I thought life after (well I'm not telling now because someone said I should stop talking about it) was supposed to slow down when you're semi-retired. OK, retired. Not if you're a writer.
I'm sitting here in the Admiral's Club lounge, waiting for my flight back to San Francisco, and I'm looking over my notes from the fantastic mastermind conference I just spent 3 days at. Wow. And, like I told many there, I feel like I'm flattened to the wall, plastered with a firehose of information. My first reaction was to burst out and cry after the first day.
I have so much to do!
Some are little: tweaking, changing some blurbs, perhaps changing some covers, arranging my schedule. Others are huge, like rebranding my entire series, tossing all my covers and even titles! EEK!! redoing my website (I'm heavily invested in this), even combining or rewriting books. I'm not going to do all of those.
This move, selling the house, was good for me. I have no more excuses. I've learned to embrace change. I've been looking forward to the new routine becoming more familiar and “friendly” to me.
Uh-oh. Except that's not the right attitude. The only way I'll keep growing as a writer is to keep changing. So this third step isn't “getting comfortable with the new routine”, it's “pushing myself into more change.”
And I paid money for this?
Yes, I did. But it's all good. It's also nice to be inspired by a group of women half my age. I'm learning from women who are the ages of my daughters, doing fantastic things.
I think the day I'll truly have to worry is when I stop sending myself to these environments, stop wanting to change, stop embracing the full-on feel of being so freaking enthusiastic that it scares me.
That's the place where the magic and color of life is!
Oh yes, do you know my new book is out today? SEAL's Goal is out on all platforms. You'll love it!
Amazon always gives me little notifications when they think my spelling isn't up to par. I'm a creative speller. Oh yes, I know the difference. A creative speller makes up words that fit the moment, like some of my SEAL characters nicknames: Fredo becomes Frodo, Kyle Lansdowne becomes Lannie or Landmine. Armando Guzman becomes Armani. And of course they also get creative – very creative – with swear words.
If I had to clean up my prose and take out that certain word that begins with the letter “F”, my manuscripts would lose about 10,000 words, I'm sure.
So here are a couple I found today. I love Spellcheck Days!
Minidrone – I actually think that's a word I've read somewhere. Amazon doesn't recognize it.
Microwinery – well, they have microbreweries, why not microwineries. I really think I did make this one up.
Sexploits – I think that's a valid description of some of the “in search of” capers my SEALs go on until they come smack up against someone who snags their attention.
F**kbunny – I love that word and use it all I can. My editors usually limit me to a diet of 2 per book.
How about you? Do you like to use favorite words, make up words? Find words you've read or heard and loved them into existence?
Writing is work.
There are days when you just write because you don't know what else to do. Or because not writing feels like giving up. Or that you don't fit in anywhere else. Or that you've forgotten how to be or do anything else.
You have to have a thick skin.
Some days you disappoint yourself.
Other days others disappoint you.
Nothing is for sure or stable.
The world is burning.
And I'm still writing.
The fairy princesses have flown away.
Duty, honor and true love are still possible.
But darn! There are so many potholes.
It's day 5 of BUD/S.
I hear the bell ring, but someone else pulled the strap.
I'm still here.
And so are you. Are you listening now? When do the clowns come out and play?
I'm having a good time with a little novella, taking a break to finish my project due in March, SEAL Of Time, about the son of Poseidon. I'm doing this as a collaborative venture with Kathryn LeVeque. Our boys are from different earthly mothers, as Poseidon is known for loving mortal females. Their mothers have long passed, but the boys are also immortal, and may be able to father immortal children.
You know, if you've read any of my books, I like orphans, half-breeds and heroes who don't fit into the scheme of things, yet can come together to form a bond with others and in that capacity, become part of the glue of a powerful team. In romance, we want the hero to have major conflicts, especially when it comes to love, or the power of love in their lives. Try as they might, love is just too powerful for them and they all fall, one by one.
So we like opposites in our heroes and heroines. In my SEAL Of Time story in the Trident Legacy duet, my son of Poseidon has qualities he inherited from his father and his birthplace, the fierce ocean, as well as those of his mother, the grounding influences of a mortal woman on earth. He doesn't fit into either world, except to exist as a warrior defender of mankind. And yet, the conflict comes when he falls in love. Will this affect his mission to protect mankind? And is this a selfish move on his part, or the calling to which he was destined, now realized?
Here's a little excerpt of the character (unedited):
I hope you enjoy this new series. I know I am!!
Yes. I'm all in for SEALs. I have some precious mementos, collected during my journey as romance writer. One of the most cherished items is my plank from the Navy SEAL/UDT Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. I am a supporter of the museum, and have donated a portion of all my sales there for years, as well as raised money from quilts we've had made and auctioned off.
This last year we earned over $400 on our Operation Aloha Shirt Quilt project. I rounded it up and we sent $500 to the Museum. This quilt contains Aloha shirts sent to me by people from all over the US, lovingly stitched together by Sandie Greis, and quilted by the women of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild, the oldest of this group who is 90 years old.
When a SEAL detaches from his Team, he is given a plank, like the one in the picture. I was so surprised when I received this. If you ever want to learn about the history of the Teams, how they came to be and how they have developed, you'll love spending a day there. This museum is run by the SEAL community, friends and family of the community. No Federal funds are used for its support.
Another of my cherished possessions is a signed autograph by the man who eliminated OBL, Rob O'Neill, who says “SEALs are sexy!” It hangs just above my plank from the Museum. Thank you, Rob, and thank you Cherokee and J.D. Hart for helping me get this cherished gift.
I received a Challenge Coin from Anne Elizabeth's former Navy SEAL husband. Anne (who also writes Navy SEAL Romance) and I were in an anthology together a couple of years ago, along with a dozen other of my favorite military romance author friends. Anne awarded us all this Challenge Coin. It is a symbol of a mission, a job well done, and I have to say it was! Thank you, Anne.
I have my tattoo of the Hippy Bone Frog, as I call him. Made a little alteration to this picture, and sucked it up and had it done. I also have a frog print frog print tat on my right forearm for every SEAL book I've written. I'm going to have to start on the other arm now…lol.
I was honored to be given this helmet for safekeeping. It's now been returned to this SEAL's children, but it was on my desk for nearly six years while I wrote my first SEAL Brotherhood stories, and was a constant source of inspiration. These helmets are worn by BUD/S recruits on their way to becoming worthy of wearing the Trident. Whenever things get tough for me, I look at that picture and I remember, “Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.” How true.
It's been my honor to write about Navy SEAL heroes for these past six years. I hope to be doing so until they have to yank my laptop from my lifeless body!!
Working on a Son of Poseidon SEAL duet with another author which you will hear about very shortly, and then comes Jake, my 3rd book in the Band of Bachelors. I can hardly wait for you to read them both!
In February, I attended a writer's conference in Hawaii, organized by the wonderful author, Violet Duke. It was my honor to sponsor a tour of the Arizona Memorial. I've been before, but wanted to make it so others who hadn't, got to experience it. December 7th is just three days from now.
Words do not do this beautiful memorial justice. I watched the peaceful waters of the bay, the oil still leaking from the Arizona herself, flowing out to sea, mixed with my flower lei I brought to honor those who served for me so bravely and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I really don't get into the full holiday spirit until after this milestone is passed. Just like I don't ever get to Thanksgiving without remembering 9-11 or the assasination of JFK. These are just points in my life I celebrate. And yes, I say celebrate.
The ones who are gone would want me to do so. I can't bring them back, but I can make sure they live on forever. We came together during these huge times in our country's history. All creeds and races, religions. Everyone knew where they were during that time, or remembered going back to visit the memorials if they were too young to remember the live event. We think about those gone, and vow they will not be forgotten. It's our job, because right now, we are the living. Won't always be so but for right now, we are.
I was struck again by the photographs of the young pilot, Setuo Ishino, who flew into the Missouri, and the military send-off he received, draped in a Japanese flag sewn by a crew of Navy kitchen swabs. The letter that was written to his parents, telling of his bravery. The men who saluted as he was returned to the sea. I see the other letters written by the other Kamakaze pilots to their parents before their missions, men who would be screwed into their cockpits for no escape. I saw the picture of his family when the boy was two, holding an airplane.
There is insanity in war. And there is decency and honor even in the worst of times. I am reminded of what someone said, “Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person.”
My little part of this is only to help people remember what bravery and true honor really is all about. The selfless courage of common men and women, who do uncommon things. Things they never dreamed they would or could do, but somehow they just do.
And I say thank you to all who have served and are serving today.
I'm writing this now at 30k feet, flying into SFO in a couple of hours. I got up early, so my apologies for not having this post out there sooner.
It was fun to get my batteries charged up. Funny how the attention of fans makes one feel excited, even more excited about the craft than we normally do. We hear those stories about what our books have meant to people, help celebrate other people's successes. I look at covers, and marketing and SWAG.
I came away thinking I need to be very choosy about where I go next year. I've already committed to some good ones. Some are new, some repeats, some I will skip for a year. My time is valuable writing. Those are my most expensive “billable” hours. I need to protect it at all costs. There's always that writing retreat, book signing, author event that looks too good to be true and tempts me. Especially when all my friends are going. I'm going to exercise the word “no” a lot more.
Naughty Nashville was good for me. So was the Unmask The Passion event in Valley Forge earlier in the month. I liked them mainly because everyone was so excited and happy to be there. There wasn't much in the way of drama (that I saw), and readers showed up not to browse, but to buy. So, attending those will require I say no to others, and I will. Valley Forge gave me a taste of history, which I loved as an added bonus.
I also learned that readers are inundated with free books, ARCS and overcommitted to Street Teams and Reader Groups. They're more overwhelmed than the authors sometimes! Reviewers are running behind. Readers avidly want to meet new authors, get surprised with new genres, books and series. My job as an author is to attract new readers, while giving my “one-click” readers material they'll devour.
I don't think there is such a thing as a One Size Fits All way of being a successful author. I see things I like and will try. I see some things that don't work and I don't have to spend time or energy trying. Success is one thing to one person and another to another. Even my own definition of success has changed several times this year.
But when the day is over and I head off to bed at night, the only thing I want to say is, “I did the best I could.” That means I wrote my best, edited my best, said thank you more than I received praise, was kind to people I want to throw my computer at, and kept myself focused. I didn't gossip, envy, complain or make excuses. I did my job. and my job–my only job–is writing.
If I do my job well, then I get to spend more and more time in my fantasy world of my own creation. I'm happier there. It's safer there. It's the stuff of magic, and creating magic is what I'm all about. Give me make believe over anything REAL any day.
Some day I'll go there and stay forever. But in the meantime, there are a lot of stories to tell, tales to spin, and people to delight.
What a glorious job that is!
Last year I made a minor investment in my writing career by purchasing a 1950 Glider. It's 27′ and she's all original. A fragile babe, like me.
I had my eyes opened to Glamping, which is, camping with trailers, but tricking them out. So here are some pictures that are inspirations to me. My Glider, named, Romance Rider, will be just as cute, but I'm waiting until the power gets turned on, I have a cold refrig for my drinks, so I can run a blender and a coffee maker, and have air conditioning.
I used the idea of Glamping in my new novella, Love Me Tender, Love You Hard. My hero, Derek, interviews for a job at a wild animal park nearby, run by a former SEAL with one leg. Oh yes, you're gonna love this “sweet” novella, (told someone else today my editor is probably going to think I'm writing from a hospital bed), full of quirks and twists. Short, and to the point. All that a novella should be in a Kindle World.
So glamping is a new thing people do now. I know people who collect old trailers for their backyards used as pool houses, or guest houses. Some of the wineries in our valley have started using them in the Air B&B craze, and people pay hundreds of bucks to stay in them now. Especially cool are vintage Airstreams.
While not an Airstream, Glider was made by a sister company who also made (you guessed it), airplane gliders.
I've given you an interior look at my plain Glider. There are two videos: One, Two. More to come. But after a year, it's finally in place. We wanted to build a firm pad to protect the frame, an overhang to product the beautiful aluminum finish and protect it also from the leaves and elements in general. We'll have a deck and two lawn chairs and who knows what else. I even bought a stopsign and a no parking sign.
So tell me, are you a glamour girl or guy? Would you come glamping with me? Just think of the adventures we could have together!
Warning!! If you click on some of these images, you'll be hooked!
Yesterday was one of those days where the pieces just fell into place, where I got to practice some of the things I've been speaking about to several groups over the last few weeks. I got to play with purpose and passion.
Writing is a practice. Living a passionate life is a practice. So is raising a family, maintaining a long-term relationship, re-bonding with good friends and creating new exciting ones. Often I get caught up in what I'm NOT doing instead of celebrating what I do have.
In the writing community sometimes there is this “mouse in the wheel” effect. We want to do everything we are drawn to, or see others do. We wish we had the money or time or other resources to do it all. But the plain fact of the matter is that we can't. We have limits.
But limits are good!
Testing limits is how we get great. We don't start out great, we practice at it until we get there. Or, perhaps we never get there, but we strive for it. We apply pressure, we PUSH OUR LIMITS. We learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everyone has different limits and everyone pushes at different levels. How hard we push or how hard we stretch is based on how hard we want that goal, or that change.
Marina Adair has been a friend of mine since my first RWA chapter meeting almost six years ago. It seemed like there was so much to learn, so much to do, it was overwhelming. But we both had the same excitement for writing, and although we both took different paths, we both got to experience stretching our limits and achieving goals we never even thought possible.
I'm amazed at how sometimes old friendships can turn into new opportunities and connections, and lead the way to more magic and mayhem. Because there is certainly a little mayhem too! None of us does this crazy thing called being an author alone. We give each other a hand up. Just like we have readers who tell other people about our work, people we work with who help make us shine and help spread the word. It does indeed take a community to make an author. It takes a life of watching and pressing against the walls, to become a great mentor to others, and a great writer worth reading.
Living with some degree of stress (my old mentor said if you didn't want any stress in your life, have them surgically remove your brain and spinal cord, and float it in a saline solution for the rest of your life) is actually healthy for us. Putting it in terms of loving someone — we are driven to give them our best, because we care about what they think We are passionate about a relationship when we take the time to celebrate and treat it like the precious box of delights that relationship is.
I'm enjoying my venture in Marina's St. Helena Vineyards Kindle World. I'm also grateful for some of the good as well as the not so good things that have happened to me during my journey to get to this point. I'm not done, but I promise you, whatever comes next will be done full-on and with as much passion as I can stuff into my brain and my heart.
Because nothing else you can take with you. And that's a practice too.
Well, I was going to pick Dogs, Do-overs, Dumb Stuff, but I guess that's why Discipline is so important today. Let me explain.
My letter D (above) doesn't look like it would belong on a Navy SEAL Sweatshirt, does it? But it is very important, and here's why. We are the sum of all the life experiences we've had. As a storyteller, I spin these stories, placing one flower here, or a vine there, a color here or there, and all of a sudden we have a bouquet, a tapestry of stories filled with emotion. These come from my past, from my fantasies, from the future, from others. Who really cares where they come from, as long as, being a writer, it isn't plagiarized.
And here's the gratitude part (my theme for the month). Thank goodness we have all these experiences. Thank goodness we have the variety, color, the pain and the joy of living. Thank goodness we have more than enough to choose from.
Discipline means to Decide. To “kill of other options.” In a world where we are lucky enough to have so many options, we have to learn to pare down to the useful and focus on our goals, or out energy gets pulled away, wasted, if you will, in thousands of different direction.
The word Decide has the ending like other “cides” – and I know you can creatively think of them on your own. We choose what to let into our lifespace (my new favorite word), we choose what stories to tell. In terms of working with addiction issues, we learn which Dog to feed. We starve the dog that isn't good for us, and feed the dog that brings about all the miracles. Sometimes we are drawn and choose unwisely. Then we get a do-over the next time it comes up.
Here's some Double D's – my favorite thing to write about (crazy, I know). But I just love my heroines to be big chested.
|Yes, I think these are DD's|
Now, that's a lot of dumb stuff, but I managed to include all my words, weave them together with today's word, Discipline.
What Dog are you feeding and what Dog are you starving?
My Away We Go! #atozchallenge is doing a blog every day on Gratitude! Listing everything that starts with the letter A, here's a few of them. Hello from Blogger #110!!!
1. Best new self-help book: The Power of No by James and Claudia Azula Altucher.
3. My favorite blog sister: SOS Aloha and her book Blog SOS Book Blog.
4. My quilt project, Operation Aloha Shirt. If you have a few snippets of fabric and old shirts you want to donate to this quilt project, please send them to me. I'm making a quilt to go to a military family in Hawaii, and another one to auction off at to donate money to Navy SEAL/UDT Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida.
5. Spring Fling Audio Giveaway (use the #SpringFlingAudioGiveaway to be connected to all the other authors who are participating in this. I'm giving away an Audio Book every day this month. You're welcome!
6. AMORE! The Italians do so many things well. I've wanted to learn Italian for years. Just so I could speak love in their beautiful tongue. We need more Amore. Always.
Be sure to join the other bloggers. Remember, I'm #110 on this list. Come back and see me anytime!
|Ricky, Matt and their coach. What an honor.|
I'm in San Francisco at an Indie UnCon, sharing ideas and brainstorming with other author friends. I ditched my writer's hat and went across town to the Mission District Vanguard Properties office, to attend a special talk given by Matt Brown, National Elite-Level Single Scull Champion, and six time American Record Holder on the Concept2, Yale Grad, Masters Degree in Science and Medicine of Athletic Performance from University of Oxford, and Olympic Contender.
I love meeting people like this, because it reminds me of what I enjoy writing about my Navy SEALs. I've always been a student and avid fan of winning, of pushing ourselves to peak performance in all things in life. Anyone who endeavors to become an elite athlete like Matt and his partner Ricky are, understands the mindset it takes to win. And I'm not talking winning that hurts others, but winning for the sheer joy of winning, for the juice of life and the passion of being alive. It's what drives being in love, living a truly artful and passionate life, as well as achieving all our physical, mental and financial goals. I could attend a talk like Matt's every day for the rest of my life and still want more. I hope I never stop seeking this information.
Here's what he said, in a nutshell:
|Vanguard office has a conference room in an old bank vault. Why not?|
1. You have to be coachable, desire to set goals and obsessed with achieving that goal. I counted nearly thirty times Matt used the word Passion in his talk. As a romance writer, I get what he's talking about. Sure, we like our books sexy in the bedroom, fearless when it comes to throwing all caution to the wind and going for that perfect love experience – I get that my job is to deliver that elixir to my readers. And getting there requires I be coachable, that I set goals in several arenas (my energy level, my financial goals, my word count goals and new release or projects goals). Living a passionate lifestyle is what I'm all about. I had the cheesy grin in the back row all the way through his talk. And we weren't talking sex or romance, but it's all the same mental and emotional energy.
2. Passion means to suffer. He used examples of a rowing champion who suffered from severe dyslexia, so severe he sometimes had difficulty signing autographs. He had Type I Diabetes, had a family to support and a string of near career-ending injuries. But he was one of the most decorated champions the sport has ever produced. He didn't walk in and have it handed to him. He carved it out of granite.
Having that desire to fail is what leads to mastery. One of my early Real Estate affirmations I used to shout into the phone with my realtor mentor daily was, “I love rejection. The more rejection I get the larger my bank account becomes.” Not a lot of people get this concept. It really has nothing about money and everything to do with seeking those things that will make us elite at whatever we do. The struggle, suffering that must occur is part of that track to Mastery. SEALs don't quit if they're going to become a SEAL. They practice with pain and suffering so they are ready for every eventuality they can think of. And even after that, mentally train for anything that might come up (and probably will) that they hadn't planned on.
Matt talked about it not being a dream to be an Olympian. It is his obsession. It isn't reasonable or realistic to want something so badly. Greatness transcends mediocraty.
3. Mastering the elite level is paved with tons of little achievements along the way, little daily victories, seeking failure, pushing ourselves to new extremes, never accepting that “reasonable” excuse not to have a life filled with passion and excellence. We used to train Realtors about repetitious boredom. Sticking to the path even when it's not as sexy or fun as we want it to be at the time. Learning to be uncomfortable. As my SEALs have been told, “getting comfortable with Dr. Death.” We get better by seeking to expose ourselves to our limits, and then learn to push beyond them. If we never came up to that limit and push just a little harder, we'd never achieve it.
4. Discouragement and self-doubt are part of the process. It affects some people more than others. I loved his example of how coach Wooden took his dream team at UCLA and began coaching his young elite athlete recruits by first showing them how to tie their shoes. Some of these guys were saying, “Hey coach, don't you know who I am?” Being great starts with the little things, victory over little mindset lapses and emotional quagmires. Seeking them out and getting comfortable with the flame. Being excited about the danger involved. And it starts with the simple things. Wooden was teaching his players not to make the mistakes with the fundamentals. Do seek to push yourself to make the mistakes when you are testing your limits, but never the fundamentals.
5. Compete. I loved his concept of working competitively against another teammate to become better yourself. And what would it take to tell that person what you see as a flaw so that they could get better, therefore becoming a harder competitor against you. But you get great in the process. I love this. My Cheerios this morning! Don't be afraid to go for the gold medal, not the participation certificate. Losing is healthy if you learn from it.
6. Get comfortable with stress. The right kind of stress diverts energy to your working muscles. Mouth dryness when you are under stress is your body's way of giving your muscles every ounce of energy they require to perform at an elite level. But worry, is a wasted energy. Pushing to failure is the good side of it. Worry is the destroyer of everything. I got a great character image of a SEAL I'm going to use in my next book, who will go on a date with someone he's terrified around. It will feel like he's just had a shot of espresso and attending a really nasty Horror film with the love of his life. LOL. I loved hearing this. Nothing is more terrifying than letting go, falling in love and allowing that to become life-changing. “Get those butterflies in your stomach and make them fly in formation,” was his quote.
7. Great competitors are great actors. (Yes, J.D., this is for you!!) To become master at anything you have to take how you really feel, and turn it into the way you need to feel to do the job. I used to say it all the time in real estate. We aren't salesmen. We are entertainers. Being someone who can do something even though they are feeling something else is a skillset that isn't given, it's learned, and actors do it every day. Your brain and body don't know the difference between the real smile and the “fake” smile. Life is about performance, not just living. Religion is a practice. Marriage or being insanely in love is a practice. Living with purpose and passion, playing a role, fulfilling a destiny. Playing big. Feeling strong. Playing for keeps, like it matters, because it certainly does.
8. You have to be tough as nails. Nuts to say we get the most joy out of the toughest things in our lives, but when we are in training for anything in life, it's true. Toughness is learned, again, not organically bubbles up. It's created by the unique little things we achieve every day. The little joys that add up to a life chock full of everything, especially love and the love of life.Writing about Navy SEALs reminds me about that part of myself that is a SEAL.
|Even superheroes need to practice|
I've mentioned it before, but getting comfortable with mistakes, making a fool of yourself, pushing to the next level is how you learn to be tough.
There was much more I could write about, but not all of you are going to read all of this. I make no apology for being inspired this morning. The right people will show up to read this, and it will mean the right things to those right people.
We are not lost, we are found. Have I found you? Have you found me? Are we on this path together?
Have the best day of your life today. I sincerely mean that.