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Tag Archives for " Sharon Hamilton "
17

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON – I Will Miss Nashville

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: I Will Miss Nashville.

My plane doesn't take off for a few hours, and already I'm teary-eyed. I've been attending the Day With The Authors here in Nashville, organized by Sandy Sullivan, and I have to say it has been one of the best conferences, as a writer, I have attended this year. I nearly sold out of all my books.

Something about being in this part of the country tugs at my heartstrings (I guess that was a play on words). I know it isn't always green and warm, but Friday morning my storyteller, J.D. Hart, and I drove through the countryside and had an early breakfast at Loveless Cafe. Surrounded by pictures of stars from the 1950's on, I loved partaking of the biscuits, the bacon, sausage and ham with the baked cheese casserole hash browns, peach preserves and gravy. I don't eat like this in California, and even if I wanted to, there'd be no place like this. They were stoking up the BBQ in what we would call a summer kitchen outside the main restaurant.

Last night we went to a world class steak house, where I was surrounded by the gentle conversation washing over me like a light warm rain. People smile, they look you in the eyes, and they are gracious. As I said in my talk yesterday, there must be a Southern bone in my body somewhere, even though I've been born and raised in Northern California. They are an endearing kind of warm that really grows on me.

Today we visit Arrington Winery. But it's just a day to hang with my best friend, the man from Tennessee, and yes, I am his number one fan. I'll probably become incoherent by the end of our day together, so I'm bringing my Kleenex.

This trip has been inspiring. I've gotten way more out of it than the energy I've put in. Looking out at the sea of people as I gave my little talk, I felt honored and loved, truly loved. I like small, intimate gatherings where we can tell stories and just hang with our reader fans. The community of writers I've been privileged to get to know well is a family that will sustain me for the rest of my life.

This great country of ours is made up of different regions, each with its own special gifts. But leaving Nashville will be hard today. Going home will be nice, but I will miss this place, and the good friends I leave behind.

Until the next time!

1

M is for Leslie Moon

M IS FOR MOONDUSTWRITER. Part of the reason I love the A-Z blog is all the new friends I make. I would not have met these people otherwise. We practically have nothing in common, except that we are poets, writers and just crazy people who like to share the connection. We are more connected than we are separate, did you know? There are those that don't want that secret to get out. Shhhh!! Leslie's post is not something I normally write about, but her words need to be heard. Enjoy, and thank you, Leslie, for stopping by my blog today.

Never Together by Leslie Moon #atozchallenge

2 Votes

newcago paper

I remember the first time we saw each other – We hadn’t seen each other since we were kids out in the country.

Then everything went haywire. Caesar took what he wanted including the lives of my parents.

At 17, I fled – their night screams chased me for years.

I was entranced by New Cago; she beckoned with her dazzling lights and her rich satins. I didn’t know about the slime underneath until it owned me.

Sam didn’t know how I was making it, I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

 When I wrote,  I told him I had a job and my own place.

Yeah, some call  it a job. The men liked my blue eyes ‘that girl has spirit!’

 But what the hell there was money and a bunk.  I wasn’t locked up in someone’s vault and the temple goons stayed away.

Caesar was murdered and we all celebrated in fountains of bubbly. Within days, the gangs took over and I learned to shoot a gun.

A gang lord wanted to claim me as “property rights.”

Sam showed up just when they were forging my personal chain.

Sam  always could look straight down to my heart. He knew but never said a word.

Sam was something those gangsters were not and they feared him.

Evil never sleeps though and on my birthday someone took a lucky shot.

Dog gone, I’ve pulled Sam into this rotten city and now I’m dead.

 My real name is Lucerne which means ‘Life.’  My blood is a type of antidote Medicago they call it. That’s why when the bullet passed through me and into Sam he didn’t die.

Sam, do what you’ve gotta do – my blood will keep you alive.

 

 

 

Image attribution:”75 Medicago sativa L” by Amédée Masclef – Atlas des plantes de France. 1891. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:75_Medicago_sativa_L.jpg#/media/File:75_Medicago_sativa_L.jpg

Did you know there are more than 10,000 children orphaned by Ebola in West Africa? Many of these children have nothing and are stigmatized by their communities (and extended family). We are trying to find a way to raise funds to help. More info here.

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9

L is for Lake Ozette

L IS FOR LAKE OZETTE

Have you ever taken a hike or walk through the forest and been so moved by the power and beauty of nature that you literally broke down and cried? I did.

The rainforest in the Olympic Peninsula up in Washington State is what I would call a little piece of green paradise. A number of years ago, I took a drive up to see my old roommate in college, and friends of hers described this trail that led through the forest of ancient trees, down the beach and up the other side on another trail. It was and still is approximately 3 miles each segment.

I believe the road to the campground is paved now, but at the time it was some 5 miles of dirt road with tons of potholes that took over an hour.  I was driving a 1947 Oldsmobile turtleback 4-door, which was the most reliable car we owned at the time. My rear seat cushion lifted up and I had the compartment filled with good Canadian beer I planned to smuggle home on my brief trip to Vancouver the day before. I took this walk on my birthday, alone, in late April. I didn't encounter a single person all the way down to the beach. Just me and the forest.

I understand this is where part of the Twilight forest scenes were to have been shot, but, during the filming, there was a freak snowfall and they couldn't access the area.

Winding down through these tall giant trees, I'd been told to watch for bears, as this was the time they'd come out of hibernation, and would be hungry. I found several trees with their trunks scratched by powerful claws as new mothers and hungry bear fathers began foraging for food. Oddly enough, I wasn't scared. I walked the entire distance to the beach on cedar planks lovingly laid by several boy scout troops and Rotary clubs, so the integrity of the forest floor would remain intact.

I like things that move me without trying. The trail awaits my return and some day, and I say this every April, I want to return there and take the hike on my birthday. Some day, I'll fulfill that promise. In the meantime, the beauty of this green temple to mother nature herself, awaits, like a lover gone too soon.

8

J is for Junk On My Computer, SUNDAYS WITH SHARON

J is for Junk On My Computer!  I had a lot of extra files on my computer and yesterday I cleared out 120 Gigs of junk. I feel squeaky clean! Our family Apple Expert, Mario, came over and spent about seven hours with us both. Mine was the most difficult and detailed. But what I have now are 19 separate folders containing everything about my books. I have 14 novels, 2 Novellas and 2 of my own bundles, or boxed sets.

I had snippets everywhere, blog posts and guest spots, interviews and faq sheets filed sometimes by name, sometimes by kind of file, sometimes random, and then those dreaded “X Novel – FINAL FINAL FINAL” files. Some files were separated from others because one way editors or my formatter would send them without spaces, some with dashes between the book and the date of the edit, and others in all caps or upper and lower case with or without spaces. I was holding all this in my head, and boy was my head hurting. I had to remember which ones were which (oh yes, that was a novella of the same name, oh yes, that was the correction I made that came in late, etc.) 

In short, I was an accident waiting to happen. This morning as I wake up and go to the computer, my desktop is clean, organized and I know where all my important papers are. A good friend of mine used to look at my lists of “versions” of my books, and shake her head, “Sharon, you've got to get this fixed.” That was about 4 years ago. Did I mention sometime before I'm stubborn?

Now some of you saw the word Junk and were thinking of something else. And for you, all I have is a picture. Enjoy the view…the part that I can show! Enjoy your day.

If you are want to follow along in the A-Z Blog Challenge, just clink on the button at the bottom with the sunflower on it. You will be directed to a list of some 2000 other bloggers who have taken the challenge. This week, I'm number 573. Some are dropping out, so this number could change, but tell your friends about it. Enjoy!

6

I is for I Smell Sheep

I IS FOR I SMELL SHEEP!

Welcome back to the A-Z Blog Challenge, those of you who are playing along this game. I've met some wonderful people so far and followed some awesome blogs.

I did an interview with a pair of bloggers, who just tickled my funny bone. Their blog is called I Smell Sheep, and ewe are in for a treat! Because they did such a great job with the Q&A I sent them, I'm going to just repost that interview, along with the quirky pictures they provided. Enjoy! And all of you who blog or like to follow fun things, (I mean why do the other stuff anyway?) here they are (used with permission):  Sharon and Katie.

  1. What kinds of books do you review and why?

Katie: First, thanks so much for having us over! We review paranormal romance and urban fantasy the most, but anything in the speculative fiction arena we will take a look at! Plus we review comic books and interview both authors and actors!

We're at comic book conventions and readers gatherings. The Sheep are taking over the world!

Sharon: I personally prefer dark urban fantasy, but I dip my toes into the paranormal romance pool occasionally…as long as there are monsters involved. I adore horror comics that have a dash of campy humor too.

  1. Do you review audio books and why?

Katie: We don't review audio books right now, but maybe in the future!

Sharon: I haven’t reviewed any because I don’t have slots of time conducive to listening. I can read faster than I could listen.

  1. Give us a little rundown on the blog's history: when formed, how it grew, how you helped make it grow and where you are headed in the future?

Katie: I started the website 5 years ago, after my Mom pretty much forced me to finally start writing down all my random and at times off-beat opinions. I'm not a strong writer by any means and totally admit that! I try and write from the heart and make, not only my writing tone colorful but add some facts along the way.

Not long after the site started, I reached out to some folks who were leaving comments and the first guest reviewers came on board. About a year into the site Sharon Stogner burst into the scene. She's now a huge part of what we do, while it's a collective, Sharon keeps us all in line and on track to meet deadlines. We wouldn't be where we are as a site today without her.

I don't know what the future holds for the Sheep, but I'm excited to find out!

Sharon: Don’t let her fool you…her writing style is truly unique and her enthusiasm, when she writes about a book she loves, is infectious! We also have some devoted followers who spread their love of all things sheep. The I Smell Sheep Facebook group is where the crazy happens. Everything from the reviews to the interviews to the guest post topics is quirky and fun. You never know what you will find each day when you visit us. But behind the scenes, we are serious about what we do and our professionalism when dealing with authors, publishers and readers has helped us become what we are today.

  1. How many followers on each post do you get per daily average?

Katie: It depends on the post and honestly we try not to focus on the day to day numbers of visits. For those out there needing a number, we have an average of 50,000 page views per month.

  1. In your opinion, why is your blog so successful? Why did it win the awards it has? 

Katie: I think the website has been successful from all our hard work. Through marketing on other online sources, creating a Facebook and Twitter page. Social media has really helped us spread the word about I Smell Sheep. Though it could also just be that we are something a little different. Strange even. Offbeat and proud of it. We are weird and we are proud to be this way. Normal is scary to us.

We recently won the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for Best Review site 2014. That's still shocking to say, we never in a million years thought an award this big would come our way!

Sharon: Katie developed, before I came onboard, a quirky style for interviews. Authors/actors often thanks us for the atypical questions. We also have unusual guest post topics and features. We also try to be flexible when working with others. And under all the fun and quirkiness we have built a foundation of trust and integrity.

Shout out to our followers who voted for us! Big sheep kisses to everyone. It is quite humbling.

  1. If you could give advice to a struggling blog, or someone wanting to start blogging, what would you advise, based on your experiences.

Katie: I would say, do whatever you love. No matter what it is. Don't hold yourself back or shut any doors with inner thoughts of doubt. Be realistic though, there's a very slim chance you'll make enough money to blog for a living. But if you want to find another way to be creative, then go for it and don't look back!

Sharon: There are a lot of bloggers out there willing to help and give advice. Visit blogs you admire. Talk with the people behind the scenes and ask questions. We have an amazing network of blogging friends. We help each other out. Integrity and trust is crucial to success in blogging. You can’t build trust overnight, you have to earn it from readers, other bloggers, publishers and authors. Break that trust and you are done.

Thank you so much. Here's how you can stay in contact with Sharon and Katie. Ewe won't regret it! 

I Smell Sheep emails:

If you would like to follow the A-Z Challenge, click the button at the side/bottom of this blog page and you'll be directed at random (how fun!) to another A-Z Blog Challenge poster. Enjoy your ride. And may the sheep take over the world!

3

H is for Heroes In Uniform and Hearts In Danger

I'm lucky I get to participate in several boxed sets this year. I said I would never do it again, but I guess I lied. I've worked with about half of these ladies on other projects. We are always coming up with things to cross-promote each other.

A good example of cross-promoting was today's launch for Sabrina York and her Sabrina York's Stone Hard SEALs Release Celebration (which is still going on until tomorrow, btw). We stop by, we have our fans stop by, we give away things and we generally have fun, sometimes we learn a thing or two. Great way for readers to find new authors.

These boxed and bundled sets are the same way. Both these sets are going to be awesome reads, with authors either already established, or up and coming ones you'll learn about soon. We pool our resources and release a set at a deep discount, so readers get a chance to sample several new authors without a huge commitment of $$. One set I participated in last year sold over 28,000 copies in its first week alone.
Heroes In Uniform:

Book Description

Publication Date: June 9, 2015

Ten full-length books and one novella from NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors

A Romantic Suspense and Military Romance boxed set of 11 Sexy Contemporary Alpha Heroes, featuring Soldiers, SEALs, Spies, Agents, Rangers and Cops.
Brand-new, never-before-published stories: a novella from Gennita Low and a full-length novel from Nina Bruhns.
KAYLEA CROSS–Danger Close. With his cover blown, former undercover CIA agent Wade Sandberg finds himself, and an innocent woman, the number one targets of the world's most dangerous terrorist.
PATRICIA MCLINN–At The Heart's Command. Colonel John Griffin Jr. is a good and honorable soldier who faces the toughest mission of all when he returns home to Wyoming: Protect the woman he's always loved – especially from himself.
GENNITA LOW–Dangerously Hot. While working undercover, looking for his missing brother, Luke meets the mysterious Nina who appears to know more than she's saying. Can Luke charm the sexy and dangerous Nina into assisting him?
CARIDAD PINEIRO–Sins Of The Flesh. Ex-Army Ranger Mick Carrera has been hired to hunt down a woman who is nothing like he expects. As passion erupts between them, danger threatens from those who want to end Mick and Cat's lives in order to safeguard their secrets.
SHARON HAMILTON–Cruisin' For A SEAL. What starts out as a cruise vacation for 9 Navy SEALs and their wives, winds up a full scale Team operation, as they save the passengers from terrorists.
KAREN FENECH–Snowbound. FBI Agent Mallory Burke, injured and on the run for her life, is stranded in a snowstorm with a reclusive and secretive cop she's not sure she can trust but is falling in love with.
TONI ANDERSON–Her Last Chance. Eighteen years ago the Blade Hunter found his first victim on the streets of NYC. Now, unless FBI Agent Marshall Hayes can stop him, he's back to finish the job.
NINA BRUHNS–Barely Dangerous. Blue Wolf Cooper has a bear problem–as in, he suspects the pretty new USFS fire spotter is part of a vicious bear poaching ring he is trying to shut down. Margarethe “George” Johansen has a bare problem–as in, she keeps dreaming the sexy Fish and Game warden who's been following her around sneaks up into her isolated tower, strips her bare, and makes incredible love to her…right before he kills her.
LORI RYAN–Everlasting. Katelyn Bowden never imagined coming home would dredge up a twenty-four year old murder and put her life at risk. She also never expected the man to come to her rescue would be the one man she'd resented for years. The one man she wanted nothing to do with.
CRISTIN HARBER–Garrison's Creed. An injured CIA agent runs into the only man she can never see again–her first love, the one who “buried” her years ago.
DANA MARTON–Deathblow. Former small-town football hero turned cop, Joe Kessler never met a linebacker, perp, or a woman he couldn't handle. Then a troubled single mom walks into his life, and the only place this hot jock will ever see ‘easy' again is in the dictionary.

HEARTS IN DANGER:  

Book Description

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

FOURTEEN stories of thrilling romance to benefit the American Heart Association. These full length, Romantic Suspense stories come from NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, AND NATIONAL BESTSELLING AUTHORS!
Accidental SEAL by Sharon Hamilton: Newbie Realtor Christy Nelson holds her first Open House but is given the wrong address, and finds a hot naked SEAL in the master bedroom.
Pick Your Poison by Roxanne St. Claire: Meet Benjamin Youngblood – he’s sexy, smart, spectacular and … about to lose his job for the best security firm in the world. He’s got one chance to prove himself and nothing will stop him. Not even a flower farmer.
Protective Custody by Paige Tyler: Someone is stalking reporter Paisley McCoy, and police detective Gray Beckham is the only man who can protect her. And while she might be sexy as hell, there’s no way he’s going anywhere near the captain’s daughter.
Hot Pursuit by Lynn Raye Harris: When someone starts shooting at Evie Baker, there's only one man dangerous enough to help her–the man who broke her heart ten years ago. Hostile Operations Team soldier Matt Girard uses all his considerable black ops skill to protect Evie.
SEAL's Honor by Elle James: Two Navy SEALs jeopardize their lives and hearts in a battle-torn land when they vie for the love of one sexy Night Stalker helicopter pilot.
Against The Dark by Carolyn Crane: Angel is an ex-safecracker forced into one last heist. Cole is an undercover agent with big plans for his gorgeous thief—he'll make her pose as his girlfriend to help with a dangerous mission.
Hidden Prey by Cheyenne McCray: Tori is in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses the execution of a Federal agent by the son of the head of the Jimenez Cartel. Special Agent Landon Walker rescues Tori and sets out to protect her, but soon protecting her isn’t enough.
Dangerous Curves by Nina Bruhns: A spec ops transporter for STORM Corps takes on drones, bad guys, and car chases on the coast of Italy—and falls for a beautiful scientist whose curves are far more dangerous than the road!
Deadly Pursuit by Misty Evans: When Londano escapes a maximum security prison and begins picking off Celina’s friends and coworkers, everyone she knows becomes a target. Including DEA agent Cooper Harris, the man who once broke her heart and is now assigned to be her bodyguard.
Protecting Caroline by Susan Stoker: Caroline helps foil a terrorist plot when she finds herself on a plane that’s hijacked (with the help of three members of a SEAL team), but after she gets home she finds herself still in the sights of the terrorists. She can only hope Wolf and his team will be able to save her in time.
One Night Stand by Parker Kincade: Amanda Martin decides to have a one-night stand. No relationship, no promises just hot, indulgent sex. What she doesn’t anticipate is meeting a handsome-as-sin stranger who gives her pleasure unlike she’s ever known. A stranger with a deadly secret.
Brody by Mandy Harbin: Brody thinks the skittish Xan is sexy as hell, but it’s not her hot body that has him rocked to his core. He knows her from somewhere, and in his line of work, that’s a dangerous thing. Following orders have never been this hard, but when he finds out she’s his next assignment, he will protect her at all costs.
Enemy Mine by Megan Mitcham: Born in the blood of Sierra Leone's Civil War, enslaved, then sold to the US as an orphan, Base Branch operative Sloan Harris is emotionally dead and driven by vengeance. With no soul to give, her body becomes the bargaining chip to infiltrate a warlord's inner circle.
Caught in the Crosshair by Barb Han: On a tropical island with a hurricane brewing and dangerous men closing in, private security firm owner Jaden Dean will need to work side-by-side with Lauren James to survive and find her brother. He will have to use all his specialized training and risk everything, including his heart, to outwit the deadly group and keep Lauren safe.

I see some serious reading in your future, don't you? Ladies, start your engines!

4

F IS FOR FLY (Learn to Fly On the Way Down)

I love country music, not only for the beautiful love songs, but for the words of wisdom, and the values that are so close to my own personal values, so close to my heart. I wasn't raised a country girl. I was raised a hippie Northern California girl, but there must have been part of me left behind in the generations of my family as they traveled this great country, and some of my roots are there.

This song, by Tae and Maddie, Fly, really says it all for me. I love the pictures of the little girl climbing up the ladder. That's me. The striving to reach for things other people perhaps might overlook. Finding the good in things, finding the gold in people's hearts, finding the deep side of the ocean in words, digging for emotions buried under layers of lifetimes.

Just keep on reachin' though the limb might break…
You can learn to fly on the way down.

We've been talking about taking chances, spinning the wheel of life, reaching out, playing for keeps, and now learning to fly on the way down, instead of being afraid of trying. Our big enemy: Fear. Fear is the only evil. The only one that robs our souls. Learning to fly happens when you're free-falling. When you're skydiving through the emotions of that person deep inside you that is awesome and is a giant. We learn to deal with it all by letting go. Taking chances. Risking our hearts and our emotions, but letting our souls soar.

15

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: DOING EVERYTHING

DOING EVERYTHING. We never know what will take off. We do things with intention, do things by accident, and sometimes the accidents work out amazingly well, sometimes the well-intentioned plans do poorly. These days I'm sort of thinking about life as one giant roulette wheel. You spin it, and it arbitrarily lands wherever it does. A huge game of chance.

But not really.

Those of you who follow my blog posts know that I'm a huge fan of “playing big.” In the real estate business, we used to say to agents, “play as if you've already won.” There are times when we question our abilities, and want to “quit” mentally from giving it our all. Luckily these things don't last long for me, and I'm pretty good about picking myself up, and usually holding up a couple of others at the same time. Can't help it, I raised 4 kids and sometimes I still feel like I'm raising kids today.

So the secret of success would be that we're out there playing big. We may not know where that roulette wheel will land (I have gambling on the brain because I'm writing this from Las Vegas), but we can control whether or not we take our turn. Opportunities are there, but only if we take them. Leading the horse to water, etc….Bella Andre paid me a nice compliment when she told an audience at the San Francisco Writer's Conference 2 years ago that she always gave writers advice they could bank on, but few really followed up or did what she said. And she complimented me on being one of the ones who listened, and executed her pearls of wisdom. I call them pearls of wisdom. She's far too humble to say it. But I will! Thank you, Bella.

So, here I am, taking chances, meeting people, saying yes more than no (and learning which ones to say no to as well), trusting that I'll get to work with people's highest selves and good part, learning when I don't, and paying it forward, both upwards in the food chain and down. It makes no difference where I am or what it means.

It matters that I play. That I DO EVERYTHING.

Happy Easter from the bottom of my heart.

If you want to follow along on the A-Z blog hop, click the button at the bottom of this page and you will be directed at random to some other blogger's posting for today. We're in this together. Every day a new letter. Today was a catch up.

2

C is for Count My Blessings

COUNT MY BLESSINGS. I forget this all the time. With so much abundance all around me, I forget to say thank you. I used to travel with a friend once a week, and we'd talk about our lives, our families, situations that sometimes frustrated each of us. Some days I'd remind him, and other days he'd remind me. But when we found ourselves complaining about something, we'd say to the other one: “Who haven't you thanked today that you needed to?”

I've noticed that when I get upset, if I stop and go to gratitude, soon the upset is gone. My friend, the DEA/FBI agent who did some incredibly dangerous under cover missions over his years at the Bureau, said that of the maybe 400 or so planned operations, there was only one, in all that period of time, that actually went along just as they'd planned. And they laughed about it afterwards, at how yes, it was possible to have a 100% mission.

Most the time their missions would go wrong. Something would be off, something unexpected would occur and threaten the whole mission. How many times have I thought a whole day, or a project was ruined because not everything went as planned? How many times does a plane stay on course during a trip from San Francisco to Paris? The truth is, the plane is being adjusted perhaps a thousand times. There is no such thing as following a perfect path.

Remembering to feel grateful for what I do have keeps me from dwelling on what I don't. And maybe that's why not everything is perfect, so we'll value it, like something rare. Just like in my Heavenly Lover book, Heaven isn't 100% perfect by design. The Underworld isn't 100% evil by accident.

 

 

B is for Being Unstoppable

BEING UNSTOPPABLE!  This is Day Two of the A-Z Blog Challenge, and Being Unstoppable is something every writer needs. There are ups and downs in this business, most of them emotional. I never thought being a writer would require so much inner strength. Weathering the ups and downs, sometimes the miscommunications that can occur when you are dealing with people through the internet and not in person, wanting to do everything “right” when there is no “right” way to do things, except,

Just doing them!

The key for me is not letting things that could, snag me. I could dwell or worry about all sorts of things. I like this quote from Mark Twain” “I worried about a lot of things in my lifetime, and some of them actually happened.”

Being easy to start and hard to stop is what I go for. Some of my regular readers will remember this example, because I think about it every day. When you are getting the locomotive going (and that can be your writing career, your new venture, any new huge project) at first you step on that pedal, and no matter how hard you step on it, that locomotive is only going to start up at one speed, and it's slow. You're bouncing around on that pedal, and no matter how hard you push, the train will only start up so fast. Then momentum builds. At that point, when you're gliding down the rails, you can take your foot off the pedal and for a long time, that train will keep moving regardless of the lack of effort on your part. And yes, eventually, it will slow and stop again.

The hard work starts at the front end. Everyone knows this. I'm going to momentum, a long-lasting career that will build on itself. One day at a time, one story, book at a time, one communication or fan at a time. Maybe it won't always be this hard or require so much of my energy. But either way, I'm going to be hard to stop.

To visit the other sites on the A-Z Blog Hop, be sure to click on the A-Z button at the bottom of this page and choose one of the other 2000 blogs to read. Thanks for showing up today! Have a beautiful, unstoppable Thursday.

15

A is for Another SEAL Book

A lot has changed since I last did the A-Z Blog. Some four years ago, when I did my first one, I was still shopping my Accidental SEAL out there, looking for a home. I had written three paranormal romances, books I loved, and I was hopeful that if I continued to write, at about book 4 or 5, I would start to get traction.

And that was right.

Today, as I begin this A-Z Blog challenge again, I have a total of 14 books out there. Nine in the SEAL Brotherhood Series, five paranormals. I have been on the New York Times and USA Today lists multiple times, and I'm happy to say I could live off the earnings I make with my books.

This isn't meant to brag. Just to perhaps give hope to those who have the dream of following their dream. This has all happened in less than 5 years. And I didn't begin this journey until I turned 60 years of age.

A writer writes until he/she gets noticed. Very simple plan, really. No gimmicks to it. Just write things people want to read. That's my advice:  Never Give Up.

15

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: THE COMPANY WE KEEP (AGAIN)!!

I stumbled upon a video I loved this week and just thought I'd share it again. Just coming off an intense race to the finish line, doing my layers of editing all while traveling out of state and beginning research on my 10th SEAL book, I think the wanderlust hit me. I started thinking about other things I could be doing with my time, like a perfectly normal adult with ADD. I've accepted this will always be a problem for me. But I also think it makes me the type of person who loves adventure and the dreams of running away from it all.

Just to be clear, my life is great, and this is no reflection on that. I'm grateful for everything I've been blessed with. But there comes a time when I do feel like doing something completely different. My friend Jody and I attended the quilting retreat at Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg earlier in March. I went to Tucson and Phoenix, even drove to Scottsdale to attend the Tucson Festival of Books, research at the UofA library, and enjoyed fellowship with other authors, some new friends and some I'd met last year at the event. Today, I attended the Sonoma County Library Local Authors Showcase and Symposium, connecting with poets, thriller writers, historical fiction authors, memoirists and grammar divas. People had such a varied background from former newspaper reporters to teachers, cops, misfits and wine critics. I learned from all of these wonderful experiences and heard voices I loved in genres I don't usually read.  

My schedule is very full this year, too. And I'm planning on launching another 4 books as well as attending 6 more conferences before December. So it's not surprising that I dream of just getting off the grid, unplugging everything but my laptop, and just going on a road trip, or maybe a cabin in Antigua looking for that cheeseburger in paradise again. I'm not running away, I'm running to something unexpected, something that makes me laugh and dream and maybe not do too much talking. Maybe lots of reading.

So when I saw the group Sisters On The Fly, I was enchanted. I was ready for a Calgon moment that might last 10 years. “No men, no kids, no pets and be nice.” What a wonderful dream that would be. Would I miss the men in my life? You bet. But there is something so uncomplicated in the company of women, when they want to be, that is, when they just sit and twitter like blackbirds on a telephone wire, shoot the breeze and laugh a lot.

I joined this group. I probably won't have a trailer until next year some time, and between trips, I can use it as a writing cottage. It would have everything I need: bed, internet connection, a decent shower, a microwave and an umbrella or two. I could pull it with my convertible Murano, stop and write when others are fly fishing. I might even learn how to do that myself. Bring my guns and my laptop and I'm all set!

I mean, what better place to cook up stories than taking a long road trip. I might find myself and never come back!

11

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Polishing The Book

Polishing a book for some is harder than writing it the first time. I write fairly fast, and when I was first starting out, I sent an email to Diana Gabaldon, asking her about her writing process. She was gracious to answer me. Aside from her writing into the wee hours of the morning, beginning after her family had gone to bed (I relate now but at the time it gave me a heart attack), her greatest tip to me was in the polishing.

“That's where the real jewels, richness and texture of the book happens,” she said. Because I don't read very fast, editing can sometimes be a challenge. It's taken me a long time to accept that my reading skill level is a disability. I can write like the wind, but editing? Hard to do. I've struggled with reading my whole life. It affected my career, what courses I could take in college. I understand what others feel who are handicapped in some way, because I am too. I am floored when readers say they read 1000 books a year. I'd be lucky to read 1000 books in my lifetime.

I get easily distracted by anything. My chickens used to distract me. My garden. The dogs. I usually have to write to instrumental music, and only certain kinds of music work. I like candles. I dress in loose clothing and put my hair up. I have my computer glasses that don't give me a headache. I wash my hands a lot and wear scented hand cream. I wear socks. I drink lots of water and coffee. I have to work at my focus as if I was adding a table of 7 figure numbers. That's how hard it is for me sometimes. 

Today I was challenged by the guy who came to work on our brick edging on the patio. He had one of those industrial grinders working from about 8:30 on. Around 11:00 I was seeing double. So I packed up my computer and worked down at the office for a few hours.

I rewrote a couple of love scenes and that helped. When I stay connected to the passion of the story, the heart of the love story, which is always about the couple, and usually about the relationship as well as the sex that describes their relationship, I can use that energy to finish and work on the rest of the book. In fact, in some of my books, I write the heaviest love scene first, to see how the couple develops organically on paper. I love to feel them evolve through my writing.

There is no rushing of this process, just like Diana Gabaldon told me years ago. I'm patient. It takes as long as it takes. I never give up or abandon a project. But I like to think that the harder ones to finish are also my better books.

We think the creative process should just “flow” and writers “get their muse” on. Nope. Sorry to say, it's just hard work, with a lot of discipline and focus. I guess I would call it Intentional Creativity.

 

 

8

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: IT'S WHO WE ARE

I've been listening to some wonderful music by Jo Blankenburg, who has become one of my favorites. I have about 45 days worth of this kind of music stored on my computer, and yes, I know that's not wise. But I hear something I love, and then I get into a writing groove (I'll tell you some days it's way better than sex and trust me, I like that a lot too) and play the darned thing over and over again. Why? Because I love to be inspired. I think that's why I love to write.

I probably cruised through my early married life with rose colored glasses and missed so much along the way, but I'm defending my imagination and all the worlds I lived in while I was spending the 2 1/2 hours every day in my white Suburban, shuttling the kids from karate, to swimming lessons, acting classes, gymnastics, volleyball and soccer practice, listening to the music that would make my kids groan. Yes I've been an overbearing mother and they did it my way. Of course, now that they are older, I get some grief about it. None of them can listen to New Age music without losing their dinner. 

Where did I go when I was doing that? I went to other worlds. Fell in love with beautiful men and handsome warriors. I became the faery princess and the Queen of everything. I lived in worlds where love was supreme and feeling great about being alive was all that was necessary. That's where I was. For years I was there.

My kids? They were in the back of the Suburban. Okay, so I ruined it for them. My license plate was SNOWEYT, because I usually packed around seven or more dwarfs everywhere I went. I even took all four kids to listing appointments, lined them up on the couch and told them to behave while I told the sellers I had about 30 minutes before the wheels came off my little family and boy did we get down to business fast. I became the number one Realtor in my office, then my company, then the whole county while I was traveling to those distant lands and meeting those strange beautiful beings.

I guess you would categorize me as an adrenalin junkie. I want the best part of life. I like the chocolate centers of the chocolate candies at Sees, the soft part in the middle of a cinnamon roll, the “point” of the slice of pizza, the first sip of a cold beer, the part of a song that is so incredibly sweet you will put up with the whole rest of it just to hear those two stanzas again. I used to read to the sexy parts in books, and then read them again with heightened anticipation because I knew they were coming. When I'm writing I write until I get tired, go back to bed and wake up 2 hours later and get like three or four new mornings out of one day. When I listen to educational tapes I play them on triple speed so you can do 45 hours of continuing education in less than 5 hours (btw it only takes about 5 minutes to get used to Mickey Mouse speaking to you). I hate reading manuals and love having someone tell me a really good story. I believe in people and I never give up. I get discouraged, but I never give up.

I once heard a motivational speech by a lady who put it well. She said she wanted the “juice of life”, that sweet part of the orange that is so rare. And to get it, you have to squeeze it. You have to grab it.

 

Sharon Hamilton

Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.
Author Page ** Sharon's Blog ** Sharon's Website ** Facebook**Twitter
Sharon’s Newsletter

13

RED FRIDAY READ

Since it's Red Friday, I thought I'd take an excerpt from one of my SEAL Brotherhood Series books. This one is from the upcoming book SEAL My Home, which releases 3/31/15 but is on preorder now. Just like in SEAL'S Promise, a terrorist cell figures prominently in the story. Here's an excerpt that won't reveal a spoiler. 

Here's the blurb:

Bad boy Rory Kennedy was raised in foster care, bouncing in and out of trouble along the way. He finds his true family and real brothers as a Navy SEAL, one of the Navy’s elite warriors. When his BUD/S instructor barked the SEAL’s Motto: Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, he knew he had found home.

Megan Palmer works in a bookstore and finds her passion in life through reading steamy romance novels. Her brief affair with a man she later found out was married has left her damaged, until she meets the handsome SEAL, who stands ready to open her world and give her things she’s only dreamed.

On a skiing trip, Rory suffers a possible career-ending injury and also comes face to face with a past he never knew of, and a family who had abandoned him. His relationship with Megan is tested to the breaking point as Rory wades through the dark waters of recovery and whether or not he can live without the life he loves. A home-grown terrorist cell forces his hand and he discovers his true purpose.

EXCERPT:

“Detectives, I’ve spent less than ten minutes total talking to him. I barely know him. He told me he was a hedge fund trader. I got that he was successful, I mean, he arranged his private transportation to the hospital in Los Angeles from Big Bear. He had this guy Derek helping him, and he was on the phone and computer. That’s pretty much it. That’s all I know about him, other than the fact that he’d tried to find me when I was little, and failed.”

“And you’ve had no contact since L.A. No phone calls or internet with his office, with this Derek guy?”

“Absolutely no. I haven’t checked my emails in a few days, but last time I did, nothing.”

“Would you check it right now, please?” one of the detectives asked.

Rory got up slowly, positioning his cane for steadiness. Kyle stopped him.

“Let me. Where is it?”

“Next to the bed.”

           Rory walked slowly with his cane as a guide, leaned slighty into a stool, setting the computer on his eating bar, the two detectives looking over his shoulder. Scrolling through his gmail account inbox he did find something he’d never seen before.

            It was a single line item with a subject line: Raymond Corrigan, from Raymond Corrigan’s computer. Underneath there was a single picture which flashed slowly on the screen line by line. It was a picture of his father, bound and gagged, barefoot, sitting on a chair on a concrete floor of some dark warehouse. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit. On his lap was a copy of the New York Times dated today. His eyes were swollen shut with dark bruises. Underneath the picture were the chilling words:

            Proof of Life.

Do I have your attention? I hope so. Hope you join me in this journey for SEAL My Home next month, and then SEAL's Code in June.

 

 

Sharon Hamilton

Life is one fool thing after another.

Love is two fool things after each other.

Author Page ** Sharon's Blog ** Sharon's Website ** Facebook**Twitter

Sharon’s Newsletter

5

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Writing this today because I'm thinking about all of you who are under snow and ice, huddled in homes I hope are safe, and cozy. I can attest to the fact that Spring is here. The trees are blooming in Santa Rosa, Northern California, in the wine country, where I live.

The seasons aren't as colorful here in Wine Country. But we do have some things I love. Let me count the ways…

We have green hills this time of year. In fact, usually St. Patrick's Day is the greenest day of the year. The weeds are still short, the brown stalks of overgrown things from wintertime are broken or long since blown away. Now we have a nice lush carpet, dotted with daffodils in my garden. Spring is like that here. Without a lot of work, it just blooms, like the fruit trees, without a lot of my maintenance. These are the times when I love walking through nurseries. I feel the presence of my mother, who used to spend hours tending her garden. Every year she'd go get another pair of gloves at the nursery, and a new set of white tennis shoes. Don't ask me why they were white. They always were. She washed them every time she used them, and left them drying in the sun for the next day.

Spring is the time for new things, renewals. I explored a new commercial complex last week, an old apple packing plant in Sebastopol, the Barlow Center. I found community garden plots and eclectic stores from a Tibetan artifact store (complete with a painted design in the driveway), two breweries, several restaurants, a coffee roasters, a Waldorf toy and projects store, two wineries, and other retail and professional offices. I love recycled things. Making new things from old things. I love looking at gardens and fencing made from recycled apple tree cuttings.

Some of my best stories are written after I go exploring. It isn't guided meditation, but just exploring. Being guided by what is just around the corner. Kind of like life, right? The undiscovered country or adventure. The new friend I might make today or an old one I'll reconnect with. Making something beautiful today, like a bouquet of my own flowers, or some words that make my heart sing on the page, or helping someone see a shining ray of light on a future they could have, or assisting someone. Even feeding fish can be good therapy on a day like today. They know me. They get excited whenever I go into the office and collect in little rows at the tank, vying for my attention. I'm sure it's my imagination, but it works for me.

The sign I bought some years ago still hangs over the doorway of what used to be my office. “Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been.” It still applies. Especially today.

Have a glorious one!!! Spring is really just around the corner.

Honest.

11

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: The Practice of Love

I was talking to my friend recently, and we both admitted we got married because we were totally in lust. We were laughing about how many of our early days of marriage we spent in bed. I can remember my husband saying, “But we have to get something done, Sharon.” My internal thought was, “why?” LOL. How times change. I cherish those years and I cherish the young bride I was and how I viewed the world. We would never get old, we would live forever. Everything would always be exciting and would turn out perfect. Our love would sustain us through thick and thin, if not by the sheer power of sex!

Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend this way of getting together, but love has become so much more for me. In addition to the physicality of making love, the long term friendship and the practice of being in love is what I've come to understand and fully appreciate. That is what sustains me today.

Over the years we learn to bend. Being married can be a lot of work sometimes. There are highs and lows. I'm remembering the line from Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams talks about his wife, and how there were ups and downs, and, with a smile he said, “the year she died was one of those good ones.” I watch couples who talk over dinner and hold hands, at any age. They practice communication and show affection. This is the miracle of love.

The Practice of Love is like a meditation in doing for someone else. We find it easy to do when we love our children. Some would say it's just a natural love. Sometimes loving our partner doesn't feel that natural. And that's when the practice of sharing love comes in. Something simple, but something every day. The practice reminds us that our love isn't how we feel, but how we act.

In the end, being loveable isn't about bodies or sex, although I think it's important to enjoy those things at any age. Being loveable is being worthy of love. And we are worthy of love when we give it away.

And when we give it away with our full heart, it grows and comes back to us ten-fold. Now who said there were no such things as miracles?

I spent Valentine's Day in labor with this little one. He was born on February 15th, today, so many years ago, and was the first of our four children. It was a magical time in my life and something I'm so grateful for having experienced.

So I guess I'd say the Practice of Love is more than sex or passion, or births or families. Love is who we are. Our constant friend, throughout all the phases of our life.

10

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Volcanic Vertical Drop Zone

You know when you are standing in line and the sign at the top says, “No one under this height allowed, or under 4 years of age allowed without parent,” and it says “Pregnant women should be cautious” that the Volcanic Vertical Drop tube slide is going to be a screamer. And it was. Just like the day my family huddled around me and made me, yes, MADE me skydive (or risk humiliation and ridicule for the rest of my life), they once again bunched around me, especially my son-in-law, who loves to see me wiggle and squirm. He's always trying new drinks out on me, even when I tell him I can't mix a thing, and then tells me afterwards I've mixed rum, vodka and God knows what else. All I have to say is, “It's nice,” and another one is served, whether I asked for it or not.

Friday was one of those days when I'd been enjoying a long nap at the beach/pool/hot tub. When the din of children's voices, the spouts of mechanical whales and the waves crashing on the shore were just background white noise that inspired some vivid dreams (well the Blue Hawaiian helped too). I was slimed with water and begged by everyone standing around me, shivering and wet from head to toe, that I had to come enjoy this long dark water slide. Except it's really not a slide. The most important part is the vertical drop at the end. It seemed like 4 stories but wasn't nearly that. Me being me, I had a hard time saying no.

My family knows that when they want something done by everyone, they have to convince me. And then everyone else will come along. It was the same way with skydiving, and I was adamant I was an earth angel and not a faery with wings, but eventually my resistance was futile.

I'm standing in line, and every time I turn around I'm greeted with grins. That means I'm in real serious trouble. Because I'm going, my daughter, my daughters mother-in-law and several others have to go, and they're looking at me crosseyed, with the expression, “Why, Sharon, didn't you just say no?”

I'm asking things like where my hands go, will I get stuck in the tube? How far back do I lean? And then the last one, “Is it safe?” Everyone laughs. They didn't have to say, “You'll see.”

Well, it was terrifying. I couldn't see a thing. I took curves so fast I thought I was going to start cannonballing. At the end of the volcanic vertical drop, I started swimming down, in the wrong direction and yes, needed help to get out because I was disoriented. But I have to say, though terrified and definitely pushing my limits, it was fun.

I love roller coasters. I now love skydiving. I love body surfing on waves a little bit too big for my skill level. I like driving fast at midnight with the top down, the music and the heater cranked up. I guess I can add one more to the list. I now love the Volcanic Vertical Drop.

IMG_6521

10

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Angels and Dark Angels, Heaven and the Underworld

Many of you know the journey I took to become a writer. We'd driven home from a day in San Francisco. It was a beautiful March day, like we get so often here. No rain. Blue skies and big white clouds. We opted for a simple dinner and so I was munching on a salad when I heard a buzzing sound I'd never heard before. Coming up the steps, there was no smoke, so my husband thought the smoke detector was defective, and bat it down with a broom handle. We went back to our meal. Then we smelled smoke.

It never occurred to us our lives would be so changed that evening. Coming up the stairway, looking into our bedroom, I saw my rose-colored leather recliner was on fire. A perfect circle of fire was on the back, like the hand of God had touched it. Within seconds, it ignited the curtains, then snaked along the ceiling and a thick black smoke rolled toward us like a tidal wave. We knew that toxic cloud wasn't going to be healthy so we went downstairs to get buckets of water, but when we returned, the entire top floor was ablaze. 

I was in my nightie, barefoot. We called the Fire Department and they were here within 12 minutes, along with 4 other engines and a crew of men in case our fire traveled up the hill and spread to neighboring properties. I sat on the steps and watched as everything in the upstairs was destroyed, the downstairs was covered with water and carpets to protect some of the furniture. They expected our floor to cave in any minute. My husband drank a beer and smoked one of his Cuban cigars he'd rescued from the refrigerator. I was finishing my salad. It was surreal.

The road to coming back was long and arduous. Our bank was being taken over by the Feds, the County wasn't sure they'd let us rebuild, our insurance company wasn't giving us the money to redesign a new home or start construction. It took us 18 months before we could get cooperation from the parties to even start.

In the meantime, I lived in a little apartment and for the first time in over 35 years, was alone, since my husband stayed up on the property in a trailer to help with our animals, and to stop the steady flow of people who “stopped by” to give us a quote and then helped themselves to our things, I guess thinking we wouldn't mind.

In short, I felt violated on so many levels. All my great grandmother's jewelry, her delicious collection of amber and jade were gone. The box my other great great grandmother brought over with her when she was 14, lovingly made by her father in Scotland, who never saw her again, was gone. Her braid, which was exactly my hair color, was gone. Lizzy, her doll was gone. Pictures the kids had made. Oil paintings we'd bought all over the world were gone. Our computers looked like something from a Dali painting. Here and there something miraculous would be untouched, but 97% of what was upstairs was gone.

Initially, I did the staying up late to watch TV movies, since I didn't have to worry about keeping anyone up but myself. I read Outlander and then read it again. Then I read the Twilight series. I began to have vivid dreams of angels, guardian angels, and I slowly began to believe that instead of being incredibly unlucky, in fact, we were very lucky. We survived. We learned to cope and do things we'd never had to do before.

And I began to write.

I am a bit on the obsessive side of the scale. I sat down on December 15, 2008 and by January 15, 2009 I had written 90,000 words, and my first novel. I learned later that was a phenomenal amount of words. But then I didn't know. My story didn't have a villain, didn't have much of a story arc, except I began to think about what it would be like if a Guardian Angel fell in love with the person they were supposed to watch over. Would they be tempted to let themselves be known? Would they want to connect? Would they be banished from Heaven? I rewrote that story 57 times. No, that one didn't get trashed like you hear writers talk about. This one came from my soul, and I could never stop working on it until it was perfect. It became Heavenly Lover, my first book. My second book, Underworld Lover, came to me before I finished the first one. And just now, I have released the third book in the series, Underworld Queen. I continued on with many of the characters so that the villain in Book 1 is the hero in Book 2. The villainess in Book 2 is the heroine in Book 3. Everyone gets a chance to transform, to fall in love with their true love, to have their happily ever after. Everyone has a shot at redemption.

The basis premise is this: Heaven isn't 100% perfect by design. The Underworld isn't 100% evil by accident. Humans walk the fence between the two. It's not a religious book, but there is a good vs. evil theme, which is actually the same theme throughout all my books, paranormal or SEALs.

As I begin a new year, and look at my schedule and what books I want to finish or write this year, I have to remember that sometimes the greatest things that happen to me are just that: things that happen. Not things I planned at all. Or perhaps the better way of saying it is that I plan, adjust, based on what I'm given. Dealing with life on life's terms. Doesn't do any good to cry over what I've lost. I'm also not blonde, 20 years old and a supermodel with an unlimited income.

But I do possess the miracle of being able to take tragedy and make stories out of them. To feel. To be sad some days for sure, but then to rejoice in the little things, like meeting a blue jay that used to greet me every morning at breakfast outside the kitchen window. Writing all night long if I felt like it. Watching my grandkids play and sing, and yes, to have my granddaughter want me to help her write a book. She's 4. Isn't that also a miracle.

So, in 2015 I profess to obtaining and keeping my miracle glasses on 24/7. I've learned I can survive. If we'd lost it all I would have survived. And the other true miracle is that my stories will last forever.

http://youtu.be/AmvCeqr3QDU

 

 

6

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Gifts That Keep Growing

I've written before about the paths we take, the steps we take in the shoes of our choice, and how our choices make us the people we are. Sometimes we surprise ourselves and we are stronger than we thought possible. Other times, we are weaker. We've done a lot of traveling, and unfortunately that took a toll on us, health-wise this season. It was unexpected and unusual for us to be so ill for so long. I'm never at my best when I'm sick, or when a loved one is sick, or hurting. I remember the last Christmas we had with my Dad, and how weak and frail he looked at the end. I see the vacant chair at Christmas morning when we open our stockings, and I miss him. This year, even though it's been 3 years now, I missed him more than ever.

IMG_6227 He'd love to see the grandkids and their sparkly faces. He'd love to see how they enjoyed seeing the Crystal Palace at Disney World, the Osborne light show at Disney Hollywood, IMG_6042 how the kids greeted me at the door at my daughter's house for Christmas morning. With a living room so filled with packages all colorfully wrapped, there wasn't room for furniture. A sea of abundance. 

There was that ache in my heart, partly from missing those that have passed on, partly because I just felt something was missing. My life is truly blessed. I have everything I've always wanted, and more. And yet something was missing. I thought a lot about it during these past four days. This morning I found the answer. 

My best friend sent me some music and it made me cry. I'd been staying off the internet, trying to be present with the people physically around me, trying to get over this lonely feeling something was lost or missing. But I opened my computer and saw a post from Mark Divine, who is a SEAL trainer and one of the smartest men on the planet. With the beautiful music as my background, I read his blog, “The Secrets of Resiliency.” And that was what I was missing.

Being a romance novelist I am very sensitive. When I was little, I would cry at movies and TV shows, my family often making fun of me. I was just like my grandmother Fox. When I stayed with them, we would sit on the couch and cry together. Shows like Come Back Yeller and Lassie just broke us up into pieces. Our big red puffy eyes testament to how deeply we felt things. Two of a kind. We wore our badge with honor.

Mark asked the question, “Do you tend to back off when you get overwhelmed emotionally and let fear, uncertainty or frustration derail you? I had to answer “yes” to that. I've been halfway around the world. Had a scare with my husband's health and a diagnosis I was afraid to hear. I'd just finished a book in a new genre for me, which turned out to be more work than I'd anticipated. My year was huge in terms of what I accomplished. And yes, I've been overwhelmed. Though I'm proud of all these great things, I was letting fear take a front seat in my roller coaster ride of life. What if next year is even harder? Am I prepared? Have I made the right choices?

The miracle of life, of the season, and the answer I got this morning was that yes, I have been making the right choices. Feeling emotionally vulnerable prepares me for the next big challenge. Of one thing I am certain, there will be challenges and failures next year. People will disappoint me. I will disappoint those I love. Nothing is, afterall, perfect.

But it still is. Because the perfectness of life is that we get to learn how to be more resilient by being challenged. We don't learn to walk except by falling down. We don't learn to do anything outstanding without having first experienced failure. But if we let fear stop us, we don't progress. And by progress I mean we get resilient, not perfect. We learn how to dust ourselves off and get up and try again. We get the opportunity to have a breakthrough. Without the toughness and the fears we have to face, we don't get those breakthroughs. We don't get the silver linings without the clouds.

We got to share our Christmas Eve with a couple from Croatia and their four year old daughter. What a blessing it was to see their faces light up as they watched their daughter, only here seven months, be able to speak English and share her first Christmas in a new land with an American family. It was an honor to share our home with them. It was my greatest Christmas gift.

So I have the gift this season of being emotionally challenged, overwhelmed, with my heart bursting with gratitude for all the opportunities I have now, and in the future. Oh yes, fear will still be my familiar friend, but now I can thank him for making me a stronger person. For reminding me that my job is to feel. Not just be, but to feel. And the more resilient I become, the more gifts of feeling I will be able to experience.

Nothing stays the same. Everything passes on, fades and dies. Everything. What I see now at my age is different than what I saw as a child, a young bride, mother, daughter, grandmother. I don't have to be perfect. I just have to fill my days with enough of all the good things I can stand.

Happy, Bright, Shining New Year. May it be the first of many.

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