I put everything on hold yesterday and attended a soap and lotion making class held through The Goat Farm. OMG I had so much fun. Was like a play day with several lady friends. My hairdresser told me about The Goat Farm, and I intended to schedule a meet and greet sometime soon with Mindy and her husband, who own the farm. Then I discovered she was having two classes on making soap and making salves and lotions – I got in and Ta Da! Another new world has opened up for me.
You already know I do paper collage. And I love to quilt. I have been an organic gardener for over 40 years now, and I have a big local family, a business to run, helping with the family business occasionally (my former career in Real Estate), and on and on and on. I'd always thought I would make a wonderful grandmother, staying home to knit, sew things, make collage art, decorate the house, make candles and soap, write romances and garden.
Well, my life is sort of like this. Today, I will be taking my expecting daughter on a little mother-daughter shopping. Her baby is due in October, and her shower is next week. Then I spend a week partially in Las Vegas for some real estate things, and then off to Ottawa for Romancing the Capital, Eve Langlois's wonderful event, where I hope to see some great dedicated readers I've never met in person before…
So this week is about finishing, getting my instructions ready for the garden watering so that doesn't turn into an epic fail, making sure everything I need to get done gets done this week. And so why not take a soap-making class? Meet some new friends and indulge myself in scents and beautiful soap and lotion art?
My long term plans are sort of turning out. The part that isn't is I forgot to meditate and dream/look forward to the deadlines in my life. The trick, for me, is to float through life, doing all these things, and make it look artsy, effortless and soul-affirming, while making sure I keep to my commitments to others. After all, I am not independently wealthy. I didn't marry Prince Charming who has a trust fund and unlimited resources. And I'm the primary bread-winner in our family. So I can't piddle and dawdle too long. But I have to trick my brain into thinking I am living the life of ease and luxury, the life and soul-affirming things of my every day, so that the stress doesn't get in the way of me actually doing anything.
I have several partnerships. First, and foremost, I partner with myself. Am I getting healthier as I age? Am I doing what things I want to do while I can do them? Am I managing my finances and my time in such a way that there is more life at the end of the month instead of more stress? Do I live in a house of my design, a place where I enjoy being and where I can feel my soul growing? Or, does it limit me? And is the cost (time/emotional energy) worth the result?
I partner with my husband. Not everything is perfect all the time. After some 46 years of marriage, we've done a pretty good job of balancing the urgent and the necessary, with the folly, leaving time for creative endeavors and explorations. I think we do best at the explorations. For me, that's travel. Part of being a good partner is learning and telling the truth on what we can and are willing to bring to the table. I'm no Cinderella either. But partnerships don't do very well under stress or chaos, and a lot of our time is spent making sure these things happen only on a limited basis. Gardening, traveling, going on soap-binges or shopping (in moderation) helps with this, too.
I partner with my other family members. I am nearly the oldest woman member of my little tribe. That comes with it some responsibilities to pass on what I've learned in a way that doesn't make my family feel like I've hit them between the eyes. I want to give them memories they can laugh about when I'm gone. And yes, I admit, I'd like there to be a big hole when I leave. I'd like to be missed.
Partnerships with others in my real estate or writing community, in other endeavors I'm involved with requires telling the truth and learning who and what I can trust. I have some partners I'd love to listen to but would never count on in a crisis. I have others who I can count on for different things, but not for all things. I sort and pick, and yes, occasionally dead-head my friends and associates. No sense trying to make or keep a friend who is drifting, or not wanting to reciprocate, or for whom I have to do all the heavy lifting. As I get older, I've been better and better about discerning those things. And I've made some major screw-ups along the way being too trusting. But the lessons have been massive, and the circumstances have taught me a lot about myself. Just like raising children, being long-term married, growing a garden or starting a successful business — failure is part of the story.
I guess I could sum up my life as a patchwork of things, some found, some discovered, some worked for, some gifted and some lost, or lost and re-found. It is a blend of highs and lows, colors and blandness, determination and creativity, art and science and a little magic thrown in along the way.
I guess these are all life skills I'll need some day when I take my next great adventure into the unknown. I take that hole that hopefully will be made here and bring that value to wherever else I'm going. And then give it all away again.
Because, in the end, all of it is a series of giving everything away, in various stages of our lives. It's not about receiving all day long. For me, it's about watching how my gifts change the world around me. My gardens. My books. My loves. My family. My quilts. My spaces.
What about you?
My father is gone, and every Father's Day I get over to his grave to leave some roses from my garden, and at Christmas I like to bring him drumsticks so he can keep playing. Dad was an engineer, and looked about as wrong as wrong could be as a drummer, with his hair fringe, and jerky motions, and the fact that he had to bite his lip and frown because he concentrated so hard on keeping up with the beat. Like everything he did, even making music was hard work. But he loved hard work. Always did and I'm sure he's working hard now.
What I learned from my father was how to survive. He was a very smart man. He did very well in school, but his childhood was marred by the fact that his own father suffered severely in World War I in battles in France, and basically came home mentally broken and eventually was sent to a state hospital until he could fight his way out. He never talked about his Dad's trials, or the fact that he had to get up at one or two in the morning to sing hymns or those Tennessee Ernie Ford songs, and that his mother got up and played piano for him. It was just a fact of life.
His father wore pajamas all day long after he came home, and wore an apron, was the chief housekeeper and cook for the family, and Dad had many tales about those days. He'd come home, throw his books in the corner, and not return until dinner, then after dinner he studied into the night. It was his way of dealing with the unknowns of living with a parent who was mentally ill for most of his life, in an environment where he didn't feel safe.
But Dad was never bitter. He loved his Dad. And as I was the oldest granddaughter, I loved him as well. Quirks, crying jags, days in the bedroom with the shades drawn and the arguments at the dinner table or the early morning songs my brother and I heard when we stayed there for a week at summer time, all seemed part of life. We took it just like my Dad did.
We were opposites in personality style. He would prepare and take copious notes. He hated to not know everything and so spent hours and hours researching thing. He once took apart our television set just because he wanted to see how it was made. He went to the dentist one time without novacaine so he could experience what that felt like. He was the perfect grandfather for my kids, even sliding down brown hills on our property on a cardboard refrigerator carton with the kids, and hitting a tree. He had to go to work the next day with a black eye. His commitment to the family was 100%.
As my mother was getting weaker from the ravages of cancer, he cut a fresh rose for her every day and brought it into her room. He took it as his job to take care of her those last 14 years of her life, and when she passed over, he was left without a job in life. Though my mother had gone, he was not ready to stop being a husband. So, at 80, my dad remarried, something none of us ever thought would happen and lived another ten years. I credit some of this to my new mom, Eunice, whom he loved with everything in his being, another testament, and another lesson to us all.
But the funniest thing I remember about Dad was a conversation we had at one of my son's soccer tournaments in Davis. He'd gotten married the previous year. My mother had been buried in a plot in the lawn of our local Memorial Park. He'd bought the plot next to her, but now that he was married again, his priorities had changed.
He asked my permission to have my mother moved to the mausoleum, where he had a spot next to her, but the two of them would rest beneath his current new wife and her deceased husband. “Sharon, when I die, I'd like to be buried next to both my wives.”
I thought about it for a minute or two and then answered him this way, “I'm okay with it, Dad. But let me ask you this. Are you planning on getting married a third time?”
Forgive the use of some of these promo pictures, but they are some of my favorite father/daughter images and I thought you wouldn't mind.
Happy Fathers' Day. Hope you spoil him, or spoil him in your dreams.
It does feel good to spend time as a writer in the company of readers. It's lush and feels wonderful! One of the best things about being a writer is to know that we are an important part of avid reader's lives. It is an honor, and it also comes with it a bit of a burden, to continue to deliver content and new story lines. I'm up for the challenge!
There are lots of things we do to become visible, and I've lined out some of my concerns in my post of last Sunday here. As you know, I have some things about this whole field that trouble me greatly. But, it is the platform we have, it is the platform that has given me the ability to sell my books in the open market.
My own future direction is to stay in the vein of interest for readers, and not to artificially create it, which some forms of advertising and promotion feel like. Certain types of “fandom” experiences feel that way too. Yet, we want fans. How do we know when we've crossed the line?
I guess the readers get to choose. My attending events like this, I get to become a “person” they know, not just read. That's important. I want to be generous with my readers, but I understand I won't win them all. But they are my life blood.
I've seen first-hand how the ebb and flow of popularity can change in a year, in a few months, even in a week. The bottom line? Be ready for the long haul, and don't get attached to any temporary setback. The long haul means basking in the glow of success, as well as plodding through the mud when we get discouraged. Most readers don't understand how writers sometimes get discouraged.
I have a great life and a great family I don't get a lot of time to be with. That has concerned be a bit this year. So, I may be cutting back on my travels and appearances. I'm going to choose wisely the reader events where I get good one-on-one interaction, not just ones where I party or get drunk with readers. That's not me. My breakfast this morning, as a wrap-up to Lori Foster's event, is just perfect: with either other wonderful ladies, where we got to talk about Navy SEALs, and hopefully answer their questions about me, my books and how I write. I love talking about my experiences. I also love it when family members bring new readers or members of their family along. Those readers I will do almost anything for.
So, you may not see me at the really big conventions. Not at the crazy conventions, or the ones where they specialize in over-the-top behavior. I'm a product of my generation, and a lady, even though I do write spicy books. Am I a non-fiction writer where I give 100% accurate portrayal of what being a Navy SEAL is really like? Heck no. I'm a novelist. I take stories and situations and make them into things I would like to read. I embellish! Some are based on true events, but most of them are my active imagination! And I think that's what's wanted and needed.
So, I go home to California tonight, thinking about getting into the next book to finish, spend time in my garden (some rescue will no doubt be needed, but not making anyone wrong for that), and some personal reflection time on what I want to do going forward. I know that I have some things I can assist my family in financially, and will be cutting away at other things so I can be a better contributor. It no longer is okay for me not to be available, or be traveling so much. Life is short and the grands grow up, and I want to be a part of all that.
So, it's balance I'm seeking. I have a good life. I'm taking care of my health. I'm blessed with a wonderful family and have been very successful in all the businesses we've had. Part of doing something for me is not only being a romance writer, but being a better wife, mother and grandmother, and perhaps have some time for friendships. I've neglected some of these in the past, and that's something I'm going to focus on most of all.
It's always good every once in awhile to get off the treadmill and make sure that my goals and dreams are all aligned with what the rest of the family wants and needs. And then, of course, I can add that extra bit of sparkle and fantasy. My rose colored glasses are still firmly in place. But those glasses have given me far more in real life results than a magnifying glass ever could. It's a balance of both worlds.
And I hope you'll continue to join me there.
There are certain times of the year that are just lush. That's the best way to describe them. In Northern California, we've had a lot of rain this spring, and even some last week, which is nearly unheard of. So the weeds are crazy strong, but so are the plants when I can weed them.
Never seen so many rose blooms. The soil is just perfect for working in it. I've lost my fingerprints from patting down soil around new plants. My toes and fingernails look like I lived in the time of Outlander, they are eternally black around the edges, no matter how much I scrub. Good that it doesn't interfere with my writing – except these times I make sure to use a keyboard protector!
Because of the weather, and our schedules, our garden is very late. So these pictures, compared to last year, might look less full. Have no fear. As my favorite sign says, “My Garden Isn't Dead. It's Sleeping.”
So I've planted literally about 100 little flower transplants and bulbs. I should be good in about a month with some lush pictures, if I can keep them properly weeded. I went all out and planted 9 melon plants, including 5 watermelon mounds. We heard that the rind is actually very healthy – more so than the fruit, so we'll be adding these to our healthy smoothies this summer.
My peas are just starting to peek out and I hope the shady area I grew them will help promote some yummy pods. I have yellow, purple, French and Blue Lake beans. I've planted a dozen asparagus plants, 3 new violet artichokes and a couple new green ones. I planted about 50′ of potatoes, with the onions around them (my only tried and true remedy for gopher and mole control). I've got red cabbage, red cauliflower. Celery and yellow beets. Seven kinds of cucumber including Armenian, Burpless and a new Russian variety (how appropriate, right?). I am babying some volunteer turban squash, hubbard squash, zuccini, and patty pans. And of course, 14 tomato plants of all varieties – several cherry (chocolate, yellow and red) and two Heirloom brands. My lettuce is doing great. I have onions all over the place. I was delighted to find a new variety of Hydrangea – nice and purple.
We are checking our watering on the roses, and the fruit trees and discovered our apple tree had termites! Yuck. Sprayed that sucker with that tar spray (only thing in my garden non-organic) and will fill up the hole they've eaten in the trunk with (you guessed it) concrete! We always have that lying around for repairing our rock walls.
So while finishing this next book, Paradise, I'm watering, planting and doing other things outside to get me moving and stimulate ideas. It is a great way to craft a love story.
I'm not sure whether the love stories inspires my garden or my garden inspires my love stories, and I don't care to find out.
All I know is, it's lush here in Northern California. I don't travel for a couple of weeks, and, being a Taurus, I'm very firmly planted in the soil of my garden, even though my head and heart is in the clouds.
Enjoy these last few days of May.
And who could forget Richard Harris with this timeless piece.
I didn't grow up reading romances. I read classics like Anna Karenina, Tale of Two Cities, or Doctor Zhivago. Just like I used to listen to music for the beautiful set in the middle of the song – that “favorite part” that was so moving that I'd put up with whatever came before or after – I used to read those classics for the jewels of romance I'd find scattered there, albeit sparsely.
My mother would be proud of my success today, and I like to think she would thinly approve. But I would never have been able to get a romance book in through the front door. She was taught what her mother taught her. The women of our family didn't read romance.
I think they should have!
So I came to this late in life. And now I'm knee-deep in it. I write now from memories of what it felt like to be twenty-something, in love so full to bursting, having children and watching them grow. I get to re-live all those days again. what a treat I've had! It's not a second childhood at all, but a second lifetime. And there is no end in sight.
I've said before that being a mother is the hardest job you'll ever love. My post from last year summed up some of my story. (https://sharonhamiltonauthor.blogspot.com/2016/05/motherhood-should-come-with-warning.html)
Today, we are going to the same cafe. The Grands are one year older, my youngest daughter is expecting a new baby this Fall, and life is good. Still with all the drama of years past, but good. I'm writing up a storm, loving the stories more and more, and enjoying this phase of my writing career. I couldn't ask for a better time to be alive.
So, to rob my brilliance from last year, here are the 10 things that should perhaps come on the Warning Label of Motherhood. I'd like to hear your favorite:
Happy Mother's Day to all of you, and to all of you who are honored to help a mother celebrate her special day by saying thanks.
I hope that you celebrate the love of a mother, whether your mother, or someone else's. You are blessed specially today if you do so. It is always more fulfilling to show love for someone, no matter who they are, who has dedicated a portion of their lives raising a child. No mother should go without love today. Let's make that happen.
|First roses from my garden collage|
Is there anything more precious than new words? We love new roses from our gardens, new little starts that stick up from the warm brown soil in the Spring. We love new love, and what it feels like. We love meeting a new friend, or rekindling with an exciting old friend. Other new things I love: a new quilt pattern, new dress, colorful scarf, new haircut. I love new fabric or a great colorful fabric discounted! New bright red in my hair. New car! New jewelry, or a new candle scent or perfume. New shower gel! I love meeting a new reader who loves my books, or getting a great new review!
All these lush things are wonderful, and the most exciting of them all for me are New Words.
With new words, a new character develops. Like a chess game, the hunter and hunted meet, the warriors clash over a battle of wills. The Beast becomes the gentleman, and the Beauty becomes strong and supportive on her own. It's a classic tale of falling and having love burn so brightly in your chest that you just have to tell every stranger.
It's what makes a book something nice into something I gotta have!
It happens when I become the pro writer and not the amateur writer. It bashes through all obstacles and walls, limitations of funds, time, age, distance. I turned from being a reader who loved to read compelling books to wanting to create them. That creative process stimulates and excites everything in my world. It no longer is work. I ask my brain to be patient with the thoughts so I have the time to get everything down on paper. When I feel this way, I have to stop whatever else I'm doing and submit to that great spirit.
My beautiful music is even more beautiful. The colors are brighter. Scenes are more stunning. I wear loneliness like a badge and let the emotional energy spur me on to bring about a closure and connection that wasn't there before. My perceived lacks of the physical world I live in disappear in the fantasy life I create. My characters are my best friends and lovers. They don't leave. They love as fiercely as they play, with as much passion as I can imagine. I know there's even more off the screen of what I can hold at one time.
|Bought this in Sao Paolo, Brazil|
Today I give myself to new words. After all, it is World Book Day. #LovetoRead
Of course, you could always watch Cinderella with someone you love, too.
So, here are some FIRST WORDS for you of a book called Paradise – The Search For Love (unedited):
Amazon always gives me little notifications when they think my spelling isn't up to par. I'm a creative speller. Oh yes, I know the difference. A creative speller makes up words that fit the moment, like some of my SEAL characters nicknames: Fredo becomes Frodo, Kyle Lansdowne becomes Lannie or Landmine. Armando Guzman becomes Armani. And of course they also get creative – very creative – with swear words.
If I had to clean up my prose and take out that certain word that begins with the letter “F”, my manuscripts would lose about 10,000 words, I'm sure.
So here are a couple I found today. I love Spellcheck Days!
Minidrone – I actually think that's a word I've read somewhere. Amazon doesn't recognize it.
Microwinery – well, they have microbreweries, why not microwineries. I really think I did make this one up.
Sexploits – I think that's a valid description of some of the “in search of” capers my SEALs go on until they come smack up against someone who snags their attention.
F**kbunny – I love that word and use it all I can. My editors usually limit me to a diet of 2 per book.
How about you? Do you like to use favorite words, make up words? Find words you've read or heard and loved them into existence?
|Field of marigolds in India|
Enjoyed giving a presentation to the Suguaro Romance Writers in Tucson yesterday. True to my standards, I made a dramatic entrance.
Enjoyed meeting with the board Friday night, and over a spectacular mexican dinner, I began to pass out. One minute I twas speaking, and the next, I was looking down at someone kneeling and asking me if I was okay. I don't even remember them separating the tables, customers from that side of the restaurant looking on. Light-headed and unable to finish my food, and a little sick to my stomach, I was confused and unable to move.
Well, next I heard they'd called paramedics. “I'm fine!” I said, to which they all laughed. I was helped outside and was treated by six (count them) handsome paramedics. We're all romance writers. We write about firemen and paramedics all the time. I'm telling you, if I'd felt better, I might have laughed it off better, but the ladies were having fun. Every single one of our paramedic crew knew we wrote romance. I heard about it all the way to the hospital.
|This could be Sonoma County, but it's India.|
I waved good night to my group of board members who were having me speak, from the back of the ambulance, and was transported to the Emergency Room.
Okay, so I did admit to passing out a few bookmarks, and one of the nurses who attended me was a big military romance reader and had heard of me. I got an Uber driver for $5.67 who took me from the hospital back to my hotel at 2 AM, after I'd been checked out, hydrated with an IV and discharged. We talked romance in his RAM truck. I think his girlfriend will be getting one of my books.
And at 9 AM, I was feeling great. After my grand dramatic entrance, I was on.
|A grand railway adventure to the caves in Goa?|
I talked about my journey, and literally had some laughs about stories I'd heard about other writers and their perserverance, which was a theme in my talk, about not giving up, not ringing the bell. We talked about exposure, getting follows, getting a dedicated fanbase of readers. Taking what we got and just expanding on that, large or small, grand or simple. The pros and cons of different types of marketing and Newsletters, assistants, review teams and reader groups. It was all out there.
Of course I talked about my thoughts about watching my son get his Trident. What he had to go through, and showed what things did or didn't make their way into my books and why.
|Life is color, and meant to celebrate.|
It was inspiring for me to get up and talk for a couple of hours, to laugh, and to demonstrate the sisterhood (and brotherhood) of writers we are. Great group, and was one of my better days. Hospital scare and all.
I come back refreshed, recalibrated. Sometimes I think I get so wound up with my own goals and focus, I forget that being an inspiration is part of what I love about being a writer. If I didn't feel I gave anything back, it honestly wouldn't be worth it.
|Indian monuments of love. My kind of trail. I'm going.|
On the plane home, I found something new for my bucket list. I have a story brewing about India, about a time travel romance spanning a hundred and fifty years crossing three continents. Now I have a new mission. This picture is pasted on my wall by my computer screen to remember.
Visiting the great monuments of love? What's not right for a romance writer? I have to get there, somehow.
On Tuesday, we release Book 3 in the Band of Bachelors series (part of the overall SEAL Brotherhood series). I've had a great time writing this hero.
I have a printable book list on this website, if you go back to the Home page. That will give you the reading order, and the series, as well as other books, box sets, and novellas.
So here's how I got the Band of Bachelors. I was going to do a SEAL for Cat Johnson's Kindle World. Cat is a good friend of mine, and a great writer. I got Lucas' story done in novella format, and then had to change plans. So this book became a full length novel, Book 1 in the Band of Bachelors.
All my books are part of the overall SEAL Brotherhood series. My publicist at the time told me that I shouldn't have long series. So I decided to break up the titles to focus on the unique group of SEALs in each group. In real life, there are different types of SEALs. Ones that stay in for twenty years, married and divorced SEALs, SEALs who get out after six years, ones who are single, ones who are happily married, ones who have to roll out due to injuries, and everything in between.
So my Bachelor SEALs then are those who have been married before, and either get married multiple times with kids all over the place (like my Jake), or go through messy divorces. The one thing they have in common is that they rely too heavily on their own form of Bachelor advice. They live like a bunch of bachelors, and haven't yet figured out what all the fuss is about housekeeping and decorating a home. In fact, they are enjoying the fact that they don't have to do that anymore.
But one by one, they fall. I love the concept.
In contrast, my Bad Boys of SEAL Team 3 are men who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, from often foster care or tragic family lives. Men who found their true calling by becoming a SEAL. Of course, one by one, they each find their Happily Ever After, and rise to become the warrior they were destined to be.
True Blue SEALs is going to be a series of injured warriors, starting with Book 1, Zak. This story was based in part on the story of Adam Brown, who lost an eye and then have to re-qualify to go back on the SEAL Teams. Very inspiring true story. I used the idea of what impact a freak injury can have on the life of a warrior. Zak of course opens the door to the winery life in Sonoma County. I wanted to be able to include that in the future for some of the guys who get out and go on with their lives.
Nashville SEALs was inspired in great part by my narrator, J.D. Hart, sort of as a romanticized version (although J.D. needs no enhancement) of his early life as a country-western star in Nashville. In getting to know him over the twenty plus audio books we have done together, his story came out, and I asked for and received permission to tell an exaggerated tale of it, tailored to my SEALs. He could have been a bad boy, but I don't see J.D.'s young single life as being bad at all. But that's just me. My hero is the same. He gives more than he takes, but he decides there's more to life than backstage hookups and short term relationships, and rises to the call.
And now I have the Trident Legacy, my first paranormal SEAL. Tay Demmett makes your acquaintance on 3/28/17 when Kathryn LeVeque and I release the duet Trident Legacy. I hope you will go buy that book as soon as you finish Jake.
What's next? It will be another SEAL story, in one of these series. It might be Bad Boy #4, Bachelor #4, Tay's full length story, another SEAL Brotherhood story in the original series, a continuation of Lizzie and Jameson's story, or a continuation of Fredo's Dream with Fredo and Mia.
In any event, I hope you use this as a reference to what has come before, and where I'm going. After all, it's been a fun journey and I couldn't do it without you, the readers, and my wonderful sister authors, who have taught me so much.
I used to wonder when I was a little girl what my future would be. I think most of us with any kind of imagination would. That little record player and I when I was 3 or so, living upstairs in the big old house in Oakland, California, were best friends. The wonderful Disney stories like Cinderella and Snow White helped me escape. Truth was, that big old house with the double dark attics and the two vacant rooms haunted me. And I was afraid. Falling in love with the music, the dancing and the Happily Ever After was my escape from fear.
Part of being a successful writer is learning things about myself that keep me going: my favorite friends to visit on social media, or when to stay off social media, that I love to get all down and dirty with a story until it consumes me (I don't ever do anything in little bites), that writing intense, like living intense is way more exciting than being safe and secure. Sort of like being on a big ship and daring yourself to imagine falling overboard and considering just for a minute what it would feel like to be plunged into the cold ocean.
Our fears are sometimes what drive us, compel us to do things. It works with performance as I've heard actors say if they aren't just a little nervous before they go on stage, they don't give a good performance. Athletes train for extraordinary results. Competing is training in itself. The thing that drives us is the fear of failure in many realms.
Our brain filters what is “good” for us and what is “bad” for us, and for each one of us it's different. I've learned that there are only a few people I really need to know about during every day, and I'm not missing out if I don't turn on every follow or worry about what someone's friends of friends are saying or liking, or whether or not I'm “trending.” Those are fears that are unhealthy.
And tuning out all that “chatter” comes with its own set of fears: missing out on something. I've made decisions to hire people based on not wanting to “miss out.” I've worried when I didn't need to. Birds make nests this time of year. Flowers bloom. Gardens grow. Living things respond to the sun and are enhanced.
So here's the right mix for me, and maybe it will help you. At some point, you put aside the fear, and you just have faith. That's little letter “f”, but it works for the big one too. The fear is like the double yellow line, or the white lines on the side of the road that help you steer. So anything that doesn't drive faith to me, is unnecessary. Not that it's bad or evil or anything, it's just unnecessary.
Worry is unnecessary, but effort, laced very gently with the fear of failure or success, just a tiny bit, is a good thing. Fierce writing is good. Setting goals and deadlines are the roadmaps. Achieving everything on a To Do list is good. Having a plan is good. Abandoning a plan is good if it causes too much fear. Re-evaluating goals and dreams, adjusting our course is good. Feeling like the tail is wagging the dog, running to catch up, to be good enough is unnecessary.
I think understanding that word, unnecessary, means I have a healthy set of filters in place that protect me. Protects my spirit, my humanity, my graciousness and my gratitude. Protecting the work.
Loving is protecting the heart. Loving with the fear of it not being returned enhances the experience, in my opinion. Always striving, improving, adjusting and broadening my experiences make me a better writer, lover, mother, wife, friend and all round human being.
So while my future wasn't anything like what I'd planned, it does more resemble what I listened to as a youngster of three. That love will win not just some times, but every time. That being connected is more important than frequency or following of trending. And in that wonderful process called trial and error, course correction and that drive to never give up, blooms that beautiful flower of creativity that decorates the gardens of my heart.
While it wasn't what I thought it would be, life has been even better than I could possibly dream it could be.
Writing is work.
There are days when you just write because you don't know what else to do. Or because not writing feels like giving up. Or that you don't fit in anywhere else. Or that you've forgotten how to be or do anything else.
You have to have a thick skin.
Some days you disappoint yourself.
Other days others disappoint you.
Nothing is for sure or stable.
The world is burning.
And I'm still writing.
The fairy princesses have flown away.
Duty, honor and true love are still possible.
But darn! There are so many potholes.
It's day 5 of BUD/S.
I hear the bell ring, but someone else pulled the strap.
I'm still here.
And so are you. Are you listening now? When do the clowns come out and play?
I find meeting other authors, readers and the social interaction with people in general to be very stimulating. I percolate with ideas whenever I come back from a conference, or signing or get-together. I am planning on some serious brainstorming with one of my writing buddies, Carolyn Jewel, at the San Francisco Indie UnCon later this month.
Just got back from the Love and Fifty in Sacramento last weekend, and saw the Fifty Shades movie with a whole theater of other romance writers and their reader fans. Now I want to buy a theater somewhere and put in those wonderful lounge chairs and serve beer and wine like they do in Portland…Okay, in my next life…Show nothing but romance 24/7. How about rented cubbies on the side where writers could work while watching the screen? Have a sound-proof office so you can turn off the dialogue or add your own music?
The possibilities are endless!
So everything I do, see and feel goes into my books. People ask me all the time where all the stories come from, or whether or not I'll ever run out. They come from everywhere! Watch out! Spend time with a writer and you'll be immortalized! That's more than a promise, it's a fact!
What makes a good romance story is that you can count on the HEA. Sometimes it's cataclysmic, sometimes it's subtle, yet speaks volumes. But between the beginning and that HEA ending, we go on a journey together and the writer stretches the boundaries, takes the reader on twists and turns of the unexpected, all to arrive at the expected (but not too predictable) outcome. I like it when I read a book and I'm screaming, “No! Bad decision. Don't go there!” and yet I know that that decision leads to a series of events that becomes part of the outcome, which could have never happened without those decisions.
Some say we writers like to torture our readers. Man, it does affect me when I have to have a breakup scene, or when the hero or heroine thinks the other is either lost or has been rejected. It hurts me as much as it hurts you, the reader. I've cried while writing in coffee shops and drawn some attention from well-meaning people around me, consoling me, until they find out I'm just a writer.
Spending a few hours talking to my 90 year-old-step mom brought out another series of stories you wouldn't expect after visiting her retirement home. Love blooms, friends become enemies, and politics infuses every aspect of our culture, of the world's culture. There's drama everywhere, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of age.
No, I'm not going to start writing Octogenarian Romance, although I've got a story there too. But I've got an idea that could start there.
Tropes are timeless, regardless of genre or age of the characters. An inciting incident can happen in a Retirement Community or in a shopping mall, as well as on a desert island. Because wherever there are people, there are relationships. The story of those relationships is what we write, how people both lose love and find it again, which is the story of hope that is in so many romance novels.
So, as we get ready to celebrate the Love Holiday with those who mean so much to us, let's remember the opening of the heart as the most worthwhile endeavor man has ever done. It is the one hope that every child seeks, every adult desires, at every age. It is the one thing we can't get too much of, as the song goes.
And the one thing we need more now than ever before. Let's celebrate together. You know that quote from Love, Actually? “Let's all get the s**t kicked out of us by love.” I think that's fine advice. Couldn't have said it better myself!
The recent celebration with my granddaughter, who was chosen as Student Of The Month, inspired this post. Her standard, adorned with her funny picture and smiling face, chronicles all her favorite likes. It is an award for the whole student she is, not just the academic part. It's a “Hey, look at me, and this is who I am!”
Social media has made it possible for me to interact with my readers and other author friends, essentially saying the same thing: “look at me!” I work on writing things that readers and others will want to hear about, not just about my books, but the journey, things that might be interesting about my life and the ups and downs of it. As authors, we invite others in. We call it “being sticky” in the business.
It takes years to develop a following, to brand a name or series, or to be known for something. And then we try to give readers something different, ask them to go on another journey, expand their tastes a bit. Sometimes it works, others it doesn't.
There is no magic formula. In the meantime, and between the highs and the lows there is one constant. For the most part, I think I've been pretty good with it: confidence in ourselves. My goal is to be a good writer for my readers, but for myself, my job is to stay positive, and to continually be my own best friend.
I've probably told this story before, but one day in Real Estate I'd listed a big home, got another one sold, made my designated number of contacts (44 per day) and coached several other agents on coaching calls. I closed a big escrow. It was a huge day for me, spoken in terms of “deals” as 7, my record at the time. I was on cloud 9. I drove home, and on the way passed a house with a competing sign in the front yard. Those were my people! How dare they? But the truth was, they'd chosen someone else when I thought I had it in the bag.
I drove up my driveway feeling dejected, a failure. I was grumpy and tossing things around, making lots of noice in the kitchen. My kids picked up on it immediately and we discussed it. “What do you mean, Mom? You had a great day!”
And they were right. I'd forgotten the cardinal rule of mine, a rule I'd taught agents for years: “Give yourself that pat on the back. Be your own best friend first.” By being upset I didn't do 100%, I completely wiped out all my previous wins. Big mistake.
Writing is lonely and most people would be surprised to learn how insecure we can be as writers. We wonder what happens when a reader we used to hear a lot from doesn't communicate any longer. We think it's us, and not something going on with them and their lives. We take compliments sometimes and judge the sincerity of them when we just should be grateful for the compliment in the first place! We don't encourage ourself or celebrate our wins.
I'm going to a collage/art class today up at Bishop's Ranch. It's the first class in a series of 5 given by the resident artist there. Like when I quilt and when I garden, doing something else than writing brings me new life and I come away feeling so good about myself and what I'm doing. I'm launching into two new series, and completing one trilogy. Spring is almost here and my daffodils are coming up.
Loved this blog post the other day, here, which talks about some of the same issues. Have a fabulous Sunday my lovelies!!
Remember, you are exceptional!!
How does an author cross genres and still keep his or her audience? Or have her audience risk traveling with her on a journey into a new genre?
Along with pen names, this topic has been discussed many many times in writers' groups. It can be a scary thing for an author to change genres, or add genres. But I think the realities of the marketplace are such that we have to be prepared for genre tastes to change. Or become over-saturated. I think it's healthy to have a couple of sources you can draw stories from and pick up new readers.
The Indie community allows us to explore all these options at our own will. We don't necessarily have to give up one genre to explore another one. And we don't necessarily have to just chase the rabbit of “best selling genres” which I see so many try to do. That's something that is guaranteed to make a writer go crazy in a heartbeat.
Speaking only from my personal experience, writing in more than one genre is healthy for my writing. Not everything can be quantified in terms of sales, although that's what we're doing as authors, writing books readers will buy. But adding “sparkly body parts” to the mix of stories in our fantasy worlds is a good thing. Like exercising a new muscle, it can be painful, but overall adds to our overall strength.
I think what makes us stronger writers is that we take chances, not stupid chances, but chances nonetheless, and we have confidence in the work. Tastes change. What is the rage one day may not be the next. There is the phenomenon that readers are always looking for new writers they can discover, like treasure hunting. Someone with a good backlist is at an advantage because of past reader loyalty, but at a disadvantage if we're not the new shiny penny anymore. The work has to be shiny, not the author.
The answer? Just continue writing what we like to write, what tickles our fancy, and what readers in the past have loved. It has been said that every author tells the same story, just with different characters. Whether they are a Dark Angel, a Golden Vampire or Navy SEAL hero, the heroes in my book all find their true calling and higher selves through finding true love.
So, here are a couple of rules I think apply when writing across genres.
1. Have confidence readers will enjoy creativity and introduction of new characters.
2. Your voice as a writer doesn't change.
3. In romance, it's still about the hero and heroine's journey to find each other.
4. Be patient with yourself and listen to the writing voice inside your heart. Let that intuition serve you and feed the faith, not the fear.
5. Explain what you're doing and make sure past readers know you are not leaving one area permanently, that you'll be back.
6. Take the new excitement of learning new things to your new writing, even if it's an old genre.
7. Writers make it every day, break out, do the impossible and defy odds all the time.
8. Payoffs are not always in dollars. Write from your heart, not just for the market.
9. Embrace change and know we learn from our mistakes.
10. Keep everyone guessing! (What the heck is she doing now?)
What about you?
It is my guilty pleasure, I admit it. If I wasn't a romance novelist, I'd be a romance reader and live in those books 24/7. The alternative to reading or writing romance? A world with not enough love in it. I live in a world where relationships magically happen and continually bring out the very best in all of us. Am I a better writer because I have loved so intensely? Or am I a better woman because I have written so intensely?
Of all the choices in my life, I think becoming a novelist has been my best one. I think, just like my SEALs, writers are born, not created. A hero is a hero from birth. We are surrounded by the ordinary all the time. Our fantasy lives enable us to live free from the earthly bonds of age, health, finances and opportunity. Not all of us will meet a titan of industry, a military hero or a man who knows everything about us and will always do the perfect thing to rock our worlds. But in our fantasy lives, that happens not just every day, but several times a day.
This addiction to studying love, falling in love, sex, finding one's highest self, living in a world were all is possible and nothing is impossible, is something that will be with me the rest of my life. And it's legal.
I scan the TV and look at topics on the internet and am amazed so few people live in the aspiration side of life, in the part where miracles do happen, where people find and do the right things. If I were to spend my focus on the “reality” of the world, all the signs point elsewhere.
So fantasy, love is my reality. I hope more of us join us there. I do think love can heal the world. I really do. This world needs a lot more romance, and a lot less rhetoric.
I'm just one of the grateful cheerleaders.
There are a number of things I am grateful for in 2016. It was great for a lot of reasons:
1. I survived. ?
2. Got sick and got well. ?
3. Finished 5 books. ?
4. Weathered some breakups, shakeups and uncertainties with grace and a pinch of humor. ?
5. Better prepared for the travels ahead. ?
6. Kept my focus, realigned my purpose, learned about some new opportunities. ?
7. Welcomed the New Year with an open heart, and a head full of stories. ?
8. Reinforced the power of gratitude and being light-hearted at the right times. ?
9. Re-fell in love with falling in love ALL-IN. ?
10. I start the year off being INSPIRED. ???
So, here are some things I'm focusing on this New Year's Day. Hope you can join me along the way some of the time. We have a lot of work to do together, you and I. I can't wait. How about you?
MY 2017 FOCUS:
1. I write every day because it is my life.
2. I'd rather be in a book or story than anywhere else. It is my reality.
3. Concentrate on creativity and the flow will come.
4. Expect to be amazed, not understanding everything. Amazed, like a child.
5. Be a well-used character in my own life like a favorite toy and much-loved soul.
6. Pointy people grind the rough edges off me and make me shine.
7. Circumstances REVEAL a person, they don't make a person.
8. Getting up and getting started now is the most important attitude to have.
9. Learn from everyone, everything. Seek lessons like jewels.
10. Show gratitude, grace and humor more than anger, frustration or hurt.
11. Be loveable more than right.
12. Understand but keep to my side of the fence.
13. Have compassion but be strong enough to tell the truth.
14. Feel the healing power of love.
15. Take more chances, feel deeper, understand the strength to let go when needed.
16. I can't fix anybody. ANYbody.
17. Walk with other warm hearts and bright spirits. Close my doors and windows to negativity.
18. Notice, nurture, never forget.
19. Lead with love and kindness.
20. Hug the little girl inside me every day.
I recently ran across an article on Stephenie Meyer and her new book, The Chemist, which comes out shortly. I'd not been following her career and haven't read any of her work except the Twilight series, and did not follow her to the alternative POVs on the saga she wrote afterwards. Now she's tackling more the thriller genre, while still keeping a love story prominent in the work. I cheer for her (that's the sound me me clapping).
In searching her books, I also saw a book I won't even mention, with a title disparaging her name and her writing. And this was allowed on Amazon, in fact, shows up on her Amazon search page as an “also buy.”
I've about had it with some of the things allowed under the guise of free speech. The great Zon in the sky allows a title like that with a four-letter word front and center, demeaning an author, but has a problem with a naked man's chest (or God forbid, nipples showing under his shirt), in their advertising. None of my book covers, for instance, are allowed to be advertised in paid ads. They either contain a man's torso, or a couple looking lustily at each other, or a feather with a little dangerous blood on it in my angel series, starting with Heavenly Lover.
I certainly approve of controls to protect young children from reading or seeing adult content or themes. But children see far worse on the television and in movies every day. They hear rap music with disgusting lyrics and somehow we are taught that this is “mainstream” while writing about sex or a couple enjoying sex, that's a bad thing.
So is degrading an author for being successful supposed to be okay too? So are phony reviews and hurtful things said and done by small-minded people intent on wielding their two seconds of fame on the internet. We are so PC about some things, and not on others. Being a romance writer, or someone who writes happily ever after tales, we develop a thick skin, and endure all sorts of things most people have no idea actually happen to writers.
Conflict cannot survive without your participation – Wayne Dyer. I once got to spend an afternoon with a small group gathered to hear Mr. Dyer speak to us, and got to speak to him over lunch. I found his message hopeful, and uplifting. He had detractors in his career. Horrible things said about him and his writing or his speeches. And he didn't participate in any of that.
I have things all around me that remind me of the good things in my life, not to fool myself, but to remind myself that I've decided to participate in a different game. I've decided to follow my heart's desire and passion for the things I do with meaning. I've also had to make tough choices to protect that creative and willful streak in my being. Sometimes saying No is better than saying Yes. Just like sometimes being kind is better than mouthing off under the guise of “being free.”
Because being unbeatable means remembering that when life is full of passion and hope, all things are possible, no matter what anybody else says or does. We write, edit, put it out there, be awesome and then do it all over again. That's the game I want to play.
We think a lot about horror and fright this time of year. Read an interesting article this week by Neil Strauss, who is someone I follow when I can. He discusses the difference between Fear and Anxiety. He's been doing some studies on this with members of the scientific community and has come to some interesting conclusions. Some I've listed below, and I've added my notes about them.
Most of what you call fear is really anxiety.
He suggests that being willing to enter the doorway of no return, or facing fear head-on, is a precursor to achieving great success. Consider the number of people who go through near-death experiences and then discover in themselves some magic and walk away changed forever. Or pushing yourself to high performance, to the point of failure, without fear, to achieve a high degree of competency. We look to the BUD/S training our Navy SEALs go through, where less than 10% of the class actually graduates, where the recruit is tested mentally as well as physically. Part of the success of that training is in pushing to the limit while setting the fear of failure to the side.
Good decisions are made from this place.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is debilitating, and it is the response to uncertainty.
Uncertainty is so uncomfortable, most people will make bad decisions to create the illusion of certainty.
Uncertainty is defined as something that is unknown or doubtful. The opposite to this, of course, is certainty, or knowing something. And that requires, as a method for ending uncertainty, that something become known, studied or understood. We run away from uncertainty when that will only enhance it. Finding out about what is troubling is the path to diminishing the effects, eliminating the anxiety. We embrace the knowledge of the cause for it, rather than withdrawing from it.
Bad decisions are made from the state of anxiety.
I used to beat myself up about writing things at the last minute, when I actually love writing that way. Not everyone can, but I enjoy it. I call it Fierce Writing, writing with my hair on fire. Inspired writing. If I were writing memoir or poetry, perhaps I would take a lighter approach, do little bits and pieces every day to keep the muscle developed.
But writing fierce is feeling the story like an extreme movie in your head, where all the characters in your tale work together to create that play. Unexpected things sometimes happen and they thrill me. Other times, if I don't feel the intensity of the story, I lay down tracks and then go back and polish the jewels to make it great. But for me, there is no great writing done until I feel the intensity and am actually living in that story, occupying the space right beside my characters, and in some cases inside their heads. I lose myself. I push my limits. I risk the point of no return.
Writing Fierce is also writing without worry. This is why Nanowrimo works for some writers. We write like our hair's on fire for 30 days. We write intense, we embrace the fear and bust through the anxiety.
We would rather not lose than win.
Safety is not always safe. But we'll do lots of things to “feel” safe, including lying to ourselves. We get excited when we gain something (except weight) but we don't like the fear of losing something. Strauss talks about making sure we crunch the numbers, look at the upside and downside of the possible outcomes before making a decision, especially if we are coming from the place of anxiety. He also suggests that if we can't make a decision, we haven't found enough people to hang with that are divergent in their thinking. We could be spending too much time in the “group polarization” process with like-minded people. Change should be embraced. Or too much time is spent on outside forces we have no control over, like the internet or TV News. They tend not to give a person knowledge, but instead help a person feel small. He advises killing your TV. See the world through your own eyes.
I've just completed an exercise where I took a big step and decided to deal with an anxiety I was having about my writing. I had been worrying about it now for some two months. I finally decided to do the old Abe Lincoln investigation where I'd list pro's on one side, and con's on the other, and then look at the whole grid to make my final decision.
Surprising, even to me, and I've done a lot of this in my lifetime through all my careers, was how simple things looked when I took a good, close look at it. It made a couple of decisions I was worrying about much easier to accept, and I took action. I made the decisions with knowledge. I put into motion something that I needed to do. I called several people I trust, I asked questions and listened. I noticed the people who went into hiding and didn't participate, and I kept researching until the answers came to me through my own eyes.
In the relative absence of fear. Amazing.
I'm writing this now at 30k feet, flying into SFO in a couple of hours. I got up early, so my apologies for not having this post out there sooner.
It was fun to get my batteries charged up. Funny how the attention of fans makes one feel excited, even more excited about the craft than we normally do. We hear those stories about what our books have meant to people, help celebrate other people's successes. I look at covers, and marketing and SWAG.
I came away thinking I need to be very choosy about where I go next year. I've already committed to some good ones. Some are new, some repeats, some I will skip for a year. My time is valuable writing. Those are my most expensive “billable” hours. I need to protect it at all costs. There's always that writing retreat, book signing, author event that looks too good to be true and tempts me. Especially when all my friends are going. I'm going to exercise the word “no” a lot more.
Naughty Nashville was good for me. So was the Unmask The Passion event in Valley Forge earlier in the month. I liked them mainly because everyone was so excited and happy to be there. There wasn't much in the way of drama (that I saw), and readers showed up not to browse, but to buy. So, attending those will require I say no to others, and I will. Valley Forge gave me a taste of history, which I loved as an added bonus.
I also learned that readers are inundated with free books, ARCS and overcommitted to Street Teams and Reader Groups. They're more overwhelmed than the authors sometimes! Reviewers are running behind. Readers avidly want to meet new authors, get surprised with new genres, books and series. My job as an author is to attract new readers, while giving my “one-click” readers material they'll devour.
I don't think there is such a thing as a One Size Fits All way of being a successful author. I see things I like and will try. I see some things that don't work and I don't have to spend time or energy trying. Success is one thing to one person and another to another. Even my own definition of success has changed several times this year.
But when the day is over and I head off to bed at night, the only thing I want to say is, “I did the best I could.” That means I wrote my best, edited my best, said thank you more than I received praise, was kind to people I want to throw my computer at, and kept myself focused. I didn't gossip, envy, complain or make excuses. I did my job. and my job–my only job–is writing.
If I do my job well, then I get to spend more and more time in my fantasy world of my own creation. I'm happier there. It's safer there. It's the stuff of magic, and creating magic is what I'm all about. Give me make believe over anything REAL any day.
Some day I'll go there and stay forever. But in the meantime, there are a lot of stories to tell, tales to spin, and people to delight.
What a glorious job that is!
Last year I made a minor investment in my writing career by purchasing a 1950 Glider. It's 27′ and she's all original. A fragile babe, like me.
I had my eyes opened to Glamping, which is, camping with trailers, but tricking them out. So here are some pictures that are inspirations to me. My Glider, named, Romance Rider, will be just as cute, but I'm waiting until the power gets turned on, I have a cold refrig for my drinks, so I can run a blender and a coffee maker, and have air conditioning.
I used the idea of Glamping in my new novella, Love Me Tender, Love You Hard. My hero, Derek, interviews for a job at a wild animal park nearby, run by a former SEAL with one leg. Oh yes, you're gonna love this “sweet” novella, (told someone else today my editor is probably going to think I'm writing from a hospital bed), full of quirks and twists. Short, and to the point. All that a novella should be in a Kindle World.
So glamping is a new thing people do now. I know people who collect old trailers for their backyards used as pool houses, or guest houses. Some of the wineries in our valley have started using them in the Air B&B craze, and people pay hundreds of bucks to stay in them now. Especially cool are vintage Airstreams.
While not an Airstream, Glider was made by a sister company who also made (you guessed it), airplane gliders.
I've given you an interior look at my plain Glider. There are two videos: One, Two. More to come. But after a year, it's finally in place. We wanted to build a firm pad to protect the frame, an overhang to product the beautiful aluminum finish and protect it also from the leaves and elements in general. We'll have a deck and two lawn chairs and who knows what else. I even bought a stopsign and a no parking sign.
So tell me, are you a glamour girl or guy? Would you come glamping with me? Just think of the adventures we could have together!
Warning!! If you click on some of these images, you'll be hooked!