Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Study of Love and Romance

It is my guilty pleasure, I admit it. If I wasn't a romance novelist, I'd be a romance reader and live in those books 24/7. The alternative to reading or writing romance? A world with not enough love in it. I live in a world where relationships magically happen and continually bring out the very best in all of us. Am I a better writer because I have loved so intensely? Or am I a better woman because I have written so intensely?

Of all the choices in my life, I think becoming a novelist has been my best one. I think, just like my SEALs, writers are born, not created. A hero is a hero from birth. We are surrounded by the ordinary all the time. Our fantasy lives enable us to live free from the earthly bonds of age, health, finances and opportunity. Not all of us will meet a titan of industry, a military hero or a man who knows everything about us and will always do the perfect thing to rock our worlds. But in our fantasy lives, that happens not just every day, but several times a day.

This addiction to studying love, falling in love, sex, finding one's highest self, living in a world were all is possible and nothing is impossible, is something that will be with me the rest of my life. And it's legal.

I scan the TV and look at topics on the internet and am amazed so few people live in the aspiration side of life, in the part where miracles do happen, where people find and do the right things. If I were to spend my focus on the "reality" of the world, all the signs point elsewhere.

So fantasy, love is my reality. I hope more of us join us there. I do think love can heal the world. I really do. This world needs a lot more romance, and a lot less rhetoric.

I'm just one of the grateful cheerleaders.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

EASY TO START, HARD TO STOP

When I was a full time business coach, I used to tell my customers, you must be easy to start and hard to stop. Everyone thinks they start from way behind the curve. They've procrastinated and now when they have to start, they have to work through all the debilitating emotions of frustration and discouragement, before they can even begin their project.

And then there were those who wanted it all today, wanted to catch up in one sitting, who were so anxious to make headway, they too had to battle the range of emotions and frustrations that they felt held them back, due to their impatience. I often have that form of "startitis" - in fact, it used to plague me whenever I'd start a new diet. And the worrying over whether or not I would stick to it long enough to have results would overcome me and by 10 o'clock, the diet was blown. And then it makes it harder to start again.

But starting is just that, starting all over. My opinion is that it's 80% of the battle, just beginning. If I can put out of my mind all the other little self-talk that is unproductive and just plain not true in many cases, I can get that big locomotive fired up and begin my new project. By "new" it could mean writing new or editing. Whatever the project.

I used to use the illustration of getting a big locomotive running. It doesn't matter how hard we press on the pedal on that big engine. The thing will accelerate at a certain speed no matter what. If we've floored it and really jumped on the pedal (they probably don't even have one, but I use it for illustration), that big machine would only go so fast in such a period of time. The extra effort on our part is irrelevant.

On the other hand, there's this little thing called Momentum that begins once we are sailing down the rails. The weight of the machine and the forward motion help propel us further, even if we should temporarily take our foot off the pedal.

And that's where people have the hardest time. After they start, they get some success, and do happy dancing all over the room, and then forget to get back to work. I'd have business leaders achieve a windfall month of profits and then take the rest of the year off, and wind up behind what they did the year before. We used to say that earning a huge commission check was the surest detriment to many people succeeding. Just ask lottery winners. They'll tell you.

The magic happens in the not stopping. Notice there is no mention of talent. We all want to be so talented someone will come along and give us millions of dollars for that screen play, that novel, but in fact, the world doesn't operate like that. Somehow, even though others have struggled, our path will be smooth and easy.

You will have a ten times better chance of dying in a commercial plane crash than winning the lottery. Chances someone will pay you $1M for your book? I'd say even less.

What about you? What do you do to get yourself started? How do you keep your momentum fired up?


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Why 2017 Will Be My Favorite

There are a number of things I am grateful for in 2016. It was great for a lot of reasons:

1. I survived. 💪
2. Got sick and got well. 😎
3. Finished 5 books. 🏆
4. Weathered some breakups, shakeups and uncertainties with grace and a pinch of humor. 🂱
5. Better prepared for the travels ahead. 🎢
6. Kept my focus, realigned my purpose, learned about some new opportunities. 🔑
7. Welcomed the New Year with an open heart, and a head full of stories. 🎇
8. Reinforced the power of gratitude and being light-hearted at the right times. 🙏
9. Re-fell in love with falling in love ALL-IN. 💓
10. I start the year off being INSPIRED.  💫💗💥


So, here are some things I'm focusing on this New Year's Day. Hope you can join me along the way some of the time. We have a lot of work to do together, you and I. I can't wait. How about you?

MY 2017 FOCUS:

1. I write every day because it is my life.
2. I'd rather be in a book or story than anywhere else. It is my reality.
3. Concentrate on creativity and the flow will come.
4. Expect to be amazed, not understanding everything. Amazed, like a child.
5. Be a well-used character in my own life like a favorite toy and much-loved soul.
6. Pointy people grind the rough edges off me and make me shine.
7. Circumstances REVEAL a person, they don't make a person.
8. Getting up and getting started now is the most important attitude to have.
9. Learn from everyone, everything. Seek lessons like jewels.
10. Show gratitude, grace and humor more than anger, frustration or hurt.
11. Be loveable more than right.
12. Understand but keep to my side of the fence.
13. Have compassion but be strong enough to tell the truth.
14. Feel the healing power of love.
15. Take more chances, feel deeper, understand the strength to let go when needed.
16. I can't fix anybody. ANYbody.
17. Walk with other warm hearts and bright spirits. Close my doors and windows to negativity.
18. Notice, nurture, never forget.
19. Lead with love and kindness.
20. Hug the little girl inside me every day.



Hope you'll join me...


Sunday, December 18, 2016

How To Become Real

Those of you who know me, know I like eclectic things. I've started collecting books about well loved toys. We recently found my teddy bear, "Teddy", and I had him cleaned. Yes, he's lost his eyes and has some of his hair rubbed off, but he's had stories told to him I didn't dare tell my parents when I was little. I also have a favorite record player, but that one's hard to take to bed.

In the book Code Name Johnny Walker, the interpreter talks about coming to live in San Diego after living in war-torn Iraq. On his first day here he walked with his children to a McDonald's and had fast food, using American money. He went to flea markets and garage sales because he was fascinated by what Americans discarded. I'm sure you've been to garage and estate sales, where the objects tell the story of a person, a family. In the same way, old toys tell us of childhoods past.

Every year I share this story because it so simply captures that conversation between wise old toys and new toys, if toys could talk. I loved hearing it as a child. I love it still.

So, enjoy this excerpted passage from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams.
Teddy


For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.



The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"


"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."


"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.


"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."


"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"



"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."


"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.


"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."



The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

Full text read here: https://youtu.be/QR6AEdsmNQQ

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just Enough For Christmas

Got into the Christmas spirit this year in a big way, and still I'm running around catching up. Still finishing the final draft of a book I started some years ago, a paranormal, and it's taken me some time to get my head wrapped around the hero again. But boy, once he got me. He got me.

We opted for a huge tree this year: 13 feet. It has a nearly 10" base, so it had to be carved up at the bottom to fit in the largest tree holder they make (the one without cables and having to screw into the base of the tree). Took a home visit and custom cut at the base after we got the thing home, and 2 strong men to get it into my living room. But boy, what a treat!

Over the 45+ years I've made a home here, I've collected ornaments and I finally got a tree that could hold nearly all of them. I said nearly. Yes, you are not reading this wrong. I will still have an overflow. After years of saving broken ornaments (arms and legs of elves and cowboys and supernatural beings, fruits and noses and flowers off favorite ornaments), I finally threw out the "bone yard" and it nearly broke my heart.

But I have too much in my basket of Christmas, and I'm a bit on an emotional overload. The grandkids came over last night and we decorated the little trees I have always done to absorb the cute small ornaments my mom had. Her sad little tree didn't survive the multiple moves my father did after her passing.

Christmas is a hopeful time. We're reviewing what happened this year and celebrating the wins, remembering the happy events and mourning some of the losses. I will never forget what it feels like to be a child on Christmas morning, which is something I share with many of you.

I am grateful for the blessings of family, readers, the business I've built and the stories I've told. I hope to get better and better with my writing. I'm always seeking to be relevant. Reviews are up and down and with them come my emotions. But that's life. It comes with the territory. I found my childhood teddy bear had survived our house fire and was brought in along with some other things from our storage containers. I had Teddy cleaned and looking like new. He has no eyes left, but I think he sees plenty!

I regret little except saying I love you more to the kids, to my parents and grandparents. I regret the arguments I've had with some, the way I took offense when I should have walked away. I don't regret being generous with my heart or with my love. It always comes back ten fold.

I pray I won't leave the tree up until Easter like we did one year. I marvel that I actually got so busy with my Real Estate business that I let that happen. I think the rest of the family somehow thought it was my responsibility to get it down, and eventually I did, after my 10-year old told me he couldn't invite any of his friends over anymore because it was so weird to see that dead drooping tree in our living room.

I hope my children will soften their opinion and remembrance of me, like the fuzzy pictures the "Glamour Shots" do that smooth out all the wrinkles in our skin and make our eyes and hair glow like diamonds. I'd like to be remembered as larger than life, a family legend that brings forth lots of tall tales and exaggerations of the fantastique! We've made a tradition of that, like most of you do as well, telling the crazy stories of us, and how we all survived the craziness, the wonder and beauty of just being alive.




I hope you experience everything you wish for and everything you really need. I hope you live long and well, love hard and forgive more than you love. I hope that all the miracles of the season, and the good fortune available to you will fall like sugar crystals all around you.

And that you live in the magic of love and what love can bring for the rest of your life. I plan to do all I can to enhance that experience with my stories, if you'll take the time to read them.

With love,
Sharon

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pearl Harbor

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.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

AND NOW THE MADNESS BEGINS - OR DOES IT???

Some of you understand what it's like to be a romance writer during the holidays. Those family get-togethers turn bizarre in a heartbeat, don't they? I know as a child, the weirder and weirder it got, the better I liked it.

My Grandma Fox had trouble swallowing, due to a series of strokes she'd suffered that left half of her body paralyzed. It never failed that for each big family meal, she'd start choking on something, and there were more than a few moments of tension when she'd remove her false teeth, leave them on the side of the plate on the beautiful table my mother always set, with all the finest crystal and china. Grandfather would stand up, and slap her back while she leaned over her dish and expelled whatever had gotten stuck.

She was beet red afterwards, sincerely ashamed for the spectacle. My grandfather never swore, but he could be heard saying something like, "Ah, Shaw," and we filled in the blanks. We were used to her drooling, and she wore a little purse affixed to her wrist with a strap, lovingly made by one of the ladies in the church, which contained a couple pretty hankies she used all day long. In fact, she was always with a hankie in her hand.

My other grandfather would go off on some political tangent, sure that the whole country was going to Hell quickly, and often we'd wake up Christmas morning to find that he'd had such a difficult time sleeping, they'd packed up in the middle of the night and drive the long way home to Fresno, California. Yes. I was born in Fresno. A good place to be from.

The stories were exaggerated, as family stories go. I'd heard them every year. Every year they'd get more and more fantastic, and I didn't care if they came from morphing, or told by people who always instructed me to take the moral high ground and never lie. They were family stories, and as such, were exempt from the normal constraints of reality. It was a kind of better than the truth: it was fiction. Was there something wrong with me for preferring the morphing stories of our family history? And does it really matter anyway?

By candlelight, those tales were told, passed down from the mouths of people now long gone. And I think I must do some of the same.

We always enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco. My uncle could have made it as a comedian, he was so good with his jokes. Especially during the years when he was drinking. Afterward, he was just as funny, by the way. As an insurance salesman, he had stories of all the creative ways he got past the secretaries who tried to screen him from seeing the execs he wanted to sell to. He called it his Zippo Success Institute.


Between my uncle and my grandfather, the preacher, I learned what it was like to sell. In one case, it was a safety net to cheat death's impact on a family, in the other, redemption and a life everlasting. But trust me, it required a good salesman to do either. I knew long before I married and started having kids that life is one sales job after another. Raising children or being long time married, it's still the same thing to me today.

So I guess the madness of the season isn't really that for me, is it? I can get behind the crowds, though I don't participate in it. I don't mind people selling things, even things I don't need. I get caught up in it just like I did as a child. The stories, the pitch given to inspire change, the way to figure out problems and not get stuck by them, how to alter another's opinion with a smile or the right choice of words. Life is sales.

If it weren't so, we wouldn't take this most sacred of holidays, and turn it into one huge gift giving bonanza in this country. The idea of giving a gift is doing the unexpected. To show to someone what the inside of our heart looks like, to make the act one of love.


I don't remember the gifts, but I remember the love. Yes, sometimes I remember the pain too. I don't remember the words, but I remember the story. I remember what it felt like and how it feels now.

That gift is one I shall cherish forever.