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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

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.

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?

29

Here Come the Bone Frogs and Silver SEALs

Bonefrog (1)I've loved writing SEALs ever since my first novel in 2012. At the time, my son was serving as a SEAL, and I had been very moved about his service, how he had changed from a boy to a man, and how he was committed to such a program at such a young age. Most of us don't find out life's passion until we are well into our 30's. He did a little interview with me for a mastermind group of high-powered real estate professionals, and said, “I feel so fortunate to have found something I love so early in life.” That was when he was a new “tadpole”, and single. Now, with a wife and family, of course I've seen his priorities change.

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Coming to you 3-19.

This is what inspires me about writing. We take the everyday, and we make stories about it. None of what happens in my books really happens in real life. You readers don't look for detailed accounts of perhaps things that shouldn't be written about SEALs. I write fiction, and romantic fiction at that. Everything is seen through my rose-colored glasses. My stories are about finding love, sometimes losing it too, but mostly the Happily Ever After. My SEALs are the vehicle I use to tell those stories.

So it would come to me, as I see the journey of some of these men I've met, as they age and go on to other careers, so too do my characters. And the Bone Frog Brotherhood was born. My new release tomorrow, SEAL My Love, explores my older characters as they also find true love.

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Gretchen is Kate Morgan's older sister. Many of you will remember her from SEAL Of My Heart, when Kate and Tyler fall in love on an airplane from San Francisco to Portland. This was based in part on a true story. I met a young marine coming home for Christmas from Vietnam, and we made one of those connections in the stars. At the time, I was not free to accept his beautiful letters and the flowers he sent afterward. And it wasn't until years later that I got to see him again, and I apologized for having to break it off when he went back to Vietnam. I was delighted to hear that he had survived. “Yours was the face I was coming back to. It didn't matter.”

So this became part of my story. What if I had gone a different path, followed his invitation and spent a life with him? Just before I released this book, I tried to look him up, and sadly discovered that he had passed away the previous summer. Gretchen says a prayer to her father, that marine in my story, in much the same way as I have prayed to him for the safety of my then-serving son as a SEAL. He would have been proud to know I had a son who went into military service. He was the first in my immediate family to do so without being drafted during either WWII or Vietnam.

So Gretchen has had three girls, and decides to take an adventure with Kate and Tyler and a bunch of their SEAL buddies and families. And that's where she meets Trace, an older SEAL, just attached to Team 3 from an east coast team, after a messy divorce. His wife ran off with another SEAL from another east coast team. Unfortunately, I have also heard that this happens in real life. So, it goes into my story.

These two mature, slightly damaged people find a way to fall in love again like it was the first time. And I believe I do show that this love is the forever love they never had before. I hope you'll enjoy their satisfying story.

SharonHamilton_SEALedAtTheAltar_800My new release in April will be the continuation of my Bone Frog Brotherhood Book 1, the novella that started with a new years wedding and one-night stand that becomes something else. More to come on that later. But here's the cover reveal below.

Thank you for following me on these Sundays with Sharon. I love to hear your comments. I thank you for your readership. We all celebrate together the miraculous healing powers of true love.

 

 

Book Signings – Where Authors Show They Care

As an author, we are constantly bombarded by choices, and most of them are choices to either spend money here, or there. There are so many conventions these days, and events, we do have to be careful or we'd be spending all our earnings and then some, just traveling from event to event. I wish I could attend all of them, but then I'd not be a writer, I'd be a professional attendee. My readers would be just as unhappy as I would.

But there comes a point in an author's career when we feel the need to give back. I try to do my best for readers and their causes and events they are involved in. (Here's a hint, if you're attending something and there is a chance to submit a gift basket or tote, I'm your huckleberry! Tell me and I'd gladly participate…end of hint). I do support Wounded Warriors and the UDT/SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida. I also support the Navy SEAL Foundation, the Kris Kyle Foundation, and several other new ones I'm learning how to connect with.

But an important part of being an author is to meet readers. Not many signings pencil out, when it comes to making back the money spent on travel and shipping books, but that's not the point here. Readers pay a lot of money to attend these events, on the chance of getting to meet an author they've loved or followed. Not just to get a book signed, but to get to take a picture, talk with them, and just feel connected.  

Perhaps non-romance authors don't understand this. We are perhaps unique to this phenomenon in the romance genre. I can guess many horror or mystery writers might not want to meet their fans! LOL. (Just speculating, having fun with you here…) Some authors can be pretty scary, but so can some readers! In romance, there is very little of that.

I have a policy if a reader shows up to one of my events wearing one of my tee shirts, or something they've made using one of my books, they get a free little token from me, usually a free book. I love seeing my pink camo tee shirts show up to these. They also get to identify other readers of my books, especially the SEAL Brotherhood Series.

My table at Love And Fifty, Sacramento, California

Last weekend, I attended the Love And Fifty signing, and this was my third year. It isn't important about the numbers. It was Sacramento, I got to see old friends, sit with Jody, my quilting and Navy Mom buddy, and catch up with other authors. On the way home I got to visit with my Stepmom, who is really my only living Mom, in Davis. High off the love of my reader friends, I had a nice three-hour chat with her.

So, when I'm asked by others if signings work for me, I have to say, Yes, they do! Nothing like watching Fifty Shades in a theater of other romance authors and their fans! We could cat call, and make giggles we would normally refrain from doing. I had a wonderful time. Not to be missed. But it's for the readers, and there doesn't have to be a line around the block to meet them, but a chance to reach out and say thank you for buying my books. It's the least I could do.

That's why I'm careful where I go, and I like to adjust or move around to different venues each year in different parts of the country. I try to limit them to a handful, but I always do twice as many as I should.

When I did an event at Valley Forge back in 2016, I was struck with what a perfect spot this venue was for a military author/reader event. And so, with the help of Renee Fisher, a super-organized and awesome author, as well as friend, we created Salute With Love. It's an event that's coming up this August, and I wrote about my experiences here at Valley Forge in my blog back then. Please read about it here. 

If you find yourself drawn to the stories of military authors, and you are a lover of early American History, you'll love this venue and all that Renee and I have planned for you. I promise you won't be disappointed. We have a few spots left for authors, and of course we welcome readers with open arms. We can hold a ton.

It was very special that we were allowed to hold this event at this very revered venue. We can not only celebrate the birth of this country, appreciate all the sacrifices our fighting men and women and their families went through then as well as now, but can also celebrate our love of military authors. If you are of like mind, we need to have you there. You can join the FB page here. And then sign up here! Consider this an order!  

As the words so beautifully spoken by a Navy SEAL Masterchief, the best way we can honor those who came before is by living our life the best we can because we can:

“It takes a little courage, and a little self control. And some grim determination, if you want to reach the goal. It takes a great deal of striving, and a firm and stern set chin. No matter what the battle, if you really want to win. There's no easy path to glory. There is no road to fame. Life, however we may view it, is no simple parlor game. But its prizes call for fighting, for endurance and for grit. For a rugged disposition that will not quit.”

Carry on.

6

One of Those Days

Ever had one of those days where no matter what, the day just went sideways? I did. Here's what happened.

We were to receive a cashier's check from someone who owed us a considerable sum of money. It wasn't enough to change my life, but it would have been annoying to lose it. It was supposedly sent overnight mail, except we never received it. I suspect the Post Office placed it in someone else's box, who is perhaps away on a long vacation (or just doesn't go to his box often). It happens.

In this case, the person who sent the check is rather prickly and unpleasant. I received a nasty email from him basically saying I was to pound salt. I discovered I could take a copy of the check to the bank it was written on, and ask for a replacement. So far so good.

When I got there, I filled out the proper paperwork, after being told twice this was impossible to do, and was told I had to obtain a surety bond, which cost me about $100. Still worth it. The paperwork had to be notarized, but their notary was out to lunch. And it had to be paid for by a money order. I trotted next door to Safeway and got my money order, and then went to the nearest notary about 5 miles down the road. I had already burned up about an hour. No problem so far.

My husband had to accompany me, since both our signatures were required. We headed off to the notary, when we got stopped by a huge accident (involving a melted car). An hour and a half later, we were on our way back to the bank with our notarized paperwork. Their notary was back by then. Discovered the notary did the paperwork wrong, but after several calls to the corporate offices, the paperwork was accepted. Okay, now we are into this process about 3 hours.

Eventually the new cashier's check was issued to us. I had started this episode at 10 AM yesterday. I was finally finished at 4:30. I got to my bank just before they closed and was able to do the deposit. End of story.

I could be angry about this, except for the fact that my other choice was to wait weeks for a replacement to come from the sender. Or, wait until April when the uncashed cashier's check would be considered dead.

A lot could happen between now and April. In this case, the $100 was well worth it.

Something like this ever happen to you?

18

Christmas Lights and Hope For A New Year

Christmas and Hanukkah mean so many things to me, as I'm sure they do for you. It is the season of family, new beginnings, and a festival of lights signaling the brightness of hope. This year, the lights in Windsor Town Green were made even more special by the outpouring of thanks for our First Responders.

Many of the grammar school classes chose to honor these heroes, who helped protect many of us and our homes from the devastating fires in Sonoma County. Our heart goes out for the loss of life and property we experienced as a community, and for what's going on in Southern California now.

We know what they're feeling, because we lived through the same. There are families spending the holidays in an apartment, or rented home, instead of the family home they celebrated in for years. For some, it will be truly a new beginning. For others, it chronicles the end of an era, and how some things will never be the same again. Displaced and evacuated peoples are finding all sorts of new ways to celebrate this end of 2017 as we mourn the past and adjust to the future. It's what we do.

House Lights In The Town Green

I make a pilgrimage to look at favorite house lights and the trees in the Town Green every year, but this year affected me more. My grandkids enjoyed looking at each and every one of the trees — I think there were over 100 — all decorated by classrooms, families, businesses and civic groups from all areas of our county. I would say that the overarching theme was that of gratitude, how we are family, all of us, and how we'll all survive.

We ran into a group of carolers strolling down the streets, a gathering of Santas and elves celebrating at a local pub, and a vendor on the square selling bright flashing wands and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. We finished off our meal with ice cream at Powell's, and of course couldn't resist bringing home some peppermint bark, Giants Pez and salt water taffy.

I like it when the windows in local restaurants fog up, when the laughter behind glass as office parties and family get-togethers take place. I found myself missing the family members who will not be with us this year, and it gave me an improved opening scene for a novella I'm trying to finish.

We've had a mild, crisp winter so far, with a cold snap. I harvested a dozen pomegranate fruits, about two dozen new mandarins and some Meyer lemons. I came home to a cracklling fire and turned in early, wearing socks and a flannel nightgown. I considered penning a note to Santa myself.

And I dreamt of what glorious things were in store for me next year — for all of us. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. May the joys of the season be many for you and your family.

(PS – Blogger is not letting me respond to your lovely responses, but know I've been reading them all one by one. Thank you all!)  — Sharon

Love is All You Need

 

Honoring Home Town Heroes serving the military

 

9

Planning My Writing Year

Every year I start planning my writing year in the fourth quarter. When I used to coach Realtors, my line would be, “The most important quarter of next year is the last quarter of this year.” That way, when you start out January 1, you hit the ground running.

It's the same for writing. In fact, all my nearly 30 years selling real estate and coaching agents for the top-rated professional coaching organization I was part of, has only underscored these business principles. We think of writing as an emotional journey. People think we writers write when we feel like it, and when “the muse strikes us,” and for some, that definitely is the way of it. But for the successful authors, which I strive to remain part of, it takes prior planning and discipline.

I used to think that writing was different than selling Real Estate. Well, after some 7 years, I can tell you it isn't. Everything is sales. Relationships are based on sales. Raising children is a huge sales job (and sometimes a battle between who is doing the better sell job on whom). Falling in love is sales. Having clients or fans is sales. Associating with other authors or other business people, is sales. Maintaining your positive energy and mindset is a tricky and important sell job we do on ourselves.

So, once again, I've stripped off the cloak of confusion, hiding and secrets, and jump head-on into the Business of Writing. After all, we are not hobbyists with our writing. We are professional authors. And to call us such, we have to have a business plan, a direction and a template to repeat or build on our successes and strive to eliminate what didn't work well.

In the old days, I started by telling a story:

What Went Right
     What Needs Improvement

Then I gave my numbers from the previous year, and used a percentage at the sidebar, stating if it was up (an improvement) or down (a decrease), or stayed the same. I listed my 5 most important goals for last year and how I did on all 5 of them. After all, a year cannot be evaluated based on one thing alone. There are always things that are better or worse than before. It's never totally a success or a failure, right?

Then I decided what were my new goals for this upcoming year, and the numbers that supported that success. I broke it down to the number of work days, weeks, time off, conventions and events I wanted to attend, vacations, and came up with a total number of days I wanted to work. I backed the numbers into those days, figuring how many it took of each category to achieve what my goal was. For instance, if I made 42 cold calls a day, for 5 days a week, it automatically guaranteed an income of $X, based on my ratios. I knew how many appts. I needed to make, how many listings I would take, buyers I would have, and how many of those would turn into successful transactions, even figuring what my average transaction income was.

I've done the same for my writing year. I know there will be fluctuations in the marketplace, just like there is in Real Estate, and those are out of my control. But I can figure on a general figure, and I usually aim low. I know that certain books will generate what average income, whether it be by genre or length of book. I estimate how much I need to spend to promote and achieve those numbers, but I weigh them not on the promotion costs, but my activity costs. (I'm not buying the business, I'm generating a writing income. I've seen writers, as well as Realtors spend money to achieve ranking rather than actually creating it, which is the long-term sustainability goal).  A book takes X number of days to write, and X number of days to edit, get the cover done, have formatted and upload. I have to take into account all these time factors to realistically estimate how much time it will take to achieve my goal. I may have to adjust by: being more consistent with my writing day, or, spending less on costs, or learning to write or edit faster, or change the environment around me as far as helpers and people who I pay to help me produce my product. Perhaps I need to trim staff. Perhaps I need to add. Perhaps trim the number of conventions, perhaps increase certain ones. You see how it goes.

And then the fun part happens, I mark it all out on a yearly calendar. I have eBooks, Audio Books, and Print Books. I have swag and other things I buy to promote. I put a budget to all these things, and then track it. And I keep a tight leash on my writing day vs. my promotional part of the day. For me, I like to keep the writing together, and the promotional days together so I don't have to keep switching hats all the time in the same day.

The last phase is How We Do It Here. I love Michael Gerber's books like e-Myth. I love the SEALs code of Prepare, prepare, prepare, train, train, train, action. Then aim. I like to aim after I've executed. I like to prepare after I've trained. I like to prepare for my training, and so forth, working backwards. Saying it more simply:

     I dream about what I want to achieve
     I plan for success
     I train and focus on the plan
     I execute** (notice I don't adjust during execution-“Balls To The Wall”)
     I track and evaluate constantly
     I adjust my plan


We often see the routes an airplane takes as a straight crescent from Point A to Point B. But in fact, it is a series of hundreds, perhaps thousands of adjustments along the way. If you were to see the path the plane took, it would look like wiggly lines a mouse might make traveling from one place to another, as he makes adjustments and perhaps gets distracted. We are the same as writers!

Why should we plan as writers? Well, my mentor used to say, “You get what you think about most the time.” He'd add to someone in the audience, a male he could joke with, “That means you'd turn into a blonde 30 year old bombshell.” But in seriousness, we have a plan so we have the vision to achieve it, and the backup to that vision, the way we're going to make it happen. This way, we get to launch into our next year with confidence. Those first few weeks of our year are like the Honeymoon Event, when everything is possible and nothing hasn't turned out wrong — YET! But the plan keeps us on track, so we can adjust, perhaps see where we made a miscalculation and make that correction before we have to work out the whole year in a mode that isn't going to work. Our plan is adjustable, because it's a working plan.

And any good working plan needs the courage to follow it, to track and look at it critically to make those adjustments. Otherwise, the plan is an exercise in futility. I knew a lot of Realtors who made a plan, but never concentrated on the execution or the little tweaks that could have paid them huge dividends. Writers are the same.

We learned to walk as toddlers by bumping into things and falling on our rears. No plan is perfect. No execution is perfect. But if we focus on it, focus on the training and preparation, the execution will come easier. Or rather, we can execute without second-guessing ourselves in the process. If we prepare and train, we don't hesitate. If we have a plan for the year, each day becomes more relevant instead of slipping away. Every story becomes part of the fabric of our writing year. Every character sketch or re-write brings us more jewels, more clarity and better books.

And it makes the whole process more fun.

I hope your 2018 is the very best year of your writing or reading life. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year that will sparkle with all the magic success brings us all. After all, you deserve it!

Now, go!

***Late Note: Blogger is not allowing me to respond to all your wonderful comments. Just know that I'm reading each and every one of them, and taking them to heart. Feel free to pass along this column if you wish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!***

 

12

Family Traditions

Making soap for mom and dad.

Most of us have fond memories of the holidays when we were children. I can still remember making Swedish Tea Ring with my grandmother Christensen, in her kitchen in Fresno. My little hands worked the dough, and sliced little holes as the wreath was made, revealing the red and green candied cherries, the nuts and cinnamon tucked inside. It wasn't Christmas unless I could do that.

My grandparents sang Christmas carols in Danish, as well. My grandmother Fox told the story of how, as a new bride, they were snowed in one Christmas, and she couldn't get to the store.  Instead of having a big feast, they had frozen sausages, pineapple rings, which she made with sprinkled red and green sugar, with red candy dots making the berries at the bottom of the wreath. To this day, we fry these little pineapple wreaths as we tell the story to the younger generation.

Our 37# bird this year. Cooked in a bag.

My little brother sang “Binkle Bells” at night when he was about three or four, when the whole house was quiet on Christmas Eve. I will never forget the sound of his sweet little voice echoing throughout our house.

We'd invite Stanford students from different countries to share our Thanksgiving tables. I remember Lali from Turkey, Bobo from France (his real name was Hubert), and our favorite vagabond traveler who had been all over the world, Currie. I could listen to his stories about his travels throughout the jungles and beaches of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand years before there was a war there. My mother taught him how to bake bread and cook because he'd hired on to an Alaskan exploration crew as a cook, and didn't know the first thing about it. Our friend, Harold, another student, taught my brother and I how to collect pennies.

I loved listening to Grandpa Fox's sermons, and, although I was embarrassed having to walk down the church aisle behind Grandma Fox (because she wore 7 purses), it was a special time for the Fox grandchildren, because the church body loved us as much as they loved Grandpa. He was and still is the largest person in life, who had a big God and the heart big enough to envelop us all.

Butternut Squash from the garden

When my brother and I sometimes stayed with them in Napa, sometimes women and children would be sheltered there, hidden away from an abusive husband. We would be awakened, and asked to sleep in the living room, so the mother and her children could have a warm bed to safely sleep in at night. We also learned that homeless people learned they could get a free meal at my Grandmother's rear kitchen door, and we knew there had been marking left on the fencepost, although we could never tell where those marks were.

When our kids were younger, we took a cruise at Christmas to the Caribbean, and were entertained by a local children's choir with their island-flavor Christmas carols one special Christmas Day. We watched monkeys come up to us on the beach and large parrots with colorful foliage robbed us of our fruit at a picnic.

I remember my oldest, D.J., arguing with children at a Macy's in San Francisco, talking to the “Talking Christmas Tree” and defending his honor, when these children called him stupid and made fun of the tree. “I'm your friend, Mr. Christmas Tree,” he told him. I was never more proud.

I was lucky. And so now I complete the cycle, spreading the stories. It's so difficult now, because we can't all sit at the same table. The little ones are so precious. My next-to-the-youngest last night told me this, “Grandma, I wish it was Christmas.”

I agree. With all four of my children safe and in the US out of harm's way, their spouses and children by their sides, we were all together this year. I think that makes it about the most perfect Thanksgiving and early Christmas it could ever be.

What about you? What's been special about your holiday so far? I'd love to hear about your traditions…

8

SPECIAL SNEAK PEAK: Bachelor SEAL

They stared into each other’s eyes for several seconds. They
never used to do this. It was all go at it, get to the sex or the argument. But
tonight, they just looked at each other’s faces and absorbed what they saw. She
saw a man damaged by his own hand and burdened by a past that wasn’t his fault.
She saw a man who had one speed, and that was fast. On. Present. No daydreams or
visions of greatness. He used to tell her he was just a man who was hired “to
get ’er done” because he could. He did the things others couldn’t do, and for
that, he’d paid a heavy price. But he also didn’t want anyone’s pity.
And she was a woman who couldn’t take the energy because it
interfered with her own. He needed someone who could support him. She needed
the same thing, and neither one could give the other what was needed. That was
the long and the short of it.
Unmasked and without the emotional overtones, the angry
upsets, and hurts, she could see better who this man really was. And he wasn’t
so threatening. Or maybe he’d learned to couch some things, change his behavior
in ways she’d not noticed. This could be the way he was all along, and she just
never saw it.

Any way she served it up, she came to the same conclusion.
She’d heard people say it on military blogs or at functions she used to attend.
She’d seen it written on a plaque located on an island in the South Pacific,
carved by men who knew what they were talking about and who’d just lost their
best friends on a foreign beach. She stepped toward him without touching,
inhaled, and said, “Thank you, Morgan for all you’ve done and continue to do to
keep me safe. Thank you for my freedom. I appreciate you more than I’ve ever
told you before.”
He was going to grab her and kiss her, but she pushed him
away.
“Whoa! I didn’t mean that. I said
‘thank you’, not ‘come fuck me.’”
His smirk was so disarming, in spite of how wrong it was to
love seeing it. He was forbidden fruit all the way. Every part of him. The way
he looked, the imaginary way he made love to her in her dreams—full tilt
without holding anything back. He made quick decisions just like she did, like
it was ready, fire, and then aim. He’d always give his all and bear the
consequences of the haunting afterward. He wouldn’t change for anyone or
anything because being damaged looked good on him. Like a uniform that was
perfectly tailored. His scars were his medals. He was a hurricane sometimes without
a focus, and he’d never be tethered to anyone, no matter what the cost. But he
could, and she honestly believed this with her whole heart, that he could save
her from whomever was after her.

Just before he opened the door, he turned. “Darlin’, I’m
revved and ready to go if and when you ever decide to drop that gate.”

Thought you also wouldn't mind a couple of other shots of my San Francisco model, Justin Thomas (who is about as nice to meet as he looks). Just 2 more days. Ok ladies, start your engines!

You can order Bachelor SEAL here. Enjoy!

38

TUCKER

Who could resist this face? We visited with some people who were trying to care for this little orphan puppy, once loved, but the product of a divorce. My heart broke when I saw such a sweet dog having to live in an environment that isn't healthy for Dobermans. They need a lot of affection, and a lot of connection to their humans. They are working dogs, so they need a place to run. The pup practically wouldn't let me leave, and his behavior told me he was starved for affection. I knew we could give that affection and the right environment for him to heal.

When we left, I mentioned that if they needed a home for this darling, sweet tan Doberman, that we could provide a loving home. They of course had to check with the original owners, and the next day, they delivered this pup to our front door. He's scared, very skinny, but has one of the sweetest temperaments I've ever seen in a dog. It's a pure joy to see him running in our seven acre fenced yard, trying to keep up with the older dogs. He's already faster than Rosa (who is a bit chunky and everyone mistakes her for a Chocolate Lab).

We named him Tucker, since he's a Tan. Now we have a Blue, (Blue), a Red (Rosa), and a Tan (Tucker). Blue and Rosa are adjusting surprisingly well. Both of them are rather spoiled, so there have been some growling and boundary setting issues, but so far it's been better than we expected. And he didn't cry all night long. He can't make it up stairs yet (probably never experienced them), nor does he know what a dog toy or a dog treat is.

He slept on a new bed I bought him with a fleece cover, and when I showed it to him, he lay right down on it like he understood. We have beds all over our house for the other dogs, but I wanted a fresh one without a scent to be his. My two older ones are delighted they can have the entire upstairs to themselves – their sanctuary. He doesn't pee in the house either, which is the one phase of puppyhood I wasn't looking forward to.

We think he'll be big, as we estimate he's about 5 months old. He goes to the vet this week for shots and a checkup. We'll get a little meat on him, if we can, so we don't see those ribs, which are painful to watch.

But what a joy, and a pure love. Next issue will be having him neutered, but one event at a time. We'll let him get adjusted first. Then we'll deal with his manhood issue. LOL. Rosa and Blue are both fixed. We want him to heal when he feels more confident in his surroundings.

We felt we saved this sweet dog's life. Welcome to the family, Tucker.

6

My Own Arizona Memorial Story

Our President has visited the Arizona Memorial today and I was reminded of my trip to Pearl Harbor in February of 2016, while at a writer's conference. Each time I visit this sacred site, my love for the military and all those who sacrificed for me and my freedoms increases. Words cannot express how it changes a person to see the oil still leaking from the bow of the great ship, now residing in the shallow waters of the Bay, with some of its crew forever enshrined.

I wrote about that visit on my blog from December 2016 here


During that visit, I was able to see several Japanese visitors pay their respects to the fallen. The flowers I wore that day floated out to sea with the flowers and water contributed by those visitors in a shared time and place that was over 75 years in the making. For this memorial is their memorial too. It is a memorial for the whole world. It's a reminder of what was, what was done, and what remains to this day. It's the ongoing saga of war and peace that has haunted mankind for centuries. It is the best and worst of times all in one.

We study history through the lens of our own experience and to each one of us, that history is slightly different with many thoughts and feelings in common. But not all. History is personal. And it needs many voices to tell the story in all its detail. For one person alone could never do it. Even one nation couldn't tell the story of why so many men and women die while serving those they protect honorably, and why and how those of us who remember and live on are grateful.

I write about fictional heroes, who don't always die. I am saving fictional characters, one at a time. It's all I can do, by adding names and stories from my head, putting them on paper for readers to love and enjoy. It's another fantasy view of the history of the world inside my brain. Writers have the joy and the burden of not only telling stories of what really happened, but what could be. In that way, these men and women live forever. My stories will outlive me some day.

On this rainy day in Northern California, I'm remembering those wind-swept afternoons I walked along the beach in Honolulu and traveled on a little boat to visit a part of my history. And I'm grateful to be here to reflect and share. Throwing my words like leis on the water going out to sea.

24

Rising From The Fire

My parent's old home was left standing. Melted shutters.

Many of you familiar with my history and my work know that in 2008 our house burned down. I had, up until that time, maintained a busy and successful Real Estate career. It was a challenge, in a falling market, working with two other family members and a team of assistants, but it was a well-oiled machine that left us in the top 10 of just about every category in Northern California. I was proud of it.

When our fire occurred, it gave me the opportunity to do something else. Insurance gave us some living arrangements (a small one bedroom apartment), which I mainly stayed in by myself. Our property and house were an all-consuming job for my husband. Plus we had about 50 chickens, our Dobermans and “visits” by people who thought it was a good idea to help themselves to some of our things. He was doing battle with the insurance company, contractors and cleanup crew. All my clothes were either burned or affected by smoke.

Here are some scenes from the recent Wildfires in Santa Rosa. Not my house this time, but way more devastating.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/7539286-181/lesson-for-santa-rosa-in?artslide=0

I had a couple of choices. I could go replace everything, pretend nothing had happened and just resume my former business, or I could take a little time to sort out what exactly I wanted to do. We had to decide whether or not to rebuild the house, where we would live, what things we would throw away and what things we'd save for later sorting. My head was spinning.

Because I was alone with the apartment, next door to our office, I solved my lack of sleeping problem (too much to think about) with some late-night movies, and some reading. I did more reading than I'd previously done in years. I discovered Outlander and it got me hooked into good old fashioned storytelling. I even began an email dialog with Diana Gabaldon at one point.

Although very stressful, the fire actually became the catalyst for my writing career. I think opportunity comes from stresses that seem at the time to be overwhelming. Just like diamonds created by millions of years of pressure and heat from earth masses, the creative side of me, one that hadn't been tested or expressed, began oozing out and I spent more time in my fantasyworld than I did on reality. I did it first out of self preservation. And then I began to do it because I felt it was my calling.

I wish I could say the process was clear, direct and in a straight line to success. Just like everything worthwhile in life, there are ups and downs. But, looking back, if I had to do it all over again: sacrifice some of my very precious things for a chance adventure into a new realm, or to wake up my fantasy world, I'd do it all over again. I really would.

Like the Phoenix, I emerged from the fire a completely different human being. I think about this these days as I drive past burned out homes and consider all the decisions and issues affecting people's lives who have survived our horrible wildfire.

Remember my premise: circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. This path wasn't one I'd planned on following. But it's one I chose once I had the options. I guess that's why they say we have to understand the difference between what we can control and what we cannot. And be good with it, focusing on what we can control.

In a way, my house burning down was a blessing. I hope some of this will be the experience of some others this year. Terrible tragedy in most ways. But not all ways. There are some people who are going to be given choices they'd never really had before. And that's where the rising, the magic comes.

6

The Chase for Great Story

Watched the documentary on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip. I'd never been a Dead Head, though I lived amongst people who knew them well, and have meet several of the Dead band members. I had to be introduced because I wouldn't have recognized them.  I sold a house to one of their Sound Engineers and he had to go see the property at 2-3AM to make sure the countryside was sufficiently quiet enough so, when he came home from work, he could sleep.

We don't think about all the sacrifices people have to endure to make creative endeavors. How some endeavors overtake us, some make us whole and happy, and others haunt our very lives. I do understand the burden of having to be the leader of a band and a movement not of Mr. Garcia's own creation. He just wanted to make music and help people have fun. Period.

I've said it many, many times: Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. How we react to the forces in our time on this earth is our choice, our focus. Some people try to change it, direct it. I see it like raising a child. You can't tell them everything they will need to know to grow up straight, resilient, happy and strong. But you gently guide them and introduce them to different directions, and some of these may take hold. There is no right nor wrong of it. It's what we do.

It's the same for creative endeavors like writing a story. We fall in love with characters, bring them to the edge and just before they fall off the cliff, we save them. It could be something that randomly comes from their past, or something deep inside them and brings a strength they didn't know they had inside until they are tested. Compelling stories in romance tell how a person becomes a better version of him or herself, due to the love relationship that changes their lives.

If I do it right, I take the reader on a journey. The reader knows things the character doesn't yet know about. Of course, things have to be a surprise too, we want the character to do or say things outside his or her usual sphere, and we can have fun with that as they experiment with something new. We do this as writers all the time with our own worlds — I mean, the worlds inside and outside my head.

I had trouble sleeping last night, so I spent it with my characters, former SEAL Morgan Hansen and his ex-wife, supermodel and women's empowerment guru, Halley (who still goes by the last name Hansen). In this story I've gotten to explore the chemical attraction between the two of them, now tempered with the passage of alone time, while her career has spiked and his as a former Navy SEAL has ended. Except, once a SEAL, always a SEAL, there is danger and a forced collaboration that results in an almost pre-determined series of events neither one is able to control.

You can preorder the book here: Bachelor SEAL

Amazon
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/d/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Amazon FR: https://www.amazon.fr/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-English-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-English-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20

Barnes & Noble: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bachelor-seal

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bachelor-seal/id1212824382?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bachelor-sealAnd I love the idea of control as a theme, or rather, how we have little of it. We don't control mother nature (our recent wildfires), or how God has made each one of us unique (the birth of my 6th grandchild, Lily Aria), or when we have set the forces of the universe on a particular path that will have a collision course with other forces in motion and out of our control.

Having fun. Eating doughnuts, drinking coffee, and I'm going to take a couple of hours off this afternoon for some grandbaby time.

Life is good. Another story is nearing it's HEA. Once it's out there, I will have no control. I think I like it better that way.

34

Is It A Battle or A Marriage? Creative Brain vs. Logical Brain

She's in the fantasy of the story. He eats cake.

I always told myself that I loved writing my stories so thoroughly that I would never experience burn-out, or need a break. I told myself that was what other authors did who perhaps had overwhelming things come up in their lives: family concerns, economic downturns or just life in general, and this somehow wouldn't apply to me. Because none of these things would happen to me. I always thought of myself as bullet-proof. Unstoppable. I'm a great one for giving this kind of advice too. Just ask me.

And then June-July of this year happened. I can't say what it was. I knew something was up (still in denial mode) when I knew I shouldn't read my reviews and couldn't stop from doing so, when friends who had phenomenal success suddenly made me feel like a loser, or when I made up stories about the significance of book sales, how fast people got back to me, and on and on and on it went. You know the drill. Your mind goes on a dribble like chasing oversized zucchinis down a hill. These lumpy thoughts felt like my brain was filled with busy little ants trying to make a kingdom of my gray matter.

Seeking vehicular meaning. Not.

Every one of my calendars was still on July, until last week. My desk looked like a hamster was nesting there. I hated to check social media, stayed off Facebook and especially Messenger, but a few got through. When people started thinking perhaps I was dead, I had to laugh. Even then I didn't respond sometimes. I know. It was selfish, self-absorbed, poor manners. But I needed a break.

This December 15th it will be ten years since I started writing. It will be eight years since I published my first little novella, and five years since I published my biggest seller, Accidental SEAL, my first book to take off and begin to make some serious money. I've taken roughly sixty online writing classes, attended about a hundred RWA Chapter meetings, attended probably close to that number of book signings and online FB events. I have a huge following and newsletter list, and lots of adoring fans who fill me with delight. So, what's the problem?

The emergency brainectomy of life.

At first I thought I'm boycotting social media because, after all, this last election cycle had to be one of the nastiest one in our history. I was so disappointed to read how my very good writer friends had positions I thought were crazy, or how they thought my positions were. I stopped talking politics except at home, but I should have stayed out of it there too. There was nothing redeeming on social media and I felt like a mouse in that enormous flywheel, running, running, running to catch up. I still missed things, deadlines snuck up on me, and others I had to just walk away from.

But social media wasn't the reason for my situation. Amazon wasn't the big bad monster interfering with discoverability and book sales. I wondered if my Red-White-and-Blue-Rah-Rah-Love-The-Military themes in my books were getting shoved down in the algorhithms. Was there too much competition? Or, did I not work hard enough? Did I believe in myself enough? Where was God, my family and my friends and how come they couldn't fix me? Help me?

I expected to look 20 when I peeled this off.

Facials and massages didn't work. The soapmaking classes, collage classes, walks in the park, gardening, starting a new business, traveling to Mexico, didn't work. I dyed my hair red, and that made me laugh, but it didn't put the fire in my soul. I listened to music, burned a ton of candles, stayed out in the sun as much as I could stand, and even tried to go vegan for awhile. I tried to read and couldn't get through any of the first chapters. I got more sleep than I've had in years. I cancelled seven events, dealt with a blood clot to my leg and a minor stroke my husband had. Everything is fine. No life-threatening things on the horizon then or now.

So, what was it?

It was my logical mind trying to do a BDSM session with my creative mind. It took special glee in whipping and tying my creative self up with “that doesn't works” and “you are so stupid” comments, humiliating that part of me where all the magic lives. And the longer it went, the more my logical mind tried to be in control. I was trying to figure it all out.

I love the story about the two dogs. One dog is the vicious, fearful one, and the other dog is the excited, loving and creative dog that loves affection, connection and that sense of coming home. That famous Native American story goes that we have to decide what dog we feed.

Word.

The only way through it is to give myself over to the Creative Brain. There is no real control, is there? We don't know why music fills our soul, or why flowers make us happy, or why sun brings us some sort of divine energy from the Heavens. Our creative side has no limits, no borders, no barriers and no regrets.

And it's a choice. That's what I've chosen.

Will I go back to being a social butterfly? No. I'm going to be careful. I'm going to pace myself. I'm going to be careful who I hang around, who fills my day. But I'm going to make most of it filled with my characters from the books. I've been missing them.

And unlike real life, I can have as many lovers in my fantasy life as I choose. I guess what I found, after all this wandering is not my brain, but my heart. Writing stories is the most enjoyable activity in my life. That's the dog I'm feeding.

What do you think? I'd really love to hear it…(kiss, kiss).

8

Rich Like Chocolate, Strong Like Coffee, and then there’s Berzerker….

If you hadn't met me, you'd think I was seriously mixed up. Well, maybe I am. Here I like flowers and gardening, romance and all that goes with it. Expensive lingerie and kids and family and kisses. Going barefoot at the beach, and Happily Ever After.

But I also love my men to be men. Having a man's man around makes it easier to be a woman, I mean a real woman. That is different things to different people. But I find a man who respects women, who honors our country and protects me and my freedoms, is worthy of my undying love and loyalty. It is something bred into my DNA. I can't speak for all women, but this is what it is for me.

So when I read about this real hero, believe it or not, it makes me want to sit down and write romance. I can't explain it, but it brings out all the romance in my body and soul. I'm sure there is some biological chemical reaction to this, which is way beyond me, and not important for me to understand fully. It is what it is.

I'd like to share this interview with the folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. I am a coffee club member, and I get these shipments regularly, and I have since stopped buying anything from those big box places. This company is owned and operated by Veterans, who help other veterans. And it's darned good coffee too. I love their attitude, their very non-PC approach to freedom, living a life full-out, and being men among men and the women who are lucky enough to love them. It's a family and kith not everyone can understand.

But I love them dearly.

So hope you'll read this newsletter, and perhaps subscribe yourself. And with your first cup of Joe, you let me know which blend is your favorite. I haven't tried Berzerker Blend, but I'll be ordering it today.

My favorite so far is Black Beard's Delight, with the flag logo of Edward Teach, the most notorious pirate of the Caribbean. I got the patch, the hat and the thermos to go along with it.

Enjoy and I hope I've expanded your world today.

Here's an excerpt from their blog and the link to read more:

Kyle Lamb is a man who has lived a life most can’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next fifteen years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).
Since Kyle’s retirement from the Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership, and founded Viking Tactics, Inc. which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo Magazine, or his face on the Outdoor Channel.
Black Rifle Coffee recently caught up with Kyle to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:
You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?
Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.
You can read more here.
Have a powerful day and enjoy your freedoms.
8

Naughty Romance Novelist Waters Garden in her Nightie and Lives to Tell The Tale!

Oh yes, you think I'm joking? I did it this morning. Last night I needed something very light to wear because it was still near 100 degrees at bed time. So, I wore one of my black long lacy nighties worthy of any erotic Halloween. As I do these days, I get up and water my garden in whatever I've been wearing to bed. So, today I vamped in my black nightgown. I deadheaded like any good witch, picked replacement roses that had wilted last night beside my bed in the heat, checked my cucumbers and melons, pulled some bolted lettuce, clipped my coriopsis and daisies, and added extra sprinkler timers to the flower bed and part of the lawn that doesn't catch water yet.

We have no neighbors so I can do this. My gown was muddy and wet, but refreshingly stuck to my body in cold ribbons in the hot breeze. Yes, I started about 6:30 AM and didn't finish until nearly 10.

The story I'm finishing is a novella, and I'm in love with this couple. Yes, I know, I do say this every time, but I am in love with Trace and Gretchen, both second time arounders. Trace has just transferred to Kyle's Team 3 from an east coast team, like Cooper did in the early books. Gretchen is Kate's sister (of Kate and Tyler in SEAL Of My Heart that was just on a Book Bub special), Book 7 of the SEAL Brotherhood Series. She was married to a professional basketball player until he outed his womanizing on one of the tabloid TV shows and the marriage was over. So, Gretchen has some baggage, but nothing Trace can't work out.

Many of you will remember that Tyler's sister, Linda Gray, is a romance novelist, in her thirties, and Tyler modeled for the cover of her book. Linda has never married, but she's one outrageous character. Like me, she wears red all the time and lives a life in her books she never gets to have in real life. So she and Gretchen are becoming acquainted and best friends. While they both go after Trace, from two different corners.

This is an unedited chapter I hope you'll enjoy. This novella will be part of Tropical Tryst, an anthology of works from 25 of your favorite authors, releasing August l, and available for preorder now.

Enjoy the story. I plan on doing a full length book with this couple next year.

The scene takes place as Gretchen is getting situated in the room she's sharing with Linda, in an old plantation-style Hawaiian home built in the 1800's. It is up in the hills, with views of several of the Hawaiian islands and the beach and ocean several miles away. Linda thinks she going to use this as the location for her next novel, about a Hawaiian girl of royal lineage who falls in love with a Navy SEAL.

So, here's a chapter (unedited) from SEAL My Love:

           Gretchen avoided Trace’s eyes, but
she could tell he was watching her every chance he had. She’d not had that much
attention since the TV reporters who hounded her after her husband’s very
public display of indecency. In that case, these heartless reporters even
ramped it up when she was with her daughters. Clover even ran after one of
them, and, thank goodness, didn’t catch up with the cameraman, or they’d have
had a lawsuit for sure.
            Even
that landed on the tabloid TV show and her ex had the gall to call Gretchen up
and ream her about not getting better control of their girls.
            What an asshole.
            But this kind of attention made
her nipples knot, made her knees wobble a little, made her want to run her
fingers through her hair and reposition her clip several times, always leaving
a wisp or two of curls lapping down the back of her neck because it made her
feel wanted and desired. She knew her cheeks were flushed and her panties were
in a constant state of wet and cool, depending on if she was sitting or
standing on the porch, hanging on to the pale yellow wooden pillar and
marveling at the view below. She knew wood, especially painted wood, was not
the way of the islands now. This house had obviously been built during the old
plantation days, when the monarchy was in its glory. The old Queen was gone now
for nearly a hundred years, but her legacy of grace, raising beautiful tropical
flowers and her love of singing and watching the young dancers swing their hips
and call to each other with their graceful arms and hands, was legendary. She
herself had once been a beauty and had been an expert Polynesian dancer.
            Maybe
there was something to what Linda said, because the story of the Hawaiian
princess and the Navy SEAL started fanning the flames of her heart, making the
hairs on the back of her neck desire to be kissed.
            She
could tell he was staring at her, and that he knew she was aware of it, too. She
gave him a smile and did not dare look for his reaction. All she could do was
fan herself with the folder she was holding, and then take down and re-clip her
hair again, for the tenth time in the past hour as they had been setting things
up in the house.
            They’d
given her a room with Linda, one of the smaller ones, with twin beds. But she
loved the privacy, and the little marble-topped writing desk in front of the
gabled window. The flush of cool ocean breeze was something she was looking
forward to inhaling all night long as she slept.
            Trace
was standing at the doorway, and of course, like a gentleman, would not come
into the room without an invitation. She could imagine herself as the island
princess and he, a pirate sea captain, not daring to touch her, for fear of
losing his life. The tension was there, just the same in this century as it
could have been way back over a hundred years ago.
            “I
think I’ve just found a prettier view. Too bad you can’t see it,” he said,
casually, in a near-whisper. But she heard every word.
            Turning,
she snickered at his lack of uniform, no hat tucked under his arm, because he
wore flip flops and shorts that came just to the tops of his knees. His
well-developed calf muscles were covered withy dark hair. His white v-neck tee
shirt was so bright she nearly needed shades, and he had a pair of sunglasses
tucked into the bottom of the V. His day plus old stubble was distracting, as
was the drip of sweat that trickled from under his chin, down between his
collar bone to parts unknown. Part of the tee shirt had stuck to his chest and
abdomen below.
            He
uncrossed his arms and angled his head, waiting for a response. “You think I
look funny?”
            She
gave him a graceful smile worthy of an island princess of great lineage. “No,
Trace. I was thinking about—“
            “How
nice it would be to go down to the beach.” Linda interrupted, pushing the big
hulking SEAL aside. “Are you game, or do my stories of sex on the white sand
make you itch?” She wiggled her eyebrows, oblivious of the scene she’d just
crashed. “I’m in the mood for an umbrella drink and some bare bodies to go gaze
at.” She opened her red suitcase up and pulled out a red beach bag. “I’m
changing into my bikini now,” she said as she removed her top and revealed a
red bra with pink lipstick kisses on it.
            Trace
was out of there so fast Gretchen wasn’t sure he even got a glimpse of the bra.
            “You
like?” Linda fondled the satin cups of her bra.
            Gretchen
laughed. “You’re the only person I know who matches her luggage with her
underwear. Very clever.”
            “You
have no idea, dear. I had to hunt and hunt. But thank God for Amazon. Now they
show me everything pink and red with hearts and kisses.”
            Gretchen
watched through the window as another van pulled up to the front porch and
several people piled out. Trace was greeting several of the guys and was
introduced to a pair of very cute twenty-somethings and instantly she was
disappointed seeing his wide smile and ready hug.
            Linda
peered over her shoulder.
            “Oh,
Gretchen. Here I was jealous of you, since you’ve obviously attracted Trace’s
attention. And now we both have competition from those little sweet tarts.”
            “Gretchen
looked away from the window and walked to her bed. “No worries. I’m looking for
a superrich investment mogul who owns his own island, and only likes women over
thirty.”
            “Good
idea, Gretchen. SEAL’s don’t make that much, but I understand the sex is worth
it.” She was examining her clothes, trying to pick out a combination. Most
everything in her suitcase was red.
            Gretchen
was slightly irritated. “Is everything about sex with you?”
            “Yup.
Sex sells.” She held up a red and pink flowered sarong and examined herself in
the mirror, holding the fabric under her chin. “You like this on me?”
            “How
do you feel wearing it?”
            “Positively
a cougar waiting to pounce. But the answer to your question is, yes, maybe.
It’s called the law of attraction.” Her beautiful brown eyes sparkled. Gretchen
knew she was about to get a lesson she hadn’t asked for.
            “So
let’s have it,” Gretchen said as she sat on the bed, rummaging through her own
clothes.
            “Everything
is sales. We are selling each other right now.”
            “Come
again?” She was seriously concerned for Linda’s state of mind.
            “We
don’t know each other very well, just met today, right?”
            “Yes.
On the plane.”
            “Exactly.
Tyler and Kate met on the plane. They fell in love on that plane that day,
remember?”
            Gretchen
frowned. “Linda, I hope you haven’t gotten the wrong message here.”
            “Oh,
silly. I love women, but not in bed.
But I love getting silly drunk with my women friends. Just the best thing in
the world. The funny banter and gossip. I can tell you and I could do a serious
drunk together and wind up feeling like we’ve been sisters our whole lives.”
            “You
are close to Kate that way now?”
            “No,
silly. She has the kids, she has Tyler, and she’s not the same as me,
temperament wise. Now Tyler? If he wasn’t my brother, OMG, OMG, he would be so
much fun. And we did have fun in high school. He helped fix me up big time.”
            “Not
the other way around?”
            “He
never liked any of my slutty friends.” She gave Gretchen a smirk. “His loss, if
you ask me. Those girls would have treated him fine, and worshiped the ground
he walked on, too. But he fixed me up with tamer guys and I got what I could
out of them. I mean, drop dead gorgeous, gentlemen, you know. Wouldn’t touch me
until they thought it was right. Nice guys. Oh man, I bolloxed them up
something good.”
            “Bolloxed?”
            “Messed
with their brains. You know, stroked their ego, and then I just stroked them
and I loved blowing their minds.”
            “And
they never called you back.”
            Linda
dropped another piece of lingerie and stared back at Gretchen. “Sadly, no. How
did you know that?”
            “Because
I don’t think men like to be chased. They like to do the hunting.”
            “But
so do I.”
            “Then
hunt for something else. Don’t hunt a man. At least, if I did it, it wouldn’t work. You have to just be there, and you hope
that they get the message. Nice guys are worth it.”
            “I
have no patience. But you see, that’s why we’re going to be great friends. You
can teach me a lot about men. Have you had a lot of them?”
            Gretchen
looked at her hands folded in her lap. She would have to tell Linda the truth.
            “I
only had sex with one man, and I married him.”
            “Gretchen!”
Linda ran over to the bed, pulled her up to standing position and gave her a
big hug. “You poor thing! Starved, absolutely starved! That’s so unfair,
sweetie.” She raised Gretchen’s chin and looked at her sorrowfully. “My heart is
breaking for you, Gretchen.” She actually produced tears, which Gretchen
thought was miraculous.
            Grabbing
Linda’s hands, which still held her and pushing her away slightly, Gretchen got
her composure back. “I’ve been raising three beautiful daughters. I’ve had
boyfriends, and we’ve done some things, you know, but no sex. I just don’t want
to have sex with someone I couldn’t marry. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the
way I was brought up. Or, at least, that’s the way I thought I was.”
            Linda
stepped back. “There’s a story there,” she said, pointing to Gretchen.
            “Oh
yes, there really is. Sometime when we’re having those umbrella drinks, I’ll
tell you the tale my mother told me about the time Tyler and Kate had decided
to get married.”
            “Spill.”
            “I’m
not going to right now. But Kate and I have different fathers.”
            “So
your mother slept around.”
            “Linda,
I’ll tell you when I’m ready.” Gretchen was getting irritated with her again.
“But no, it wasn’t anything like that. If you could get your mind out of the
gutter, you might actually learn there are some really decent and cool love stories
out there, and they’re way more about love than sex.”
            Gretchen
made a bee line for the hallway so she could hit the rest room before she was
going to erupt into tears, and ran smack into Trace Bennett’s chest.
            “Hold
on there, darlin’” he said in that low growl. “I had no idea you wanted to
dance so bad. You need to wait until I get my dancin’ shoes on. These don’t
move.”
            He
looked down at his toes and they both watched him wiggle them. But while they
were watching, he’d slipped his arms around her waist and her palms had spread
out on his wet tee shirt. Her lips were close to his Adam’s apple and the dark
scruffiness of his jawline. And they were so very close to his lips if she’d
just raise her chin up, which she did. He was whispering something soft and she
didn’t dare listen because her spine had gone all tingly and if she wasn’t
imagining things, something was taking firm shape between them as he pressed
her to him until their thighs touched through fabric.
            “You
smell like heaven, Gretchen. Like a starlit night on a beach.”
            “I
didn’t think stars smelled like anything,” she said as she waited, and let him
angle down toward her mouth. She was hungry for him, but, just before he could
cover her lips, the hallway was filled with chatty newcomers.
            “Well,
I can see some people are deep into
their vacation already,” said Ollie. He was overflowing with suitcases and he
dropped one, which was quickly picked up by one of the twenty-somethings
accompanying him.
            Gretchen
immediately pulled away and she and Trace left a wide gap for the entourage to
pass. The “twins” gave her a smile that hinted at warmth but was laced with
something else. Ollie gave her a wink and sashayed between them all, one case
above his head.
            Trace
had his hands in his shorts, checking out his wiggling toes. When their eyes
finally connected, Gretchen saw the fire was still there and her pulse
quickened. When he gave her a lopsided smile and rubbed his chin, she nearly
fainted.
            More
people were coming up the stairs. Trace gracefully hopped across the hallway to
stand next to Gretchen. He bent down and whispered, “To be continued, my dear.”
            She
watched him maneuver around suitcase-carrying well-built men and young women as
he made his way down the stairs. Gretchen retreated to the bedroom, closed the
door, leaned against it and closed her eyes.
            “Well
done.”
            She’d
forgotten Linda was still in the room. With her breathing ragged and her
embarrassment stabbing her stomach lining with little pitchforks, she felt
exposed, and without defenses.
            “You’ve
got it bad, sweetie.”
            She
knew Linda was right. But she had to attempt to show she was casual about the
whole thing—if she could. “Just not used to the guy flirting with me before I’m
ready. I’m way out of practice.” She saw Linda nodding in response. Gretchen
was proud of herself. Her comment was nearly 100% truthful.
            “He’s a babe magnet all right.
I’ll grant you that. I’m going to honor your territory.”
            “Linda,
no need for that. I’m a big girl. Just rusty.” Then she stopped herself. “Actually,
that was a fib. I never was any good at it.”
            “Well,
make sure you have a case of condoms because I have a feeling you’re going to
get all the practice you need, plus a little extra for desert. You’ll do fine.
He looks like he wants to lead, so let him. Holy hell I wish I was in your
shoes.”
            “Might
make it into you book, then?”
            “Could
be. Most my friends are in my books—not that they’d recognize themselves. I
take a kernel of the truth and explode it into something they’d never think of.
My guilty pleasure. But, if you want to share any details, I’m your gal. You
sure you two have never met before?” Linda quickly slipped on a red polka dot
bikini, turning her back so Gretchen could tie the spaghetti straps together at
her shoulder blades.
            “Just
like the song, Linda.”
            “Who
was that who sang it?” she asked.
            “Beats
me.”
            “Bryan
something. Except it was a Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
            “You
think they’ll notice? That’s the smallest thing I’ve seen. Mine’s a one-piece.”
            “You’re
kidding?”
            “I
like a little tummy help after three girls.”
            “Yes,
and my little tummy is all mine. No children to blame it on. A little lazy, I
guess.”
            “Well,
I tried. But in the end, all I wanted to be was just a good mom. Not a movie
star, or a celebrity like you.”
            “Oh
nonsense, Gretchen. You’re gorgeous. And you married a celebrity, so you know
what that’s all about. What a total
jerk, if you ask me.”
            “I
didn’t ask you.” She had tied and re-tied the strings together, and was finally
satisfied the bow was straight. “There. I think that meets my high standards.
And I double tied it, so in case you get the sudden need to flash your boobs on
the beach, just understand your top may not fall to the sand gracefully when
you pull the strings.” Gretchen fluttered her eyelashes for extra effect.
            “You
should be a romance writer,” said Linda. “You’re a natural. Flashing boobs and
having things fall delicately to the sand. Oh my, what an imagination you
have!”
            “Don’t
lie to me. I have none.”
            “And
you’re a very good liar too.”

So, tell me dear reader, do you water your garden in your nightgown and dream of love stories? I think for this book, reality imitates art, don't you think? Am I Linda Gray?