4

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

NanographicI 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.Nano youngwriters

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.

campnanoAre 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!

 

6

Ghost Stories by Campfire

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.”

Enjoy!

 

38

Beginning New Things

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.”

            “The passion?”

           “Of course!”

           “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!

9

Overwhelmed

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!

 

42

Campfire Stories

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!

 

22

Happy Trails

6bDM5bqVTSbuGQeWjPqMg.jpgGot 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!

qCDnm1u7Sw6mDSdBTMfVQ.jpgI 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.

zn%chyWYQaWRbgR0jIZdsQTucker 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?

FACEBOOK USERS:

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!

2

From 31,000 Feet

5nIXZbmtQZOHezsEmnNA-1183036850-1534698878148.jpgEven 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?

12

The Outcome is not The Outcome

yQOiZbZlR9uji8azWFcAg.jpgI 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.

NatkK6eSRLVrlUxR1ssKA.jpgI 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.

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Original. This is not what I'll be moving into! New pix to follow…

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?

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11

Fire As The Villain

giraffes-fire-update-1920x768In 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.

firefighters-1920x768-1600x640There 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.

Dining-1600x640

You can read about the real place and how they emerged from the wildfires here:

https://www.safariwest.com/fires-hope-emerges-video/

http://abc7news.com/pets-animals/santa-rosas-safari-west-reopens-after-devastating-north-bay-fires/2674986/

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/specialsections/7585721-181/how-the-safari-west-owner?gallery=7525164&sba=AAS

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.

 

15

Fixit Day and Saving Frogs

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Our first Christmas at the house 35+ years ago, and someone got a new camera.

Our metal garage door in the living room needed new springs and some adjustment so it could operate the way it should. As the two door specialists were on their scaffolding, one of them greeted a bright green frog who had jumped inside the room from the patio.

I was downstairs in a flash to try to save him. When I moved from Sebastopol, I brought a whole bucket of these little green frogs from my garden there to come live with me in Santa Rosa. Bright green frogs are not native to this area, so I knew he was a many-times descendent of the original batch of frogs I've been growing ever since. And he was big!

He abruptly hopped under his scaffolding, out of my reach. I was worried he'd be crushed when they closed up shop, finishing their job. I asked them to try to be careful. I wanted to save him.

I went outside to water and when I came back the scaffolding was down and the men were cleaning up.

“The frog!” I shouted.

“We got him. He's safe. Put him back in your flower garden.”

I could have kissed the guy I was so happy.

While these men were working, the stereo man came to connect some speakers we'd never connected, which was the buyer's request. Later in the day, he asked me if I was some kind of author.

“Yes. I write romance.”

“You do audio books?”

“Every one of them.”

“Oh, great. I'm going to download one now.” He put back his earpieces, adjusted his phone and began playing Accidental SEAL on audio. Later on he told me my stories were “like Lee Child but with more sex.”

The man who raises the palm trees we're buying mentioned he'd checked out my books, and told us, “You should do one about a landscaper.” I didn't want to tell him that the only landscaper I had in my books was the bad guy.

It's getting closer. I'm picking out fabric for the Diesel Pusher, the new and improved Romance Rider. Our first trip will be to see the Fall colors in Vermont.

Life goes on one day at a time. It will be 3 weeks now, and my living here will come to an end. And the rest of my life will never be the same. Until then, I'm breathing in and breathing out, studying and marking things I want to remember later on. It's kind of delicious when you know it's finite.

Makes me appreciate the beauty of what I've created even more.

 

 

 

 

9

Moving and Hot SEALs: Oh My!

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Monty Monty's Traveling Air Show

I won't lie. I LOVE this piece. Sort of sums up my life at the current time. I'm an eclectic mix of traditional and quirky, all tied up in a collection of “found” pieces like this artist depicts. He doesn't solder anything, rather “screws” them together. That's not a dirty word, but it's somehow fitting.

We are arranging our things and planning a minor remodel in the midst of moving some 400+ boxes. There's still the landscaping and the garden to tend. I added extra fertilizer to the roses today because it's time. I want to have a going away party on August 4th and I want those ladies to bloom special for us.

Notice the old school globes, the propeller and the upside down frame of a candelabra. The burner element from a oil lamp makes a perfect “burner” for the hot air balloon going to who knows where. Because that's exactly where I am going – who knows?

onSjbPTUQLOGSKiGp61gXw.jpgHad fun listening to some people who traveled in a Pusher for about 5 years last night. I almost wet myself with the stories they had about their bus 8′ slide-out all of a sudden coming unhinged, and he thought he'd blown a tire. Of course, someone was fast asleep on the couch, oblivious to the fact he was in the path of oncoming traffic. Yes! This happened while they were traveling down a 2-lane road! The family screamed until they were able to pull over to get the slide-out put back into place, which is when he woke up.

I was still laughing as I drove home, thinking about taking off from campgrounds in a hurry and leaving their awning behind.

Some of you are feeling concerned right now. Don't be. Think of the stories. You were there when I went on that 23-day cruise from Italy to Brazil when I wrote Cruisin' For A SEAL. You know what can happen in a kitchen, or a lifeboat! You also know why the shades were pulled as we sailed down the coast of Africa, and yes, that went into my story, too.

One of the fantastic things about being an author is that I learn so much from my nearly 7 decades on this planet, things that happened in the 1950's, '60's and beyond. Lost memories now re-found and memorialized in stories, woven in there, making them last forever.

SharonHamilton_LoveMeTenderLoveYouHard_800The story I'm finishing is Love Me Tender, Love You Hard. Those of you who read the KW version novella that preceded this novel I'm releasing 7-30, remember the term:

Coyote Smear

I dare you to tell me if you remember what that means. That little eclectic detail actually happened, and luckily, not to me!

There are no accidents. There is only life, in full bloom. I intend to live every minute of it, enjoy every rose and every gardening session!

What about you? Are you yearning for a new adventure?

 

11

Palm Trees and Other Ventures

fullsizeoutput_5e00We've decided to live temporarily in an apartment we own while we get our Diesel Pusher ready for the long travels ahead. I've found that working on a new project is somewhat healing. The building has great bones, built in 1940's, and could look retro-South Beach in style. Chrome trim. Some jazzy paint colors, and voila!

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Wish we had these lines, but you get the picture!

I've been having fun with paint and awning colors, and visualizing the rounded corners faced in chrome.

+FeIIR%tR0uXP0kZcAb8PQWhat better to add that special touch to the decor, than to put in palm trees? Can't wait to show you the finished product. I found Golden Gate Palms and spoke to the owner, and had no idea they were so reasonable! Here's what their website says about Palms:

PALMS

Palms are the aesthetic cornerstone of the subtropical garden. Whether the theme is lush, xeric, or Mediterranean, palms evoke a sense of abundance and warmth. And unlike messy deciduous trees, palms are clean.  Material is held within the tree until you choose the time to trim it off thus leaving the garden below neat and tidy, all year long.  Palm roots are generally non invasive and non damaging to hardscape unlike their woody counterparts.  Palms are gorgeous when lit at night, are pleasantly hypnotic with their movement and rustling in the slightest breeze, and provide artistic shadows on the ground as well as romantic silhouettes against the sky.

 

What could be more perfect for a romance writer, right? Being a native Northern Californian, palm trees are not common here, but now I'm beginning to see something else I can draw into my sphere, and love.

I'm amazed, after years of being a gardener, I knew nothing about them. I can buy seeds for as little as $2. each. Why in the world I never did that, is beyond me. I've tried everything else.

So, this is yet another little adventure, on the road to discovery of things of this planet, myself, and my relationship to it. Just thought you'd be interested. Can't wait to show you the final project.

47

My Roots Will Have Wheels

bennett-4524-kitchen-dining-005

Roll up garage door dining room window looking up to the woods.

I woke up this morning and cried for the third time in 24 hours. Not tears of joy. Last night before I went to retire, all three of my dogs perched on my bed, as if asking, “Are we coming along too?” I have to say it nearly broke my heart.

But when I am able to be logical, I know it is the best thing for them to have a place to go where there will be land, not a rumbling diesel engine and highway. My dogs have always left me, not the other way around. Boy, does this one smart!

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1100 acre park surrounding us. Piece of Heaven.

The sting is somewhat softened to know that the new owners will love this property as much as I have, and had the same reaction seeing everything we've done. They'll also have the money to continue to work on it as it deserves. Nothing lasts forever. Places don't last, things don't last. Memories do. It makes sense to do the move while we are healthy, and able. So, the time has come at last.

bennett-4524-back-027

My garden

My husband is more excited looking at pictures of motors, storage space, electrical panels and tires. I'm looking at the interior of these coaches and trying to figure out how I'll feel rambling down the road, armed with a roving internet access and my computer. I won't be able to stop and pick a few roses when I'm at a stopping place in my stories, but I can still have a nice glass of wine before I begin my next love scene…

Like a bad boyfriend (stay with me here a moment), no way to experience the “new adventure” when the past is grabbing me and has me tied up in barbed wire wrapped around my heart. You know the song, “How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?” Well, I miss this place already and I'm still here. When my roots are severed, then we'll see how I function. And for sure, there will be lots of emotion to draw on. Oh boy, I'll bet I will be able to write some killer break-up scenes.

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My “bridge writing area. Lots of romance written here.

 

The good news is that no one has died. I'm just more used to adjusting than streaking out and making the big decisions. Everyone I love will still be around, just not so close by, but they'll be there when I can visit. I'm not doing this out of fear, out of necessity or due to illness or hardship. It's just time. That's the honest truth of it.

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Sunrise and sunset and no bathing suits.

The big panties thing comes to mind a lot. I went out and bought a new pair of red sunglasses and a new MacbookPro, which I'm taking back. I don't need it. My old one is fine, once I get rid of some of the stuff on it. I'll store that data too, like my cabinets, my china and silver, the pictures, my quilting fabrics and sewing machine, the seeds I didn't plant this year (maybe I'll sprinkle them across the country as we travel like Johnny Appleseed), my favorite rose trimmers and my colorful purses and scarves. Paring down to the bare necessities. Oh there's another tune I'll be humming too.

bennett-4524-living-009

Dad's clock will have to silently keep its own time for a bit. More travel, less TV.

When this house burned down in 2008, the change resulted in me becoming a writer. This change will result in something equally as spectacular.

But why is it easier to adjust than to make the bold decision to take a conscious step forward? Must be like skydiving. You just have to jump out and trust that the buddy on your back will help you safely land.

Have you ever had this happen to you?

7

Father’s Day Greeting and News!

I've said it before many times, it doesn't take much to father a child, but to be a father, that has nothing to do with Biology, and everything to do with Heart. I have had the honor of knowing several fathers who loved and cared for those who were not his own offspring, yet you'd never know the difference. That's a special man, who can love a child, bring them into his life, and make them his own by actions of his heart, not with the other body part!

My own father has passed now several years, yet I remember all the things we did for him those 9 decades I got to honor and love him. He thoroughly embraced being a father. It was his job. He was a great husband to my mother, and, when she passed some 14 years ago or so, he was left with both my brother and I as his children, but half of his “job” had been taken away by my mother's passing.

So the biggest lesson I learned from him was that love knows no bounds. His job of being a partner and husband was not over, though his wife had left this earth. So, at 80, he re-married. And we were grateful because we got to have him around for another 10 years. He showed us that falling in love can happen at any age. Through the great power of love, he was a complete man.

Good men understand this concept in spades. Like everything in life, there are good ones and bad ones, and I was fortunate to live with and love a good one. It was never hard to love him. He made it easy. He spoke his mind, was honest with the things he should have been honest with, stubborn at times, but mostly wide open with his acceptance and love.

They say that a little girl's first love is for her father, and that was certainly the case with him. My husband of 47 years fulfills that role now for our two girls. I miss the days when the hand-painted ceramic plaques came from Kindergarten or preschool, the carefully crafted cards with glitter that always went outside the lines–the cut-out shapes and scribbled messages my kids made on their Father's Day cards, just like the ones I used to make. My son and son-in-law now get those, and I'm delighted they get to revel in the joy and miracle of the lives they've brought into this world.

We should make it a bigger thing, this Father's Day event. Somehow, it gets eclipsed by graduations, upcoming 4th of July and prior Mother's Day. My son-in-law is getting to play golf this morning and is having a massage this afternoon. My husband gets the gift of his daughters helping him finish packing and staging his office, and his bedroom. It's been a non-stop process, and we're both hobbling around the house like a couple of cripples. But thanks to their help, the work will be done, and the house will officially go on the market this week.

So, this won't be a day of rest for my husband. But it will be a day when our kids will give something back. We

have the celebration too of my oldest son's promotion and move cross country to Vermont. We celebrate the wonderful father my other son is back east. We celebrate the help to us and joy our son-in-law brings to our daughter and their two children.

It's a picture, a postcard in time, about a family in transition, moving on to the next stages of our lives. We walk that path together, in love.

What are you doing special for that special Dad in your life?

NEWS!

As most of you know, Kindle Worlds is ending. That means that two novellas I wrote for Bella Andre's Game For Love and Marina Adair's St. Helena Vineyards worlds will now be able to be expanded, and released anew. That means you'll be getting announcements on the two new books: SEAL's Goal and… 

Love Me Tender, Love You Hard coming in July and August. Once the packing and staging are done, you'll see that preorder notice go out. Stay tuned!

And here's a little fact for you. I wrote SEAL's Goal, about an American goalkeeper on an English Premiere League team, who wears a green jersey (goalkeepers always wear odd colors so they aren't mistaken for regular team players). A reader pointed out to me that Steve McQueen's grandson, Trace, plays professional soccer in the U.K., and wears a green jersey. How did I know? I guess it was written in the stars.

Enjoy these covers and the new books coming next month and August. Tons of other news coming your way as well.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Being Tough

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I am still here at Lori Foster's #RAGT18, and had a fabulous day interacting with old and new friends. It's so wonderful to hear the stories and comments from readers and how they've enjoyed my books. Oh yes, there are some spicy stories, too! We handed out patches to some readers who had purchased a gob of books. The favorite is usually this one:

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I'm always amazed at what people have to go through in life. Some people just seem to skate the surface and live a charmed life. I think that would apply to me. Yes, I complain, but when I hear some of the stories others have endured, I wind up kicking myself all around the room.

Recently, we have lost creative and beautiful people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It breaks my heart. It really does. I've heard it said, “we don't know what battles others are waging.” This is so true. Hard to judge someone's insides from the outside. I continually get it wrong, although I seem to have great intuition. I try to stay away from danger and drama. Adventure, well, that's okay, but drama and danger, no.

There are other people who endure pain and heartache, and keep on going. They inspire me. I have nothing to complain about because, like I said, I've lived a full and charmed life. I try to give more than I take, and I want to leave this world with having given so much to people that there's a big hole in the fabric of life when I pass. But I hope people will keep reading my books and chuckling, and thinking about me while they do.

I decided I have way more to do, and that perhaps I've not been putting my foot to the metal hard enough.

I probably shouldn't have taken so much time off, and allowed the process of moving and packing to go on its own, so I could keep writing. But I didn't want to lose control of the process. I did that when the house burned down. I couldn't even look at the place for about a month afterwards. My husband stored and threw away things as best he could. I just didn't want to do that again.

But perhaps I'm making it easier for the next move. And perhaps I should be tougher on myself and not have stopped writing for the month.

Either way, I'm looking forward to getting back to my computer, putting my head down and gunning it. I come away from here inspired. That's always good for me. It's also usually good for you readers, too!

Enjoy your weekend, rain or shine. I can't wait to get back to work tomorrow. See you soon! For those of you who are going to Salute With Love, see you in August! Can't wait!

 

8

I Wish You More…In A Tiny Space

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The adventure begins. Phase I sell the house. Phase II get a little space to explore. Phase III vow never to be tied down again. Ever. That means never. Ever. Honest. Yes, the dogs come with.

The adventure continues. I write this post, getting ready to leave for my book signing at Lori Foster's #RAGT18, while at the same time putting back my office after nearly 2 weeks of painter experience.

IMG_6730.jpgThose of you who have done this know what I mean. They disconnected both my computers and our internet, and painted over things, moved things, put things on top of things, and so now I'm unburying. And, they'll be back on Monday. NOT COMPLAINING! I'm just happy they're coming back (but not 100% sure they'll be here Monday)…it has been a roller coaster, for sure.

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This isn't my house now, but it could be some day soon. Everything I need and nothing I don't. Except a computer, of course.

My dogs stand in the house, look at everything all mixed up, their dog beds thrown on top of tables or couches or scaffolding, and they just whine. They look at me as if to ask, “Mom, what are you doing with us?”

They don't really have to worry. But we'll all be glad when it's put back together. And then we have to get ready for what we hope is an onslaught of interested buyers. We have something very unique here, a 4200 square foot house on nearly 61 acres, bordering a 1200 acre regional park and Kendall Jackson winery. I'm holding hope we can make a fair exchange: enough money to have a decent retirement (not from writing) for my husband, giving them the property to continue the love that I've put into it. That's the right person for us as a buyer. Someone who will love it the way it is. Who sees it for what I do.

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The lesson is: Don't own a 4200 square foot house. You just get more stuff. What would living be like with not much stuff. Just the “stuff on your back”, or, in this case, towed behind my car? Changes the focus to outside. Not what I have, but what I can see, hear, smell and feel, out there!

Oh, I know all the stuff about selling because I've done it for nearly 30 years and I counseled and lectured many sellers. But this is my house. This is a one-of-a-kind property, and certainly the last nice piece of property I'll ever own. It's time for phase II of my next great adventure. I'm going to have the flexibility to choose where I live and what I want around me. I did it once. I can do it again.

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Basic bones, an office? A bedroom? Waiting for some red, for sure. Waiting for the road ahead.

We're exploring the idea of getting a good Class A Diesel and having it customized. Check this out:  http://livingvehicle.com. Here's another: https://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/tumbleweed-tiny-house-photo-gallery/#!

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Cozy bed with a view anywhere.

I can see us doing this. Even has a shower on the back for dogs. Is there a Happily Ever After in my future?

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And while you're at it, check out this book:

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You can order it here. Wonderful message and so perfect for me today.

What about you? Are you on a journey back to your wings? It isn't a freefall. It's a planned fall. Like a planned burn. Planned chaos. I'm actually doing this because I want to.

Somehow, I think it will be fantastic for me.

 

39

MOVING: 35 YEARS OF MEMORIES-New Memories Ahead

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We are the sum of the parts of many broken and misplaced things. How we put ourselves together is the art form we call life. Isn't that what we call romance too?

I took a deep breath when my husband said, “I'm retiring, and we're going to sell our home.” I'm not a good one for change, as most of you lovely readers know. I hang on to the bitter end sometimes. Most of the time, it has served me well.

But the reality of our aging bodies, and the toll working on the huge house and many acres of garden and land has come to greet me at last. My fantasy world will not give up on this dream of living here, so I'll be able to take some of it with me forever. Not to worry. But the real world has tapped me on the shoulder and told me, “It's time.”

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The room is huge without my old furniture, but that's the idea! Globe needs to be hung over dining table. Carpets are being cleaned. Windows to wash.

We can embrace change in any number of ways. I like to say Change (or circumstance) doesn't make a person, it reveals a person. I'm wanting to kick that particular “ism” all around the bedroom, get it to get dirty with the dust bunnies hiding under my bed. But all that does is mask the knowledge that I have to make lists, and I have to pack from now to oblivion, it seems.

But I've done it! It doesn't matter how many times I think about my husband's decision, it won't help me get into action. I can ruminate about it all after we're done. Right now, we're in purge, staging and beautifying mode. I'm learning to revel in that, and what a surprise, it's not so bad! I have new lawn, new planting boxes. Part of the strategy is protecting and packing away a lot of me in this house, and revealing a lot more about the house, the structure, the land and the gardens. So, in a way, all my lovelies are safely stored, all my personal things I prize are gone and hidden away. All they are going to see are a few selective things that might elicit a smile or warm feeling about the home and the lovely grounds on which it sits.

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Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers like their new home.

Part of my consternation was, “Where are we going to go?” I'm looking at lots of places. Franklin, Tennessee, is top of my list, mainly because I could create a nice lifestyle there with a quarter of the funds. But my heart has grown to feel at home there now that I've visited it, and visited Tennessee several times. I have lots of writer friends and other dear friends in the area, and nearby.

But staying in California is also an option, or moving East nearer to our other son. There's the beach in Florida calling me, perhaps North Carolina or Virginia. My husband likes Oregon so he can be close to his brother. I'd like to do all of it, but it all depends on what we get for the property.

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Adding more flowers to accentuate the rock walls and the built-in bench

Just like so many things in our lives, it is up to someone else. As much as we plan and strategize, the truth is that a new buyer we accept will determine where and how we live in the future. I've always been lucky with decisions we've made. I can write anywhere. But finding a place I will love living in is most important. Being close to my children and grandchildren is also important. I've cast those nets out into the universe, and something will happen that will allow me to do most of what I want.

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Indian flower boats bookshelves waiting for a new home – a random whimsey

So, it's interesting how I'm coping with the change. I'm getting up, checking my lists, putting on my work clothes, planting flowers in the garden like I'll be here for years to enjoy them come up year after year. Planting vegetables perhaps that will be edible after we move. It doesn't matter, does it? None of us know how long we'll be anywhere in life. As my son said recently in the most beautiful letter I've received from any of my children, “Mom, in your case, if life gave you lemons, you'd make lemon meringue pie!” That's what I'm going to think about.

I haven't been writing for a month. And, for the first time, I'm not sure what I feel like writing next. But I know a good book is in me, waiting to be born. Another love story, that will help heal the little wounds that sometimes come up.

Until then, I'm enjoying the treasures of looking at things I possess I haven't looked at in a long time. I found some baby teeth. Someone's awful wisdom teeth! Found a piece of pottery my daughter made in kindergarten. Found a Parchessi board I had written on when I was about five. We all do that, don't we? Save things for our future selves to enjoy, right? And that has made the packing and path toward this major relocation all the more sparkly. Not the shininess of my tears!

Now's your turn. Where is your favorite place to live if you could live anywhere, and why? I'd love to hear it!

 

 

14

Mr. Mike the King of Tats

fullsizeoutput_5c8cI'm still halfway back in San Diego, except I'm drunk with the beautiful sight of our green hills in Northern California Wine Country. The grasses are still short, and the green is way longer than it usually is. In a month it will all be brown. I kind of enjoy that too.

Birds are out in earnest, making nests and soon I'll have little families popping up all over my porch overhangs. My garden is being weeded and worked on starting tomorrow. I'm going to be frugal this year, because other changes are in the wind. More about that at a future date.

I head off to Milwaukee to the Barbara Vey Reader Weekend, seeing lots of old friends and meeting new ones. Last year I tried the sausage over a bed of fried macaroni and cheese. I'm passing on that this time. (LOL).

fullsizeoutput_5c57But my new tat is the highlight of my spring, lovingly applied by Mike, the former SEAL who charmed me with stories about his days twice as a SEAL with a ten year hiatus between them. He became a biker and then returned to the SEALs ten years later.

He makes a pilgrimage to the Wall once a year, to visit some fallen brothers. Then he stops off in the midwest to visit a few friends he cultivated during his biker days. Some of them are in prison. But he makes that pilgrimage anyhow. A SEAL is a man who doesn't leave anyone behind, alive or passed over. He honors that commitment with solemnity.

I have little in common with such a man, except to say that I admire his service, which is still ongoing. I have a pretty much cream puff life, compared to his. I'm living the life men died to protect. It never gets old to say that, or to wipe my eye when I think of it.

As I said last month, life isn't perfect, but it's life and it's my life. I get to write the stories of my heart and visit with fans and people from all walks of life. We have far more in common than we have things that separate us.

If we just look for it. Wait for it. Embrace it.

Oh yes. Did you preorder SEALed At The Altar? You know you want to! Enjoy your Sunday, and your week. Safe travels to those who I'm going to see in Wisconsin later on!

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17

The Music of Romance – Hard Rock style

JCXwlX1jTAqNjApAmIdUrQI'm still here in San Diego, after the book signing yesterday at the Hard Rock Hotel. What a place. I didn't know what a Saturday beach party on top of deck 4 of the hotel, looked like. I do now! The crowd of 200 wore less fabric than I have currently in my hotel room closet. Drunk bodies everywhere. Had a lovely breakfast with readers yesterday, and again today with two special people over at Buster's. And OMG discovered people collect Hard Rock pins. My nemesis. Now I have to start doing this, in addition to my Disney pin collection. I'm so bad, I should be locked up.

n02VKsUQweE4VfFcViTDA-3380617900-1523824001804.jpgTonight I'm having dinner with family friends, and then tomorrow over to see Mike and get my new tat. Yes indeed!! I get a new one, to balance out the other shoulder. And catch up (I'm 8 books behind) on my frog prints on my forearm (one for every book).

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Gave away some new patches, some I can't show here. Met some great bloggers and promoters and made some fun plans you guys will love coming up – including an event in Wine Country for next year (fingers crossed).

So, I came with  no expectations, and walk away with pure love in my heart for all of you. I love the music here as I'm writing this. Did you know that it helps if you do music on repeat? Helps you concentrate when you hear the same thing over and over again? I love the purses I lust after but won't buy this time – maybe next. I loved the walk through the gas lamp district. The cheer groups at the Convention Center (brings back memories of Volleyball tournaments). The huge boats I'll never own, with names like Norma Jean and PayChex, from all over the world, including St. Thomas.

I recalled the day my son talked me into skydiving, and sat near the table we all sat at that one Sunday after his graduation. I showed the park where several of my couples have had sex. Had a nice long conversation with my dear best friend. I won't make it so long next time.

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Oh, I need to ask, have you preordered SEALed At The Altar yet? You won't regret it. Working on finishing the chapters and adding some jewels this weekend. Getting some information from Mike tomorrow (2 X SEAL buddy).

Life is not what we make it, but what we want it to be. I love living in this imperfect world where all I have to do to get happy is to imagine it. If I jump into one of my stories, I'm there.

What could be better? What about you?

18

A Week of Disney Magic

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Had a magical week at Disneyland with three of my six grandchildren. It was the baby's first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Waking up in a bed with a baby beside me is something I haven't done in years, so even that was magical. But the best thing about the whole vacation was the look in her eyes as she watched the brightly colored images in the Little Mermaid, and Small World rides. Later in the day, she was smiling to herself and talking, as if she was recalling all the fun.

uSGX8zMYSYGZU9R1qBMwLQWe met friends of my daughter and son-in-law's, and relatives from his side of the family as well. We discussed the magic of romance and love stories. I laughed as I told them, “I don't mind being the drug of choice” for my readers. I think they came away with a deeper understanding of why I enjoy writing romance, and why readers need their daily dose.

I got melancholy on the way home, and once I got there, I actually felt a little lonely myself. Disneyland is for kids and their parents, for couples and for families getting together. I enjoyed seeing all the colorful shirts and ways people expressed their celebration. You'd think the world was a perfect place just by judging the smiles from all the faces I met.

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I have listened to a close friend of Mr. Disney, discussing the creation of the Pirates ride, and Walt Disney's vision for what he wanted to achieve with the park in the first place. As a young father, he used to take his girls to a local park, and sometimes the horses on the carousel didn't work and the paint was chipped. That became a motto for him, I was told, a place where, “everything works and there's no chipped paint.”

But he didn't say anything about solving all the problems of the world. He just wanted to give us the experience of The Happiest Place On Earth, and for a few short hours, or days, we could forget all our other troubles. I think that's what I do as well with my romances. As I was telling my son-in-law's mother, “I write what could be, in our dreams.” I don't see any harm in doing so.

mgp6SLqUROeRk5wX7zi5wAI have a good life, and not a perfect one. I have great days and very sad days, just like everyone else. Some days I regret that I won't have in reality the Happily Ever After that I find in my books. But that's all the more reason I should write them.

Because it's a gift to myself. And I deserve it.

I wish every day was a Disneyland day. But even if it's not, at least I can dream, which is the most healthy thing I can do on a day when I'm needing a little cheering up. Nothing, not even Happily Ever After, is impossible, because we make it so.

I love living in the magic of love, even if it's in my own books.

What about you?

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