some came from Paris (The Ritz even!), some from our trips to Italy and Brazil, but mostly from Disneyland or other US venues I was at for book signings. We had several hundred families living in tents at the fairgrounds, with portable showers and bathrooms many had to live in for weeks afterwards.
I also bought pizza for about 30 firefighters from the bay area when they stopped to take a break at my favorite place here in Bennett Valley. I got a standing ovation. Our church community coordinated relief efforts. More than 40 families in our congregation lost their homes. Many of us made cash donations to this and other causes. Vacant storefronts were used as a donation center for people to bring furniture to help families rebuild what they'd lost.
One of the discoveries in all this was that cell towers were destroyed in this fire. That made the early warning systems some people got as texts and alerts non-existent. We are such a cell phone dependent society that this really hampered the rescue efforts. Because this was such a massive fire, the local departments were all overloaded, and very early on, some crews had to be sent home because of a lack of equipment to use. This was rapidly fixed, of course, but equipment takes time to arrive, especially when it's coming by truck, since we have very limited rail service. We've invested in Smart Trains for passenger movement, but nothing for emergencies.
We had issues with local citizens using drones to take pictures to sell to the news media, which grounded some of the boride bombers who were not able to fly. Someone's drone was actually tracked and that person, or so the media reported, was sent to jail.
There is a local place called Safari West, and I used a fictional place based on this park in my book. I've attached some links to the articles written about the park, and the owner's heroics saving all of his animals. I changed the cast of characters to fit a SEAL romance, of course, but some of the details were the basis for my story. Naturally, a place like this needs a great chef, and my Navy SEAL, Derek Farley, came to work there to help pay for his CCA tuition.
You can read about the real place and how they emerged from the wildfires here:
Naturally, our people did an excellent job of juggling all these issues, having never had anything so massive to deal with before. As they say, out of the ashes, comes the miracle. I think lots of things were learned. The community still is working together. And we have signs still, though it's been some 8 months, reading “Sonoma Strong”, with thank you posters on fences and telephone poles. The slogan, “Love is thicker than smoke,” is another banner we see everywhere.
My hope is that some of these things are being used now in Redding and other places as they continue to battle these blazes.
But fire indeed is a heartless and cruel villain, destroying all that we hold dear. It happens so quickly, and feels like a huge violation.
Thank goodness we have our memories.