Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gifts of May Gardening

There are certain times of the year that are just lush. That's the best way to describe them. In Northern California, we've had a lot of rain this spring, and even some last week, which is nearly unheard of. So the weeds are crazy strong, but so are the plants when I can weed them.

Never seen so many rose blooms. The soil is just perfect for working in it. I've lost my fingerprints from patting down soil around new plants. My toes and fingernails look like I lived in the time of Outlander, they are eternally black around the edges, no matter how much I scrub. Good that it doesn't interfere with my writing - except these times I make sure to use a keyboard protector!

Because of the weather, and our schedules, our garden is very late. So these pictures, compared to last year, might look less full. Have no fear. As my favorite sign says, "My Garden Isn't Dead. It's Sleeping."

So I've planted literally about 100 little flower transplants and bulbs. I should be good in about a month with some lush pictures, if I can keep them properly weeded. I went all out and planted 9 melon plants, including 5 watermelon mounds. We heard that the rind is actually very healthy - more so than the fruit, so we'll be adding these to our healthy smoothies this summer.

My peas are just starting to peek out and I hope the shady area I grew them will help promote some yummy pods. I have yellow, purple, French and Blue Lake beans. I've planted a dozen asparagus plants, 3 new violet artichokes and a couple new green ones. I planted about 50' of potatoes, with the onions around them (my only tried and true remedy for gopher and mole control). I've got red cabbage, red cauliflower. Celery and yellow beets. Seven kinds of cucumber including Armenian, Burpless and a new Russian variety (how appropriate, right?). I am babying some volunteer turban squash, hubbard squash, zuccini, and patty pans. And of course, 14 tomato plants of all varieties - several cherry (chocolate, yellow and red) and two Heirloom brands. My lettuce is doing great. I have onions all over the place. I was delighted to find a new variety of Hydrangea - nice and purple.

We are checking our watering on the roses, and the fruit trees and discovered our apple tree had termites! Yuck. Sprayed that sucker with that tar spray (only thing in my garden non-organic) and will fill up the hole they've eaten in the trunk with (you guessed it) concrete! We always have that lying around for repairing our rock walls.

So while finishing this next book, Paradise, I'm watering, planting and doing other things outside to get me moving and stimulate ideas. It is a great way to craft a love story.


I'm not sure whether the love stories inspires my garden or my garden inspires my love stories, and I don't care to find out.

All I know is, it's lush here in Northern California. I don't travel for a couple of weeks, and, being a Taurus, I'm very firmly planted in the soil of my garden, even though my head and heart is in the clouds.

Enjoy these last few days of May.

And who could forget Richard Harris with this timeless piece.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Romance Writer Thinks About Motherhood

I didn't grow up reading romances. I read classics like Anna Karenina, Tale of Two Cities, or Doctor Zhivago. Just like I used to listen to music for the beautiful set in the middle of the song - that "favorite part" that was so moving that I'd put up with whatever came before or after - I used to read those classics for the jewels of romance I'd find scattered there, albeit sparsely.

My mother would be proud of my success today, and I like to think she would thinly approve. But I would never have been able to get a romance book in through the front door. She was taught what her mother taught her. The women of our family didn't read romance.

I think they should have!

So I came to this late in life. And now I'm knee-deep in it. I write now from memories of what it felt like to be twenty-something, in love so full to bursting, having children and watching them grow. I get to re-live all those days again. what a treat I've had! It's not a second childhood at all, but a second lifetime. And there is no end in sight.


I've said before that being a mother is the hardest job you'll ever love. My post from last year summed up some of my story. (https://sharonhamiltonauthor.blogspot.com/2016/05/motherhood-should-come-with-warning.html)


Today, we are going to the same cafe. The Grands are one year older, my youngest daughter is expecting a new baby this Fall, and life is good. Still with all the drama of years past, but good. I'm writing up a storm, loving the stories more and more, and enjoying this phase of my writing career. I couldn't ask for a better time to be alive.

So, to rob my brilliance from last year, here are the 10 things that should perhaps come on the Warning Label of Motherhood. I'd like to hear your favorite:


1. You won't feel like you have the time or energy to get up in the wee hours of the morning for feeding, sometimes a bath and certainly a diaper change. And then perhaps another bath and diaper change. But somehow, you'll just find a way.

2. Motherhood is part nurse, part camp counselor, part disciplinarian, taxi driver and the unlimited source of funds. But all those things are done out of love. You learn to get used to the feel of clotted spitup traveling down your back and into your butt crack occasionally.

3. Being a mother is very simple, but not easy.

4. Your home will be invaded with smelly soccer teams and brownie sleepovers. You'll recover your furniture and replace your carpet about every three years. You have to instruct the little ones not to pick up the dog by its belly, or by its ears, or the cat by its tail.

5. When you give a gift to the relatives and the children are present, they'll always tell the recipient you got it on sale. They're practicing being truthful.

6. You will cherish those little soap dishes and ashtrays made in grammar school, and will never throw out the handprint painted bright blue or green made in preschool. You'll look for evidence of talent in the butcher paper drawings you'll be presented with. 

7. You'll not have the heart to throw out the baby teeth the Tooth Fairy stole, leaving money under the kid's pillows. You will learn it's okay to read the same bedtime story over and over and over again. You won't get medals or pay raises. You won't be given an instruction manual.

8. You'll never forget the fact that you will be the first woman your sons will love, and they'll show it to you even though they try very hard to cover it up. And you try not to laugh.



9. You'll discover enthusiasm for bugs, water fights, large bubbles, pink plastic high heels, fold up field chairs, hard wooden gym benches or the midnight bad dreams that bring the kids back to your bed occasionally. You'll remember and cherish all of these memories. Christmas morning will never ever be the same again.

10. Motherhood means the celebration of unselfish love, belief in all things, even when everyone else has given up hope. Mothers hope a lot. And they pray. They keep and tell the stories of the family. They demonstrate the healing power of love. They remind us all that we are family.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you, and to all of you who are honored to help a mother celebrate her special day by saying thanks.


I hope that you celebrate the love of a mother, whether your mother, or someone else's. You are blessed specially today if you do so. It is always more fulfilling to show love for someone, no matter who they are, who has dedicated a portion of their lives raising a child. No mother should go without love today. Let's make that happen.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz Day Trip. Saying Good-Bye

Yesterday we took a road trip from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz. The excuse was to attend a farewell family gathering there organized by my husband's sister's family. But we took the whole day to enjoy the scenery along the way and to just mark this page in our lives. My daughter is due in early October, and it had been years since just the three of us spent a day together.

Mac's Deli, in Santa Rosa was our starting place. Omelettes (I admit it: ortega chilis, sour cream, cheddar and black olives is my personal favorite) with Santa Rosa Chili Gods sauce, and pancakes (shared amongst the 3 of us, of course), a choice of light or dark coffee, and greeting locals and friends, great conversation, and our day was primed. I felt like I wouldn't need to eat until supper.

I was wrong.

At San Francisco, we took Hwy 1 to Pacifica and followed the coastline all the way to Santa Cruz. It has been over 20 years since I've taken that two-lane highway - a testament to my rushing around trying to get from point A to B fast, and missing things along the way. A nice reminder for me to slow down a bit. I don't have to do it all...



We passed through little towns of Davenport, Pescadero, larger ones like Half Moon Bay. We were tempted by berry stands and local truck farms, as well as places where you could pick your own veggies and fruit. One of our highlights was the trip to the Pie Ranch. Now, what a great  store name!

Gardening for me is near to religion, but I don't go to the extreme some do. Still, I like the fact that people take sustainable and organic gardening seriously. It's more than not using sprays and chemicals, it's about feeling the pulse of the warm soil, and nurturing growing things. My garden shows me when I neglect it. It actually hurts me to see it untended, or to see weeds I can't get to. Almost like ignoring to feed our dogs, which I would never do! So, when I walk into a barn that nearly worships the work in the garden, I'm in church. I find church at Farmer's Markets and nurseries, greenhouses, or demonstration gardens. Yes, I sometimes am moved to tears when I smell the damp earth and musty tones in a greenhouse, or the way the moisture bathes my face as I wander through. It holds a perfume that uplifts my soul on dozens of levels. Nearly orgasmic!

I had to buy a onesie for my new granddaughter coming this fall. Eat Pie. That sums it up rather poetically, don't you think? I love the Just Laid duck tee. But the strawberry rhubarb pie and lemon buttermilk pie were showstoppers.

Another unexpected find was the Abalone Farm at Pescadero. Off the highway, and with little fanfare, only open Saturdays from 10-2, we lucked out and watched abalone being grown in large saltwater bubbling vats. There's a little back room where all the magic happens, we were told. The water ph and extra nutrients created microscopic baby abalone that get moved to the nursery when they are old enough to actually be seen with the naked eye. We learned what they ate, and that they are voracious eaters of kelp and kale. We came home with 10 steaks we will partially devour tonight like candy.

At Santa Cruz we parked after driving past the old Boardwalk and arcade, passing by the lovely homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the beaches with volleyball nets and the surfers dotting the waves everywhere. We strolled down the pier in search of a perfect bowl of clam chowder and a view, and found it. Best
chowder I've ever had. I limited myself to one bun of sourdough French bread. We examined the tourist shops, bought a lovely sweatshirt that summed up my sentiments exactly, and some socks for the baby to come.

We met up with the rest of the family at our relative's home, bracing ourselves for that final good-bye. My husband's sister will be leaving us shortly, and this was on her bucket list: to get the family together one more time, to whisper things to her little brother and walk the beach one more time. All the treatments are done, and now it was time to prepare for her final journey. I heard music she'd made, her clear, beautiful voice. She instilled in all her children the love of music, and singing in particular. There was always music at every wedding, funeral or family event, sung by family groups or solos throughout the years. Lovely memories we reflected on. Life moves on. New babies are born as we all age and take our place as we enter and leave this wonderful family of ours.

We were home safely before midnight, and yes, we took the fast way back. Each of us quiet, thinking about the day and what was shared. Like most things in life, it was perfect in its complexity, like multicolored beads strung together to make a beautiful necklace. A necklace of found and discovered things.

I like days like yesterday, which are measured both by what we gave, as well as what we took home to ponder secretly. Footsteps taken, and little ones yet to come.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

THOSE DELICIOUS NEW WORDS

First roses from my garden collage
Is there anything more precious than new words? We love new roses from our gardens, new little starts that stick up from the warm brown soil in the Spring. We love new love, and what it feels like. We love meeting a new friend, or rekindling with an exciting old friend. Other new things I love: a new quilt pattern, new dress, colorful scarf, new haircut. I love new fabric or a great colorful fabric discounted! New bright red in my hair. New car! New jewelry, or a new candle scent or perfume. New shower gel! I love meeting a new reader who loves my books, or getting a great new review!

All these lush things are wonderful, and the most exciting of them all for me are New Words.

With new words, a new character develops. Like a chess game, the hunter and hunted meet, the warriors clash over a battle of wills. The Beast becomes the gentleman, and the Beauty becomes strong and supportive on her own. It's a classic tale of falling and having love burn so brightly in your chest that you just have to tell every stranger.

It's what makes a book something nice into something I gotta have!

It happens when I become the pro writer and not the amateur writer. It bashes through all obstacles and walls, limitations of funds, time, age, distance. I turned from being a reader who loved to read compelling books to wanting to create them. That creative process stimulates and excites everything in my world. It no longer is work. I ask my brain to be patient with the thoughts so I have the time to get everything down on paper. When I feel this way, I have to stop whatever else I'm doing and submit to that great spirit.

My beautiful music is even more beautiful. The colors are brighter. Scenes are more stunning. I wear loneliness like a badge and let the emotional energy spur me on to bring about a closure and connection that wasn't there before. My perceived lacks of the physical world I live in disappear in the fantasy life I create. My characters are my best friends and lovers. They don't leave. They love as fiercely as they play, with as much passion as I can imagine. I know there's even more off the screen of what I can hold at one time.
Bought this in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Today I give myself to new words. After all, it is World Book Day.  #LovetoRead

Of course, you could always watch Cinderella with someone you love, too.

So, here are some FIRST WORDS for you of a book called Paradise - The Search For Love (unedited):

I remember well the day John Gage stepped into my office. He had a whale of a tale about an island no one knew about, a white sandy beach with no telephones or internet, and a little thatched-roof bar tended by the most beautiful girl in the world.
            He called it Paradise.
            I hadn’t even looked at his paperwork, or how much money he had to invest. I didn’t look at what he did for a living. I just listened to him talk. His blue eyes and tanned skin, relaxed mode of operation, with his kaki pants and canvas slip-on shoes, two or three day’s stubble all painted a picture of a guy who was enjoying life. Way more than I was.
            Only remnant of his former life was the fact that he wore button down shirts, expensive ones too, with his initials on the sleeve, if you were ever to see them. He wore them wrinkled, right out of the dryer, or maybe off a clothesline somewhere, and rolled up to his elbows. He buttoned them one button too low, revealing a tanned and muscled torso. The guy was ten years older than I, but he looked ten years younger.

            I was helplessly hooked.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pzc_3arId8s
#LovetoRead




Sunday, April 9, 2017

On Being Super Human

Long before I was a romance writer, I was fascinated with what made people do things. It's why I was a Psychology major in college. I loved reading about what made people do things. Originally, I thought I'd like to study lands and cultures - what made a whole country or group of people do things. The career choices were limited (or appeared limited) back then. My love of travel and foreign lands spurred me on to thinking being an International Affairs major would get me where I wanted to be.

But no, I took a detour into Sociology, and then wound up finally in Psychology, bringing it all back to the individual. I was looking outside myself for reasons, and found them inside myself instead.

Now that I write romance, the study of character and calling is more important than just about anything else. That's why I enjoy writing about the Brotherhood, specifically the SEAL Brotherhood. These are men who put aside their fears (have them, but set them on the back burner) to do the things others cannot or will not do. I'm not naive to think that that makes them perfect. It makes them the ones who do not quit.

Navy SEALs go through the grueling BUD/S training not to find the strongest and most well qualified, but to find the ones who will not quit. People who don't understand this don't understand SEALs. Men who have passed the SEAL training look on those who have washed out or DOR (Drop On Request) in a different light than others do, perhaps. They don't see them as failures. They see them as men who discovered where their limits were. The real SEAL training makes them a SEAL. The BUD/S portion of it is just to see who is qualified TO START the training.

Everyone wants to be rich. Everyone wants to be handsome and beautiful. Everyone wants to be successful, to be well liked. To raise a family that leave their mark. Everyone wants to be a good friend, someone to be counted on. Not everyone is willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to do so.

I listen to blogs and read about heroes every chance I get. One of the men I study I will not mention here, but he has given me so much wisdom about what it takes to be a true hero, a real man, a warrior of the first caliber. And although he speaks in terms of being a man, it also works for those who are not men, but those who wish to be a warrior at whatever they are passionate about. Writing? Love? Family? Being the best person I can be? Whatever the driving force inside of us, one thing is clear: it is the best part of all of us.

He defines Brotherhood in this way:  "Mutually held feelings of love, possessiveness, and respect that improves the current or future situation(s) of each member. True brotherhood is created by shared experience and defined by feelings. The experiences must be:  1) Difficult  2) Tied to ones survival."

We live in an age and time when "getting along" is the norm. When getting pampered is mistaken for care. When right thinking or silence is preferable to conflict. We are taught to avoid battle in all it's forms: battle of wills, battle of negotiation, taking risks, being unrelenting and unstoppable. Being unbeatable becomes fiction in such a world. Striving to go beyond our own limits something of fiction and fantasy and not real.

I write about the heroes who transcend all this, who are not perfect men by any stretch of the imagination, but who are blessed with the singleness of purpose: to serve and protect at all costs.

And to never quit.

Wonder what kind of a world we would have if everyone felt the same way.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Amazon Spellcheck - Do You Make Up New Words?

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?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Company We Keep

Field of marigolds in India
Enjoyed giving a presentation to the Suguaro Romance Writers in Tucson yesterday. True to my standards, I made a dramatic entrance.

Enjoyed meeting with the board Friday night, and over a spectacular mexican dinner, I began to pass out. One minute I twas speaking, and the next, I was looking down at someone kneeling and asking me if I was okay. I don't even remember them separating the tables, customers from that side of the restaurant looking on. Light-headed and unable to finish my food, and a little sick to my stomach, I was confused and unable to move.

Well, next I heard they'd called paramedics. "I'm fine!" I said, to which they all laughed. I was helped outside and was treated by six (count them) handsome paramedics. We're all romance writers. We write about firemen and paramedics all the time. I'm telling you, if I'd felt better, I might have laughed it off better, but the ladies were having fun. Every single one of our paramedic crew knew we wrote romance. I heard about it all the way to the hospital.
This could be Sonoma County, but it's India. 

I waved good night to my group of board members who were having me speak, from the back of the ambulance, and was transported to the Emergency Room.

Okay, so I did admit to passing out a few bookmarks, and one of the nurses who attended me was a big military romance reader and had heard of me. I got an Uber driver for $5.67 who took me from the hospital back to my hotel at 2 AM, after I'd been checked out, hydrated with an IV and discharged. We talked romance in his RAM truck. I think his girlfriend will be getting one of my books.

And at 9 AM, I was feeling great. After my grand dramatic entrance, I was on.

A grand railway adventure to the caves in Goa?
I talked about my journey, and literally had some laughs about stories I'd heard about other writers and their perserverance, which was a theme in my talk, about not giving up, not ringing the bell. We talked about exposure, getting follows, getting a dedicated fanbase of readers. Taking what we got and just expanding on that, large or small, grand or simple. The pros and cons of different types of marketing and Newsletters, assistants, review teams and reader groups. It was all out there.

Of course I talked about my thoughts about watching my son get his Trident. What he had to go through, and showed what things did or didn't make their way into my books and why.
Life is color, and meant to celebrate.

It was inspiring for me to get up and talk for a couple of hours, to laugh, and to demonstrate the sisterhood (and brotherhood) of writers we are. Great group, and was one of my better days. Hospital scare and all.

I come back refreshed, recalibrated. Sometimes I think I get so wound up with my own goals and focus, I forget that being an inspiration is part of what I love about being a writer. If I didn't feel I gave anything back, it honestly wouldn't be worth it.

Indian monuments of love. My kind of trail. I'm going.
On the plane home, I found something new for my bucket list. I have a story brewing about India, about a time travel romance spanning a hundred and fifty years crossing three continents. Now I have a new mission. This picture is pasted on my wall by my computer screen to remember.

Visiting the great monuments of love? What's not right for a romance writer? I have to get there, somehow.

https://www.facebook.com/incredibleindia/photos/a.305148219500600.97654.144113158937441/1633320600016682/?type=3&theater