Sunday, June 28, 2015

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Living The Dream

Sometimes we aren't thankful enough for our successes. The world has gotten to be a strange and dangerous place. In my talk yesterday, I discussed how now is the perfect time to be a writer. And who can forget the 2008-2009 time when we were worried the stock market would crash and there'd be war right around the corner? Some writers wrote their best works, and great movies were produced during another dangerous time.

Here's what was happening some 70+ years ago:

Major Political/World Events:

            General Franco and his Nationalists won the Spanish Civil War
            Germany and Italy sign the “Pact of Steel”
            Germany annexes remaining Czech territories, Czech Republic is dissolved
            Italy occupies Albania
            Soviet-Japanese border war erupts
            Nazi-Soviet pact formed
            Germany invades Poland (beginning WWII)
            Britain, France, India, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany
            US decides to remain neutral, but begins to arm for war to help ease
                        effects of the depression
            USSR attacks Finland
            USSR is expelled from the League of Nations (precursor to UN)
Albert Einstein writes letter to FDR about the possibility of an atomic bomb
and the Manhattan Project is launched


Other background for those times:

World Leaders are:

            USSR:              Joseph Stalin
            UK                   Neville Chamberlain
            USA:                Franklin D. Roosevelt
            Japan:             goes through 4 in less than 8 months
            Australia:        goes through 4 in less than 5 months
            Germany:       Adolf Hitler
            Italy:               Benito Mussolini

And then some major accomplishments:


            Gone With The Wind is made from Margaret Mitchell’s book in 1936
            Heinkel He 178 is the first jet aircraft to fly
            John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath
            Of Mice and Men was made
            The Jefferson Memorial is started in Washington, DC
            Hewlett Packard is formed
            The first air conditioner is offered in a car: Packard
            New York World’s Fair is hosted by US

Here’s what things cost:

            Average new home price: $3,800.
            Average wages per year: $1,730.
            Cost of a gallon of Gas:  10 cents
            Average cost to rent a house:  $28. Per month
            Loaf of bread:  8 cents
            1# Hamburger:   14 cents
            Average new car:  $700.
            Toaster:  $16.
            Due to increased usage, cost of electricity is cut ½ in 10 years


Do you know that people thought publishing houses and the movie studios were done? That no new books would be printed, movies made?

They were wrong then. They are wrong now. Keep Writing!! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Celebration of Fathers Everywhere

Today we celebrate fatherhood. It takes a lot to be a father, and not much of it has anything to do with blood or actual paternity. A real father is one who sacrifices much for the care and protection of his children.

I think it is the greatest test of a man practicing fatherhood. It is a somewhat difficult job at times, often thankless and unnoticed. We make a big deal about motherhood, and I think fatherhood is often missed or glossed over.

And it shouldn't be. I am so fortunate to have had my husband of 44 years right along side me as we raised our 4 great kids. I'm sure their lives wouldn't be the same without his guidance. Men and women bring balance to the partnership of parenting. I know my husband's different style is often ten times more effective than mine.

I can remember once he came home to find our son, aged about 10, just getting ready to jump from our second story master bedroom window onto the trampoline he'd pulled over. "Watch this, Dad," was his comment. Don said he was afraid to stop him, and just watched as our son did a somersault and spiked a perfect landing on the trampoline, a skill he'd obviously been practicing all afternoon when he was left unsupervised by his older brothers and sisters. And his comment afterwards? "Well that's fine. Just don't do that in front of your mom."

One of my favorite things to do is to go to Disneyland and watch fathers and their children, sharing the happy memories of their childhood with their kids. You see dads in Mickey Mouse ears or Goofy caps, skipping, singing, eating ice cream or holding a child who has gone "comatose" in front of the light parade, fallen asleep from overload.

I think of the Navy SEAL dads and how they are known for "wrestling with their kids in their batman pajamas." I think any man who has opened his heart up to not only a life partner, but a child, has a special place in Heaven. Falling in love and being the hunky sexy hero of a woman's fantasy is one thing that probably stems from genetics and the basic sexual drives of our species. But being a father is something learned, practiced. It isn't always a natural act, and you get better at it the more you do it. Notice I didn't say it got easier. You just get better at it.

So, fathers, I salute you. I love who you are and what you stand for. It takes unselfish courage to be a true dad to a child, to stand for something, and stand with them when they need it. My own dad was a remarkable man, and the first man I ever loved.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Not Missing The Dance

I've heard some beautiful recordings of this song. Garth Brooks recorded it. So have many others. I've had this song sung to me live, once on stage, recorded for me, dedicated to me on a radio station once. It's a song that means a lot to me for a lot of reasons. Old boyfriends, new friends, people I've loved and love still, people who I knew that have passed on, people I loved who were killed in battle, or at home fighting the fight at home.

Just like the words say, "Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance," our colorful stories are made up of good days and bad days. Strung together like multi-colored beads in a glass necklace, or christmas twinkle lights, chapters of a book that holds our attention, the whispered words of love in a dark night, or memories of those loved and lost, loved and gone away, except for our memory. And we are better for it, right? Some pain, yes, but better for it.

Another haunting song I love by Jimmy Webb, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, I heard again about a year ago at a Pat Metheney concert. Talking about love, love found, love lost, and the journey to and from love. Beautiful, painful, like life itself. Who will forget the wonderful voice of Glen Campbell, now silent, singing this beautiful song.

Experience makes us the people we are, gives us the stories of love and pain, the yearning for something more miraculous than our ordinary lives. Like Liam Neesom's child says in Love Actually, "Let's go get the shit kicked out of us (by love)." Drunk on love, or drunk on the creating the fantasy of love - it's all the same. Drunk on writing is the same as living the experience. I travel all the places my heroes and heroines travel, feel the warmth of arms around me, the love I get to feel and express without holding back. And yes, there's pain too along the way sometimes.

You and I get to dance together for as long as we wish. There is no beginning and no ending. Our capacity expands the more we fall into the twinkling fantasy of what love could be like in it's perfect, most intense form. We're hopeless romantics, you and I. We live in the possibility, in the moment that is miraculous and pure.

And the pain? Well, that's the dance, isn't it? The backdrop for all the miracles that happen. When things hurt the most, especially when someone you love is hurting, all the more reason to cover ourselves in the fantasy of a good love story that heals all. I still believe in love, though I've been hurt. I still believe I get richer, deeper and stronger every day I live.

Because I'm dancing. I'm still here. I'm still dancing.






Sunday, June 7, 2015

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: If It's Sunday, It Must Be Cincinnati

Me with Lori Foster at #RAGT15 in Cincinnati
I had a wonderful time here in Cincinnati at the Lori Foster reader and author get together. This completes my 7th conference so far this year, with 4 (possibly 5) more to go. I'm finally getting the hang of it. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it. Even managed to watch history being made while having a nice dinner with friends. American Pharoah won the triple crown, something which hasn't happened in 37 years and I was there watching the big screens, cheering him on.

There were a lot of personal victories for me this trip. It continually amazes me how as a romance writer, I can touch so many people's lives. I started out this writing journey creating stories for myself that I couldn't find anywhere else. And now I write for everyone else. The more I get to know some of the authors I love to hang with, the more I understand that we all absolutely love what we do. I could never say this about anything else I did, even things I was highly successful at.

I've been working on finishing my SEAL's Code story. Like every story I do, I fall in love with the hero, love to feel the chemistry of the couple and their complete surrender to each other. Hanging around people in my stories who have a happily ever after gives me great satisfaction and pleasure. I sincerely think it makes me a better person, too. Love always triumphs over hate, good wins out over evil eventually and the most unlikely and improbable odds turn out to be what saves the day.

Like my heroes and heroines, I try and fail. Do things I'm proud of and things I'm not so proud of. When I'm done with the story, I do feel like it's the end of a relationship for me, and I do have a hard time letting go. But that only lasts until I get engrossed in the next story, and so on and so on.

Someone at dinner tonight talked about being afraid to show her work, to even read her own work. I completely understand that. My friend Karin Tabke gave me some great advice on that, which I gave to this newbie author: "Finish your story, send it out, put your blood spatter apron on and get ready."

I told her that the only way we get better is to fail. And if we fail big, we win big eventually. When I think of all the lessons I've learned this year and last year, my biggest failures have also been my biggest wins.

And yes, love conquers all, heals all, enlightens us all and brings us to the most blissful and perfect self we can be. It's the place where the magic happens, where men wear Mickey Mouse ears and dance along little paths through castles, merry-go-rounds and pirate villages. It's the place where people trust and enjoy spending time with each other loosely, unselfishly.
Flying into Cincinnati

Like Walt Disney said, "Where all the animals go up and down and there is never any chipped paint." We get the prize when we jump in, connect, strap in for the ride of our lives, not knowing the outcome. Where we take a chance on each other.

I decided I'd give you guys an excerpt (very short one) from SEAL's Code. This is not the hero or heroine, but two FBI guys working on a case, minor characters in my story that give color and texture to the fabric of the word weaving. One guy, Cortland Drews, is a huge FBI agent in charge, and is forced to work with his sidekick, Daryl, a skinny agent right out of school. Like my SEALs, I liked their smack talk and banter. I like to watch them squirm and fail a bit, and then pull things out of the fire at the last minute, just like my hero and heroine. Enjoy. Can't wait to let you guys read it. Remember, this is an unedited excerpt, so tread on me lightly. But enjoy nonetheless.

Excerpt, SEAL's Code:

He’d been assigned a kid straight out of school named Daryl.
            “Cortland,” Daryl said in his whiny nasal tone, oblivious of how it made him want to grab the guy by his neck and wring it. “You like anybody we’ve interviewed for this?”
            He didn’t want to tip his hand just in case there was a secret mission necessary. “Not sure yet. I’ve cleared all the women so far and most the tribal men.”
            “Which leaves me,” Daryl said pointing to his own pigeon breast of a chest, “And the group from Gallup and Phoenix.”
            “Very good,” Drews said.
            “What’s your theory?” Daryl didn’t seem to mind that he was on Drews’ short list.
            “I smell money.”
            For being so clueless, Daryl knew when to stop pushing for answers. That made him a perfect assistant. “Whew. Well, that rules me out, since I don’t have any.” His half-hearted attempts to crack a joke fell flat at first. Then Drews bellowed as if it had taken him a long time to catch the subtlety of the joke. He never left an opportunity unused to demonstrate how slow he was. It gave him an advantage over everyone if they thought so of him.
            To their own peril.
            “You hungry, Daryl?”
            “Does a chicken have lips? Does a snake chew gum?” Daryl scrunched up the side of his face, obsessed with his own cleverness.
            “That fuckin’ doesn’t even make any sense, Daryl. The answer to those questions would be no, so I guess you’re not hungry. You want to wait in the car then? It’s only one hundred six today.”
            “Well, I’ll take some pie for lunch. The lady who bakes here is supposed to be the best on the whole reservation. Her name’s Emma.”
            Drews started to relax. Maybe some day he could just have an ordinary twenty-four hours, so he could walk into a diner, sit down to the counter and order a piece of pie without seeing body parts splayed over everything and the dark thoughts of every male in the place. He thought women were the only things that made men human. He used to tell his friends he thought God figured it out right away he’d fucked up when he made Adam, or the First Man like the Navajo’s believed. So he made woman to balance him off, distract him into behaving nicely just like leaving a little trail of pills for a junkie to find. If he was unlucky to find a bad woman, once the man was trapped, the woman would tie him up and eat him little bites at a time. Like a frog in water that was brought to a slow boil, men would think they liked it, until it killed them and their manhood. Even good women did this to men all the time, he thought. He didn’t want to change, had no intention of changing anything for anybody except himself.
            So, Drews was going to stay free forever. He’d live alone and die alone. He’d make sure not one piece of his DNA was left behind afterwards. He wanted to be remembered for the impact he had on the cycle of life and death, how he played the game, not the life-long friendships and satisfying work everyone else was seeking. If it was Halloween, he’d dress up as the grim reaper.

            Every day.



Friday, June 5, 2015

Red Friday Post - This Is Why We Wear Red on Fridays

Bruce, Kally, J.M. MSgt Leroy Petry and Sharon, in Cincinnati
I'm at Lori Foster's Reader/Author event #RAGT15 in Cincinnati. It's the first time I've been here. Met up with good friends J.M. Madden, Bruce and Donna MacDonald, Karen Henderson, April Allen, Sabrina York, Darynda Jones, Kallypso Masters and the lovely Charlotte, and many many others. If I try to name them all I'll forget one and it will ruin my night.

Bruce met and introduced us to Master Sergeant Leroy Petry, a proud veteran now a motivational speaker, who is a common man who did uncommon things. In fact, he was so uncommon, he was awarded many ribbons and medals, including the Army Commendation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with a bronze Oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit, and The Congressional Medal of Honor.
Code Talker quilt

If you read about him in the link provided, you will find he also attended Indian school near Santa Fe, New Mexico. A statue of his likeness is located today at the Pojoaque Pueblo. I believe this fine warrior is Native American.

As I read further, I found this:
Tattered but still there
A Taliban fighter threw a grenade at their position which landed 10 meters from them; it detonated, and the blast knocked the three soldiers to the ground, wounding Higgins, and further wounding Robinson.[3] Shortly thereafter the three were joined by Staff Sergeant James Roberts and Specialist Christopher Gathercole. Another grenade was thrown by a Taliban fighter which landed a few feet from Higgins and Robinson. Petry, knowing the risk to his life, moved toward the grenade, picked it up, and attempted to throw it in the direction of the Taliban.[7] Petry later recalled his immediate reaction was "get it out of here, get it away from the guys and myself. And I reached over, leaned over to the right, grabbed it with my hand, and I threw it as hard as I could, what I thought was at the time. And as soon as I opened my hand to let it go, it just exploded instantly. And I came back, and the hand was completely severed off."[8] The detonation amputated his right hand, and sprayed his body with shrapnel.[9] In throwing the grenade away, Petry likely saved the two other soldiers from serious injury or death.[10][6]
Petry placed a tourniquet on his right arm.[1] Roberts began to fire at the Taliban fighters, suppressing them in the courtyard. An additional fighter on the east end of the courtyard fired, fatally wounding Gathercole.[3] Higgins and Robinson returned fire, killing that fighter.[1] They were then joined by Sergeant First Class Jerod Staidle, the platoon sergeant, and Specialist Gary Depriest, a medic. Directing the medic to treat Gathercole, Petry was assisted by Staide and Higgins to thecasualty collection point.[3]
There are no accidents. I was meant to meet this fine young man who sacrificed himself that day to save others, and who fought to protect our way of life. What I didn't know until I got up in my room and began to read the information on Petry was that he served with a young man our family knew from Sonoma County, Chris Gathercole. Every time I mail a package to some one of my fans, I see Chris's picture on the wall at the Santa Rosa Main post office, along with the other dozen or so brave young men who lost their lives and are honored there. 
And next week when I go home, and mail my next package, I will look at Gathercole's picture, and I will silently thank him again, and let him know his teammate fights on for all of us. Because although Petry is now retired from active duty, there is still much work to be done amongst the community. My job is to watch, pay attention and record or bring light to it.
And to enjoy my life to the fullest. Thank you, Staff Sergeant Petry, and Specialist Chris Gathercole, for protecting my freedom with your precious blood. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

SUDAYS WITH SHARON: REMEMBERING VETS ALL OVER THE WORLD and (GULP) Some Numbers

I try not to listen to the news, but most days I can't seem to avoid it. Even going for coffee I'll stumble upon the headlines in our local paper. My eyes drift off toward that first page as if it was a new erotic thriller. Human nature, I guess.

We hear about the explosion of bad deeds, both in the name of religion and in the name of some nationalistic cause, and we sometimes wonder who we can trust. Can we trust our world leaders? Do we have to put up with dishonest dealings and back room deals? Do we have to tolerate our fine men and women being sent in to do jobs and then neglect to take care of them after they are back? And do we forget to say thank you?

Oh yes, we do. Our need for the smutty and salacious is overwhelming, like how my eyes wander to the headlines. Truth is, we've been fairly well insulated from most of the bad things of this world because there are men and women who laid down their lives so we could live the life we have, relatively unfettered. I guess that's why I don't like to hear about how bad things are. Things for you and I and most the people reading this post, are pretty darned good. And someone else paid for that freedom. There are those doing it still today.

Every death in battle, every innocent death, every death due to lack of services or neglect or ignorance is one death too many. Today we remember those who fought and died during times of war. It crosses all races and religions, all nationalities, both sexes, all ages, all economic levels and all languages and cultures. Our war heroes and those that support them come home, remembering those who did not. Our uniforms are bloody, our hearts weep, and our flags are frayed. But the cost is worth it.

Something someone once showed me made a big impression, and I guess that's the lesson in today's post. I pass this knowledge on to you, just in case you didn't hear it. For however you may think about what's been going on recently in the war arena, here are some facts you might want to remind yourself of.

You can read the whole article here. It only covers American lives lost during conflicts from the Revolutionary War to today. But here are a couple of startling things to remember. During the first 100 years of our country's existence, 683,000 Americans lost their lives (91% of that during the Civil War). During the last 100 years 626,000 Americans died (WWII being 65% of that figure).









Revolutionary War                25,000

War of 1812                          20,000
Mexican-American War       13,283
Civil War                            625,000
WWI                                   116,516
WWII                                 405,399
Korean War                         36,516
Vietnam War                       58,209
Persian Gulf War                     258
Afghanistan (13 yrs)             2,356
Iraq (9 yrs)                            4,489

Since 1945, the end of WWII, Americans have lost 102,264 lives. Yes, it should be zero. One is too many. We want them all to come home and come home whole. But there's a reason we've lived in relative safety. Our men and women in the military all over the world are the biggest reason. They don't make policy. They do what they're told. And they pay the price for us.

Thank You