Sunday, July 23, 2017

Partnerships, Teamwork - Maintaining a High-Maintenance Life

I put everything on hold yesterday and attended a soap and lotion making class held through The Goat Farm. OMG I had so much fun. Was like a play day with several lady friends. My hairdresser told me about The Goat Farm, and I intended to schedule a meet and greet sometime soon with Mindy and her husband, who own the farm. Then I discovered she was having two classes on making soap and making salves and lotions - I got in and Ta Da! Another new world has opened up for me.

You already know I do paper collage. And I love to quilt. I have been an organic gardener for over 40 years now, and I have a big local family, a business to run, helping with the family business occasionally (my former career in Real Estate), and on and on and on. I'd always thought I would make a wonderful grandmother, staying home to knit, sew things, make collage art, decorate the house, make candles and soap, write romances and garden.

Well, my life is sort of like this. Today, I will be taking my expecting daughter on a little mother-daughter shopping. Her baby is due in October, and her shower is next week. Then I spend a week partially in Las Vegas for some real estate things, and then off to Ottawa for Romancing the Capital, Eve Langlois's wonderful event, where I hope to see some great dedicated readers I've never met in person before...

So this week is about finishing, getting my instructions ready for the garden watering so that doesn't turn into an epic fail, making sure everything I need to get done gets done this week. And so why not take a soap-making class? Meet some new friends and indulge myself in scents and beautiful soap and lotion art?


My long term plans are sort of turning out. The part that isn't is I forgot to meditate and dream/look forward to the deadlines in my life. The trick, for me, is to float through life, doing all these things, and make it look artsy, effortless and soul-affirming, while making sure I keep to my commitments to others. After all, I am not independently wealthy. I didn't marry Prince Charming who has a trust fund and unlimited resources. And I'm the primary bread-winner in our family. So I can't piddle and dawdle too long. But I have to trick my brain into thinking I am living the life of ease and luxury, the life and soul-affirming things of my every day, so that the stress doesn't get in the way of me actually doing anything.

I have several partnerships. First, and foremost, I partner with myself. Am I getting healthier as I age? Am I doing what things I want to do while I can do them? Am I managing my finances and my time in such a way that there is more life at the end of the month instead of more stress? Do I live in a house of my design, a place where I enjoy being and where I can feel my soul growing? Or, does it limit me? And is the cost (time/emotional energy) worth the result?

I partner with my husband. Not everything is perfect all the time. After some 46 years of marriage, we've done a pretty good job of balancing the urgent and the necessary, with the folly, leaving time for creative endeavors and explorations. I think we do best at the explorations. For me, that's travel. Part of being a good partner is learning and telling the truth on what we can and are willing to bring to the table. I'm no Cinderella either. But partnerships don't do very well under stress or chaos, and a lot of our time is spent making sure these things happen only on a limited basis. Gardening, traveling, going on soap-binges or shopping (in moderation) helps with this, too.

I partner with my other family members. I am nearly the oldest woman member of my little tribe. That comes with it some responsibilities to pass on what I've learned in a way that doesn't make my family feel like I've hit them between the eyes. I want to give them memories they can laugh about when I'm gone. And yes, I admit, I'd like there to be a big hole when I leave. I'd like to be missed.

Partnerships with others in my real estate or writing community, in other endeavors I'm involved with requires telling the truth and learning who and what I can trust. I have some partners I'd love to listen to but would never count on in a crisis. I have others who I can count on for different things, but not for all things. I sort and pick, and yes, occasionally dead-head my friends and associates. No sense trying to make or keep a friend who is drifting, or not wanting to reciprocate, or for whom I have to do all the heavy lifting. As I get older, I've been better and better about discerning those things. And I've made some major screw-ups along the way being too trusting. But the lessons have been massive, and the circumstances have taught me a lot about myself. Just like raising children, being long-term married, growing a garden or starting a successful business -- failure is part of the story.

I guess I could sum up my life as a patchwork of things, some found, some discovered, some worked for, some gifted and some lost, or lost and re-found. It is a blend of highs and lows, colors and blandness, determination and creativity, art and science and a little magic thrown in along the way.

I guess these are all life skills I'll need some day when I take my next great adventure into the unknown. I take that hole that hopefully will be made here and bring that value to wherever else I'm going. And then give it all away again.

Because, in the end, all of it is a series of giving everything away, in various stages of our lives. It's not about receiving all day long. For me, it's about watching how my gifts change the world around me. My gardens. My books. My loves. My family. My quilts. My spaces.



My heart.

What about you?


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rich Like Chocolate, Strong Like Coffee, and then there's Berzerker....

If you hadn't met me, you'd think I was seriously mixed up. Well, maybe I am. Here I like flowers and gardening, romance and all that goes with it. Expensive lingerie and kids and family and kisses. Going barefoot at the beach, and Happily Ever After.

But I also love my men to be men. Having a man's man around makes it easier to be a woman, I mean a real woman. That is different things to different people. But I find a man who respects women, who honors our country and protects me and my freedoms, is worthy of my undying love and loyalty. It is something bred into my DNA. I can't speak for all women, but this is what it is for me.

So when I read about this real hero, believe it or not, it makes me want to sit down and write romance. I can't explain it, but it brings out all the romance in my body and soul. I'm sure there is some biological chemical reaction to this, which is way beyond me, and not important for me to understand fully. It is what it is.

I'd like to share this interview with the folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. I am a coffee club member, and I get these shipments regularly, and I have since stopped buying anything from those big box places. This company is owned and operated by Veterans, who help other veterans. And it's darned good coffee too. I love their attitude, their very non-PC approach to freedom, living a life full-out, and being men among men and the women who are lucky enough to love them. It's a family and kith not everyone can understand.

But I love them dearly.

So hope you'll read this newsletter, and perhaps subscribe yourself. And with your first cup of Joe, you let me know which blend is your favorite. I haven't tried Berzerker Blend, but I'll be ordering it today.

My favorite so far is Black Beard's Delight, with the flag logo of Edward Teach, the most notorious pirate of the Caribbean. I got the patch, the hat and the thermos to go along with it.

Enjoy and I hope I've expanded your world today.

Here's an excerpt from their blog and the link to read more:

Kyle Lamb is a man who has lived a life most can’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next fifteen years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).
Since Kyle’s retirement from the Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership, and founded Viking Tactics, Inc. which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo Magazine, or his face on the Outdoor Channel.
Black Rifle Coffee recently caught up with Kyle to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:
You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?
Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.
You can read more here.
Have a powerful day and enjoy your freedoms.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Naughty Romance Novelist Waters Garden in her Nightie and Lives to Tell The Tale!

Oh yes, you think I'm joking? I did it this morning. Last night I needed something very light to wear because it was still near 100 degrees at bed time. So, I wore one of my black long lacy nighties worthy of any erotic Halloween. As I do these days, I get up and water my garden in whatever I've been wearing to bed. So, today I vamped in my black nightgown. I deadheaded like any good witch, picked replacement roses that had wilted last night beside my bed in the heat, checked my cucumbers and melons, pulled some bolted lettuce, clipped my coriopsis and daisies, and added extra sprinkler timers to the flower bed and part of the lawn that doesn't catch water yet.

We have no neighbors so I can do this. My gown was muddy and wet, but refreshingly stuck to my body in cold ribbons in the hot breeze. Yes, I started about 6:30 AM and didn't finish until nearly 10.

The story I'm finishing is a novella, and I'm in love with this couple. Yes, I know, I do say this every time, but I am in love with Trace and Gretchen, both second time arounders. Trace has just transferred to Kyle's Team 3 from an east coast team, like Cooper did in the early books. Gretchen is Kate's sister (of Kate and Tyler in SEAL Of My Heart that was just on a Book Bub special), Book 7 of the SEAL Brotherhood Series. She was married to a professional basketball player until he outed his womanizing on one of the tabloid TV shows and the marriage was over. So, Gretchen has some baggage, but nothing Trace can't work out.

Many of you will remember that Tyler's sister, Linda Gray, is a romance novelist, in her thirties, and Tyler modeled for the cover of her book. Linda has never married, but she's one outrageous character. Like me, she wears red all the time and lives a life in her books she never gets to have in real life. So she and Gretchen are becoming acquainted and best friends. While they both go after Trace, from two different corners.

This is an unedited chapter I hope you'll enjoy. This novella will be part of Tropical Tryst, an anthology of works from 25 of your favorite authors, releasing August l, and available for preorder now.


Enjoy the story. I plan on doing a full length book with this couple next year.

The scene takes place as Gretchen is getting situated in the room she's sharing with Linda, in an old plantation-style Hawaiian home built in the 1800's. It is up in the hills, with views of several of the Hawaiian islands and the beach and ocean several miles away. Linda thinks she going to use this as the location for her next novel, about a Hawaiian girl of royal lineage who falls in love with a Navy SEAL.

So, here's a chapter (unedited) from SEAL My Love:

           Gretchen avoided Trace’s eyes, but she could tell he was watching her every chance he had. She’d not had that much attention since the TV reporters who hounded her after her husband’s very public display of indecency. In that case, these heartless reporters even ramped it up when she was with her daughters. Clover even ran after one of them, and, thank goodness, didn’t catch up with the cameraman, or they’d have had a lawsuit for sure.
            Even that landed on the tabloid TV show and her ex had the gall to call Gretchen up and ream her about not getting better control of their girls.
            What an asshole.
            But this kind of attention made her nipples knot, made her knees wobble a little, made her want to run her fingers through her hair and reposition her clip several times, always leaving a wisp or two of curls lapping down the back of her neck because it made her feel wanted and desired. She knew her cheeks were flushed and her panties were in a constant state of wet and cool, depending on if she was sitting or standing on the porch, hanging on to the pale yellow wooden pillar and marveling at the view below. She knew wood, especially painted wood, was not the way of the islands now. This house had obviously been built during the old plantation days, when the monarchy was in its glory. The old Queen was gone now for nearly a hundred years, but her legacy of grace, raising beautiful tropical flowers and her love of singing and watching the young dancers swing their hips and call to each other with their graceful arms and hands, was legendary. She herself had once been a beauty and had been an expert Polynesian dancer.
            Maybe there was something to what Linda said, because the story of the Hawaiian princess and the Navy SEAL started fanning the flames of her heart, making the hairs on the back of her neck desire to be kissed.
            She could tell he was staring at her, and that he knew she was aware of it, too. She gave him a smile and did not dare look for his reaction. All she could do was fan herself with the folder she was holding, and then take down and re-clip her hair again, for the tenth time in the past hour as they had been setting things up in the house.
            They’d given her a room with Linda, one of the smaller ones, with twin beds. But she loved the privacy, and the little marble-topped writing desk in front of the gabled window. The flush of cool ocean breeze was something she was looking forward to inhaling all night long as she slept.
            Trace was standing at the doorway, and of course, like a gentleman, would not come into the room without an invitation. She could imagine herself as the island princess and he, a pirate sea captain, not daring to touch her, for fear of losing his life. The tension was there, just the same in this century as it could have been way back over a hundred years ago.
            “I think I’ve just found a prettier view. Too bad you can’t see it,” he said, casually, in a near-whisper. But she heard every word.
            Turning, she snickered at his lack of uniform, no hat tucked under his arm, because he wore flip flops and shorts that came just to the tops of his knees. His well-developed calf muscles were covered withy dark hair. His white v-neck tee shirt was so bright she nearly needed shades, and he had a pair of sunglasses tucked into the bottom of the V. His day plus old stubble was distracting, as was the drip of sweat that trickled from under his chin, down between his collar bone to parts unknown. Part of the tee shirt had stuck to his chest and abdomen below.
            He uncrossed his arms and angled his head, waiting for a response. “You think I look funny?”
            She gave him a graceful smile worthy of an island princess of great lineage. “No, Trace. I was thinking about—“
            “How nice it would be to go down to the beach.” Linda interrupted, pushing the big hulking SEAL aside. “Are you game, or do my stories of sex on the white sand make you itch?” She wiggled her eyebrows, oblivious of the scene she’d just crashed. “I’m in the mood for an umbrella drink and some bare bodies to go gaze at.” She opened her red suitcase up and pulled out a red beach bag. “I’m changing into my bikini now,” she said as she removed her top and revealed a red bra with pink lipstick kisses on it.
            Trace was out of there so fast Gretchen wasn’t sure he even got a glimpse of the bra.
            “You like?” Linda fondled the satin cups of her bra.
            Gretchen laughed. “You’re the only person I know who matches her luggage with her underwear. Very clever.”
            “You have no idea, dear. I had to hunt and hunt. But thank God for Amazon. Now they show me everything pink and red with hearts and kisses.”
            Gretchen watched through the window as another van pulled up to the front porch and several people piled out. Trace was greeting several of the guys and was introduced to a pair of very cute twenty-somethings and instantly she was disappointed seeing his wide smile and ready hug.
            Linda peered over her shoulder.
            “Oh, Gretchen. Here I was jealous of you, since you’ve obviously attracted Trace’s attention. And now we both have competition from those little sweet tarts.”
            “Gretchen looked away from the window and walked to her bed. “No worries. I’m looking for a superrich investment mogul who owns his own island, and only likes women over thirty.”
            “Good idea, Gretchen. SEAL’s don’t make that much, but I understand the sex is worth it.” She was examining her clothes, trying to pick out a combination. Most everything in her suitcase was red.
            Gretchen was slightly irritated. “Is everything about sex with you?”
            “Yup. Sex sells.” She held up a red and pink flowered sarong and examined herself in the mirror, holding the fabric under her chin. “You like this on me?”
            “How do you feel wearing it?”
            “Positively a cougar waiting to pounce. But the answer to your question is, yes, maybe. It’s called the law of attraction.” Her beautiful brown eyes sparkled. Gretchen knew she was about to get a lesson she hadn’t asked for.
            “So let’s have it,” Gretchen said as she sat on the bed, rummaging through her own clothes.
            “Everything is sales. We are selling each other right now.”
            “Come again?” She was seriously concerned for Linda’s state of mind.
            “We don’t know each other very well, just met today, right?”
            “Yes. On the plane.”
            “Exactly. Tyler and Kate met on the plane. They fell in love on that plane that day, remember?”
            Gretchen frowned. “Linda, I hope you haven’t gotten the wrong message here.”
            “Oh, silly. I love women, but not in bed. But I love getting silly drunk with my women friends. Just the best thing in the world. The funny banter and gossip. I can tell you and I could do a serious drunk together and wind up feeling like we’ve been sisters our whole lives.”
            “You are close to Kate that way now?”
            “No, silly. She has the kids, she has Tyler, and she’s not the same as me, temperament wise. Now Tyler? If he wasn’t my brother, OMG, OMG, he would be so much fun. And we did have fun in high school. He helped fix me up big time.”
            “Not the other way around?”
            “He never liked any of my slutty friends.” She gave Gretchen a smirk. “His loss, if you ask me. Those girls would have treated him fine, and worshiped the ground he walked on, too. But he fixed me up with tamer guys and I got what I could out of them. I mean, drop dead gorgeous, gentlemen, you know. Wouldn’t touch me until they thought it was right. Nice guys. Oh man, I bolloxed them up something good.”
            “Bolloxed?”
            “Messed with their brains. You know, stroked their ego, and then I just stroked them and I loved blowing their minds.”
            “And they never called you back.”
            Linda dropped another piece of lingerie and stared back at Gretchen. “Sadly, no. How did you know that?”
            “Because I don’t think men like to be chased. They like to do the hunting.”
            “But so do I.”
            “Then hunt for something else. Don’t hunt a man. At least, if I did it, it wouldn’t work. You have to just be there, and you hope that they get the message. Nice guys are worth it.”
            “I have no patience. But you see, that’s why we’re going to be great friends. You can teach me a lot about men. Have you had a lot of them?”
            Gretchen looked at her hands folded in her lap. She would have to tell Linda the truth.
            “I only had sex with one man, and I married him.”
            “Gretchen!” Linda ran over to the bed, pulled her up to standing position and gave her a big hug. “You poor thing! Starved, absolutely starved! That’s so unfair, sweetie.” She raised Gretchen’s chin and looked at her sorrowfully. “My heart is breaking for you, Gretchen.” She actually produced tears, which Gretchen thought was miraculous.
            Grabbing Linda’s hands, which still held her and pushing her away slightly, Gretchen got her composure back. “I’ve been raising three beautiful daughters. I’ve had boyfriends, and we’ve done some things, you know, but no sex. I just don’t want to have sex with someone I couldn’t marry. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the way I was brought up. Or, at least, that’s the way I thought I was.”
            Linda stepped back. “There’s a story there,” she said, pointing to Gretchen.
            “Oh yes, there really is. Sometime when we’re having those umbrella drinks, I’ll tell you the tale my mother told me about the time Tyler and Kate had decided to get married.”
            “Spill.”
            “I’m not going to right now. But Kate and I have different fathers.”
            “So your mother slept around.”
            “Linda, I’ll tell you when I’m ready.” Gretchen was getting irritated with her again. “But no, it wasn’t anything like that. If you could get your mind out of the gutter, you might actually learn there are some really decent and cool love stories out there, and they’re way more about love than sex.”
            Gretchen made a bee line for the hallway so she could hit the rest room before she was going to erupt into tears, and ran smack into Trace Bennett’s chest.
            “Hold on there, darlin’” he said in that low growl. “I had no idea you wanted to dance so bad. You need to wait until I get my dancin’ shoes on. These don’t move.”
            He looked down at his toes and they both watched him wiggle them. But while they were watching, he’d slipped his arms around her waist and her palms had spread out on his wet tee shirt. Her lips were close to his Adam’s apple and the dark scruffiness of his jawline. And they were so very close to his lips if she’d just raise her chin up, which she did. He was whispering something soft and she didn’t dare listen because her spine had gone all tingly and if she wasn’t imagining things, something was taking firm shape between them as he pressed her to him until their thighs touched through fabric.
            “You smell like heaven, Gretchen. Like a starlit night on a beach.”
            “I didn’t think stars smelled like anything,” she said as she waited, and let him angle down toward her mouth. She was hungry for him, but, just before he could cover her lips, the hallway was filled with chatty newcomers.
            “Well, I can see some people are deep into their vacation already,” said Ollie. He was overflowing with suitcases and he dropped one, which was quickly picked up by one of the twenty-somethings accompanying him.
            Gretchen immediately pulled away and she and Trace left a wide gap for the entourage to pass. The “twins” gave her a smile that hinted at warmth but was laced with something else. Ollie gave her a wink and sashayed between them all, one case above his head.
            Trace had his hands in his shorts, checking out his wiggling toes. When their eyes finally connected, Gretchen saw the fire was still there and her pulse quickened. When he gave her a lopsided smile and rubbed his chin, she nearly fainted.
            More people were coming up the stairs. Trace gracefully hopped across the hallway to stand next to Gretchen. He bent down and whispered, “To be continued, my dear.”
            She watched him maneuver around suitcase-carrying well-built men and young women as he made his way down the stairs. Gretchen retreated to the bedroom, closed the door, leaned against it and closed her eyes.
            “Well done.”
            She’d forgotten Linda was still in the room. With her breathing ragged and her embarrassment stabbing her stomach lining with little pitchforks, she felt exposed, and without defenses.
            “You’ve got it bad, sweetie.”
            She knew Linda was right. But she had to attempt to show she was casual about the whole thing—if she could. “Just not used to the guy flirting with me before I’m ready. I’m way out of practice.” She saw Linda nodding in response. Gretchen was proud of herself. Her comment was nearly 100% truthful.
            “He’s a babe magnet all right. I’ll grant you that. I’m going to honor your territory.”
            “Linda, no need for that. I’m a big girl. Just rusty.” Then she stopped herself. “Actually, that was a fib. I never was any good at it.”
            “Well, make sure you have a case of condoms because I have a feeling you’re going to get all the practice you need, plus a little extra for desert. You’ll do fine. He looks like he wants to lead, so let him. Holy hell I wish I was in your shoes.”
            “Might make it into you book, then?”
            “Could be. Most my friends are in my books—not that they’d recognize themselves. I take a kernel of the truth and explode it into something they’d never think of. My guilty pleasure. But, if you want to share any details, I’m your gal. You sure you two have never met before?” Linda quickly slipped on a red polka dot bikini, turning her back so Gretchen could tie the spaghetti straps together at her shoulder blades.
            “Just like the song, Linda.”
            “Who was that who sang it?” she asked.
            “Beats me.”
            “Bryan something. Except it was a Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
            “You think they’ll notice? That’s the smallest thing I’ve seen. Mine’s a one-piece.”
            “You’re kidding?”
            “I like a little tummy help after three girls.”
            “Yes, and my little tummy is all mine. No children to blame it on. A little lazy, I guess.”
            “Well, I tried. But in the end, all I wanted to be was just a good mom. Not a movie star, or a celebrity like you.”
            “Oh nonsense, Gretchen. You’re gorgeous. And you married a celebrity, so you know what that’s all about. What a total jerk, if you ask me.”
            “I didn’t ask you.” She had tied and re-tied the strings together, and was finally satisfied the bow was straight. “There. I think that meets my high standards. And I double tied it, so in case you get the sudden need to flash your boobs on the beach, just understand your top may not fall to the sand gracefully when you pull the strings.” Gretchen fluttered her eyelashes for extra effect.
            “You should be a romance writer,” said Linda. “You’re a natural. Flashing boobs and having things fall delicately to the sand. Oh my, what an imagination you have!”
            “Don’t lie to me. I have none.”
            “And you’re a very good liar too.”

So, tell me dear reader, do you water your garden in your nightgown and dream of love stories? I think for this book, reality imitates art, don't you think? Am I Linda Gray?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Story of the 2 Jakes

Thank you, readers, for my great launch week for Jake2. I truly appreciate your feedback and support! Loved writing this book!

Sometimes you get into a story, and it becomes deeper than you'd planned, or you get caught up in a secondary character who makes his/her appearance on stage and completely takes over the storyline for a time.

With Band of Bachelors: Jake, I had one of those occurrences.  I loved writing about this dysfunctional family and all their problems. Jake, based on a real SEAL I knew briefly, had fathered four children with three different women, not because he was a bad person, but because he couldn't say no, and wasn't careful. It didn't matter to him if sex brought him more children because he loved his children.

I know there are "norms" and I get hit with occasional comments from the Reader Police, informing me about how I've bended or broken the rules. In the words of one of my delightful writer friends, "You don't have to worry about breaking the rules, just understand the rules you are breaking." She breaks them all the time, and so do I. I think that gives variety and spice to the romance genre, and we also get to try out things that perhaps we wouldn't have been able to if we all subscribed to the same lock-step rules.

So my guy is one of those who doesn't pay attention to the seed he spawns. Okay. That still doesn't disqualify him as a hero, because he makes good on his intentions - just learns the lesson later than most. And that happens in real life, right?

So, at the end of Band of Bachelors: Jake, I already knew there had to be a Book 2. I also am aiming more toward things that could be made into TV or movie pilots, and, from talking to screenwriters and others who produce TV pilots, they usually want the same character in each episode, not different couples, like I have in the beginning of my SEAL Brotherhood Series. So, I've been testing how I could do this, and have done it now three times: with Jameson in Nashville SEALs, Fredo in Fredo's Dream, and now with Jake2.

As a writer, I try to look for new projects for me, experiments that tickle my fancy (maybe some other things too, but I won't mention them!) and keep the creative part, well, creative! In Paradise, I wrote that book in first person. In SEAL Of Time, I created a paranormal Navy SEAL, son of Poseidon, who is an immortal healer.

As a reader, you like that, right? I know as a reader of some of my favorite authors, I sure do. I love seeing new things my favorite authors can accomplish. It's like opening a new chapter on a familiar book, and discovering something you hadn't read before. Thanks for taking the journey with me!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday America! Today we remember those who went before us. I wrote a whole post on my visit to Valley Forge last year, and how moving it was for me. I loved it so much, we're planning on a military salute at the same location next August, and would love you to join us.

There are some times recently when I've forgotten how hard it was for those early freedom fighters, and the men who commanded them. Most of these men did not fare well during the Battle for Independence. But they fought for the cause of freedom. Not many of them knew this was going to be the case, but they fought and died so we could have what we have today.

It is an awesome choice we have these days: honor our tradition of fierce independence, or ignore it, scrap it all and let someone else figure it out. It is frustrating to know what is the right way to do it. How about we just agree to let them get it done and stay out of the way. We show up, we vote, and then let's have faith that our system will survive, even if, at the time, we may or may not like what's going on?

I looked at those photographs, the film that chronicled the fact that so many men died just from lack of food, or shoes. It was a cold winter that year at Valley Forge, and perhaps it would have been easier to give up. But they didn't.

We'd do well to remember that.

Here's my blog about Valley Forge from last year here.

And if you'd like to join us, here's all the information on the Salute With Love military author signing - for readers and authors alive. Help us spread the word.



And celebrate your independence, your freedom, by living the best life you can live, standing for the highest principles we can, and including everyone in our tent, but excluding those who would do us harm. And I hope you join with me in honoring those who fought so that we could have a more perfect union. I celebrate us all.

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

SATISFACTION AND GARDENING

There are lots of things that satisfy me about gardening. Here are some of my favorites.

Preparing the Soil:

Yesterday afternoon we were weeding the garden. I've planted carrots, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and lettuce in long rows, along with onions and potatoes. Every year for nearly twenty years I'd get a 10-yard dump truck load of mushroom manure from the Mushroom Farm in Petaluma. In case you don't know how much that is, it's a pile that would nearly touch the second story of a house! I'd work this into the dark clay soil one wheelbarrow at a time (and yes, my arms got sore). I usually got a sunburn on that day, and for a week afterwards, the whole yard smelled like a manure pile.

To me, it smelled like Heaven! Really! So, last night, as I was pulling these weeds, they came out so clean, the soil was so balanced and lovely, with just the right amount of moistness and nutrients, it was pure pleasure. My remaining little plants are standing straight and tall this morning. A great garden takes years in the making, because it has to start with wonderful soil.


Watering the Garden:

I've hired gardeners to help with some of the heavy labor, and help set up irrigation systems, something I've not taken the time to learn. Some day. All of them remark how they'd like to put in this system and that, to help with the watering. And they'd look at me strange when I'd tell them, "But I like the two hours a day it takes to water."

I really do. I look over the leaves as the wand spreads the wet goodness and washes away the dirt and grit, I watch as it sinks into the soil. I snip the heads off flowers while I water (I wear an apron with clippers, a small shovel, mosquito repellant, some assorted seeds for in-filling, a couple plastic plant identifiers and a permanent marker, along with some string). I replant seeds that didn't come up, or replace a plant that won't grow properly with a new seed, or bury the seeds I'm dead-heading back into the soil to create volunteers. It's the tending it takes to notice, adjust and gently coax and guide my garden into a thing of beauty.

And it very much is like writing a book.

Thinning/Pruning/Discovering:

Small shoots of cabbage and lettuces are plucked for salads. Othertimes I just thin the plants so that the ones remaining have room to grow. When your fingers work the soil so carefully and closely, you see things you would miss otherwise. Last night I discovered one of my baby praying mantis bugs. I put a larvae of them on each of two rose bushes in my garden out back. Each is supposed to harvest about 500 little mantis, who are voracious eaters of aphids and other non-beneficial bugs. Since he was crawling over the little pile of weeds, I carefully cupped my hands around his little 1/2" body and placed him back in the roses where he could find the best food. Unless I'd been on my knees doing this job, I'd have missed getting introduced to him!

Every year my garden takes on a new personality, like the books I write. Working on my hands and knees, or watching from above carefully, helps me get to know the garden that wants to reveal itself to me. Yes, I don't grow the garden. The garden grows all by itself. I just place the order of things, set the stage for the play they create all their own. It is a very magical experience for me. It's like discovering characters that fall in love, or experience hurt or happiness in my books.

Taking the Bounty:

Harvesting comes along with the changing of the seasons. Like in the Bible, the time to sow and time to harvest. When I remove something, I can replant, or put something else in its place. Or, I can let the ground rest. Like one of my favorite signs over my desk states, "My garden isn't dead. It's sleeping." Letting a garden rest is a good thing.

Eating the first fruits of my labor is always a joy. I've now had my first sunflower. My first handful of sugar peas, flat French beans and we've juiced lots of baby Chinese cabbage and bok choi plants as we've thinned the mounds. I've had a half dozen cherry tomatoes already and am on my second cycle of lettuce. We had enough small patty pan squash for dinner last night too.

And that reminds me, time to get the refrigerator cleaned out, because I'm about to become inundated with good, healthy food!


As you see, I could go on and on. There is one mindset for a flower garden. Another for a food garden. And I like to mix them together as well. I think lettuce grows well at the base of a trellis of sweet pea blossoms. Calendulas help with the moths that bring aphids and also discourage gophers. The garden changes every day, and each day it emotes different emotions as I tend, watch and enjoy seeing it transform before my eyes.

It is truly a living work of art. Hopelessly addicted. In love forever.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

What We Learn From Fathers


My father is gone, and every Father's Day I get over to his grave to leave some roses from my garden, and at Christmas I like to bring him drumsticks so he can keep playing. Dad was an engineer, and looked about as wrong as wrong could be as a drummer, with his hair fringe, and jerky motions, and the fact that he had to bite his lip and frown because he concentrated so hard on keeping up with the beat. Like everything he did, even making music was hard work. But he loved hard work. Always did and I'm sure he's working hard now.

What I learned from my father was how to survive. He was a very smart man. He did very well in school, but his childhood was marred by the fact that his own father suffered severely in World War I in battles in France, and basically came home mentally broken and eventually was sent to a state hospital until he could fight his way out. He never talked about his Dad's trials, or the fact that he had to get up at one or two in the morning to sing hymns or those Tennessee Ernie Ford songs, and that his mother got up and played piano for him. It was just a fact of life.


His father wore pajamas all day long after he came home, and wore an apron, was the chief housekeeper and cook for the family, and Dad had many tales about those days. He'd come home, throw his books in the corner, and not return until dinner, then after dinner he studied into the night. It was his way of dealing with the unknowns of living with a parent who was mentally ill for most of his life, in an environment where he didn't feel safe.

But Dad was never bitter. He loved his Dad. And as I was the oldest granddaughter, I loved him as well. Quirks, crying jags, days in the bedroom with the shades drawn and the arguments at the dinner table or the early morning songs my brother and I heard when we stayed there for a week at summer time, all seemed part of life. We took it just like my Dad did.


We were opposites in personality style. He would prepare and take copious notes. He hated to not know everything and so spent hours and hours researching thing. He once took apart our television set just because he wanted to see how it was made. He went to the dentist one time without novacaine so he could experience what that felt like. He was the perfect grandfather for my kids, even sliding down brown hills on our property on a cardboard refrigerator carton with the kids, and hitting a tree. He had to go to work the next day with a black eye. His commitment to the family was 100%.

As my mother was getting weaker from the ravages of cancer, he cut a fresh rose for her every day and brought it into her room. He took it as his job to take care of her those last 14 years of her life, and when she passed over, he was left without a job in life. Though my mother had gone, he was not ready to stop being a husband. So, at 80, my dad remarried, something none of us ever thought would happen and lived another ten years. I credit some of this to my new mom, Eunice, whom he loved with everything in his being, another testament, and another lesson to us all.


But the funniest thing I remember about Dad was a conversation we had at one of my son's soccer tournaments in Davis. He'd gotten married the previous year. My mother had been buried in a plot in the lawn of our local Memorial Park. He'd bought the plot next to her, but now that he was married again, his priorities had changed.

He asked my permission to have my mother moved to the mausoleum, where he had a spot next to her, but the two of them would rest beneath his current new wife and her deceased husband. "Sharon, when I die, I'd like to be buried next to both my wives."

I thought about it for a minute or two and then answered him this way, "I'm okay with it, Dad. But let me ask you this. Are you planning on getting married a third time?"

Forgive the use of some of these promo pictures, but they are some of my favorite father/daughter images and I thought you wouldn't mind.

Happy Fathers' Day. Hope you spoil him, or spoil him in your dreams.






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Interpreter

I have been funding part of this movie through Kickstarter. It is a project I believe very strongly in. If you want to read or listen to a very compelling story, listen to the audio book (which I recommend): Code Name Johnny Walker. It's about the Iraqi interpreter who saved so many SEAL's lives and a man whose hand I'd like to shake some day and say thank you. He was legendary for not only his dedication to the troops, the SEALs, but served at great cost to his own family. He now lives in the San Diego area, I believe.

Here's a further update on this movie, and they have just cast the lead role, announcing it today. I'm thrilled.




Tell all your friends about this wonderful project and let's all go and support it when it comes out next year. A true story that goes across religions, countries, loyalties, talks about love and family. This man loved his country and worked hard to save it. I know some day he'd like to go back and finish the job. But right now, we are lucky enough just to have been able to rescue him and hopefully keep him safe.

In my books, the interpreter is named Jackie Daniels. He appears in SEAL My Home and SEAL My Destiny, and again in True Navy Blue: Zak. All of these books are on audio.

One of the things I was most touched by was what he did on his first week back in the States. He went to McDonald's and bought his kids hamburgers and milkshakes, using real US money. And on Sundays, he likes to go to flea markets just to see what Americans discard. I'm sure when he walks up and down the stalls, those people have no idea what a giant of a man he is and was.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1833080175/the-interpreter/posts/1912122?ref=backer_project_update

Sunday, June 11, 2017

INDULGING IN READER FANDOM

It does feel good to spend time as a writer in the company of readers. It's lush and feels wonderful! One of the best things about being a writer is to know that we are an important part of avid reader's lives. It is an honor, and it also comes with it a bit of a burden, to continue to deliver content and new story lines. I'm up for the challenge!

There are lots of things we do to become visible, and I've lined out some of my concerns in my post of last Sunday here. As you know, I have some things about this whole field that trouble me greatly. But, it is the platform we have, it is the platform that has given me the ability to sell my books in the open market.

My own future direction is to stay in the vein of interest for readers, and not to artificially create it, which some forms of advertising and promotion feel like. Certain types of "fandom" experiences feel that way too. Yet, we want fans. How do we know when we've crossed the line?

I guess the readers get to choose. My attending events like this, I get to become a "person" they know, not just read. That's important. I want to be generous with my readers, but I understand I won't win them all. But they are my life blood.

I've seen first-hand how the ebb and flow of popularity can change in a year, in a few months, even in a week. The bottom line? Be ready for the long haul, and don't get attached to any temporary setback. The long haul means basking in the glow of success, as well as plodding through the mud when we get discouraged. Most readers don't understand how writers sometimes get discouraged.

I have a great life and a great family I don't get a lot of time to be with. That has concerned be a bit this year. So, I may be cutting back on my travels and appearances. I'm going to choose wisely the reader events where I get good one-on-one interaction, not just ones where I party or get drunk with readers. That's not me. My breakfast this morning, as a wrap-up to Lori Foster's event, is just perfect: with either other wonderful ladies, where we got to talk about Navy SEALs, and hopefully answer their questions about me, my books and how I write. I love talking about my experiences. I also love it when family members bring new readers or members of their family along. Those readers I will do almost anything for.

So, you may not see me at the really big conventions. Not at the crazy conventions, or the ones where they specialize in over-the-top behavior. I'm a product of my generation, and a lady, even though I do write spicy books. Am I a non-fiction writer where I give 100% accurate portrayal of what being a Navy SEAL is really like? Heck no. I'm a novelist. I take stories and situations and make them into things I would like to read. I embellish! Some are based on true events, but most of them are my active imagination! And I think that's what's wanted and needed.

So, I go home to California tonight, thinking about getting into the next book to finish, spend time in my garden (some rescue will no doubt be needed, but not making anyone wrong for that), and some personal reflection time on what I want to do going forward. I know that I have some things I can assist my family in financially, and will be cutting away at other things so I can be a better contributor. It no longer is okay for me not to be available, or be traveling so much. Life is short and the grands grow up, and I want to be a part of all that.

So, it's balance I'm seeking. I have a good life. I'm taking care of my health. I'm blessed with a wonderful family and have been very successful in all the businesses we've had. Part of doing something for me is not only being a romance writer, but being a better wife, mother and grandmother, and perhaps have some time for friendships. I've neglected some of these in the past, and that's something I'm going to focus on most of all.

It's always good every once in awhile to get off the treadmill and make sure that my goals and dreams are all aligned with what the rest of the family wants and needs. And then, of course, I can add that extra bit of sparkle and fantasy. My rose colored glasses are still firmly in place. But those glasses have given me far more in real life results than a magnifying glass ever could. It's a balance of both worlds.

And I hope you'll continue to join me there.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Conversation About Doing Something

As writers, we use social media to spread the word about our books and find other writers and fans who have the same interests as ourselves. We are, unfortunately, tied to it. People sell services, claiming to have the answer. Seminars are created and money is sometimes well spent, but most of the time it is wasted.

Now I'm beginning to rethink my strategy. It's all a guessing game, fueled by money and power, and I have to say, greed. Our social media providers are making tons of money, bleeding off our hard-earned dollars, controlling more and more what gets seen, shared and promoted. We have to buy ads to be visible, so it actually pays to make people invisible. We stand in line like lemmings to try to learn the "secrets", when there are none. Who cares about being "visible" when the cost is greater than the gain?

Hard to play in this field when the rules have been kept from you. Or you have to throw a ton of money at things and learn by trial and error. I know because I've been unfortunately the victim of some of this.

I'm starting to not be okay with that. At some point, when can these big social behemoths start taking responsibility for our losses? Losses of money but also now losses of life. These same social media "partners" of ours are used to spread hatred and help train people who would destroy free and open peoples everywhere. And I find it on both sides of every political spectrum.

So, when do I begin to consider myself part of the problem if I don't start to stand up and object?

It's just a conversation. But I'm wondering at what point does it make sense to earn a living where I have to use the very services that are used to enslave and hurt people? Free speech is supposed to be open and honest, but doesn't mean people have the right to shut others up. I am ashamed of some bad behavior and hysteria dividing us. I'm ashamed of the fact that I have to keep my mouth shut too much of the time to satisfy someone else's idea of PC thinking. Violence, disguised as protests, is still violence. Let's call it for what it is. Taking away someone's right to speak is still stealing from someone else in the name of "correct think."

It will never get better until people begin to question and speak out about these things, and endure the brunt of the criticism leveled against us. I want to be part of the solution, not aiding part of the problem. I'm listening, Facebook, Twitter and so many others. What role will you play, or are you going to just continue to take our money and laugh all the way to the bank?

It is a difficult conversation. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't start being had. If we don't start asking, perhaps we will never really be free. Perhaps those rights will be taken from us. We will be told how to think, how to act and how to not offend. If we do it often enough, we might forget as a people the days when free thought and being responsible humans prevailed. When we could disagree but not resort to violence or be so small in our thinking that we have to cut off anyone else's opinion?

We might forget what it feels like to be free. And yes, that means sometimes we'll have to fight to defend it. Freedom is precious. But it can be so easily taken away. I don't want to live in a world like that.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day - Hearing the Flags Wave

Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning the first time my son was deployed overseas. We weren't told where he was going, when he'd be back, and, because of the outpost he would be sent to, communication would be nil.

I found great comfort walking the paths at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, seeing all the beautiful flags posted by the local Boy Scouts on the grave of every veteran. I watched as the newly interred were honored, their families given a folded flag, and a salute from an the Officer doing the officiating that day. One of my friends had lost his son just a few days before. His grave was still covered in flowers and wreaths.

We had protestors too that day, with their nasty signs inappropriately displayed, written comments meant to send distress to this young warrior's parents. If it wasn't for the beefy bikers who do the angel runs, picking up the coffins from San Francisco and escorting them up Highway 101 in a solemn parade of pride, the parents might have seen the disgusting message. I was glad they did not.

Just like every other mother who sends her son off to war, I thought about how I would act if it was suddenly my turn to show up at a ceremony like this. I hoped I never would. And so far, he's been safe.

When my son decided to serve, I admit trying to talk him out of it. That was the job for someone else's boy to do. I even harbored the thoughts that perhaps his talents in sports and leadership would be wasted on a battlefield. What parent hasn't thought the same. I'm not proud of it.

But as he stood steadfast, unwavering, waiting for me to come around, I saw in him not the boy I raised but a man who wanted to serve. I didn't want to take that away from him. And so I honored him with his decision, by deciding then and there, I'd be a willing participant and serve alongside him. I would support him as best I could.


It is an incredible thing to put on a uniform and selflessly serve a nation or an administration that you don't always agree with. But regardless of politics, background, race or religion, the military man or woman serves by setting aside their today for our tomorrow. We can be sad about the ones who don't come home. But they'd want us to live our lives and be grateful for the freedoms we have.

And to remember, not just on Memorial Day, or R.E.D. Fridays, but every day. With all the turmoil and nastiness out there today, it is truly a miracle, washed in the blood of those who have sacrificed, that we get to live the life we have.

May your grateful nation always remember you, veterans in peacetime and in war. And say thank you for your gift of freedom.

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.