Sunday, August 14, 2016

DISNEY AND WRITING ROMANCE - I am Alice in Wonderland

When I was little, my parents gave me a record player with one red button on it. The arm was red, and the volume control was on the right side. It played a number of 45 rpm records such as Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and others. The machine, like the one pictured here, had Alice in Wonderland characters painted on it.

This may very well be the exact machine I used to listen to those many many years ago. I was about 3. We had a large house in Oakland, California, and the upstairs had three bedrooms and two attic doors. We later had boarders, "the grandmothers" who helped my parents with expenses. But for a long time, I was alone in the entire top floor of this old home. My fantasy life bloomed into something so strong, I know it will always be with me forever.

We raise our kids on all sorts of stories now, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and others. But back then, I think the very first records for children were fantasy love stories I listened to over and over again.

Alice In Wonderland is celebrating it's 65th anniversary this year. Perhaps that's why this RCA Victor record player had those characters. But my 3 year old mind and heart was stolen by the fantasy of true love. It has been something I carry with me to this day. I can still hear the songs, the music and the voices. I see the dancing. The idea of finding my handsome prince and dancing off in the moonlight is a vision for my generation that will thrill me until the day I take my last breath. I'll sail off to that other world, and hope to meet every one of my fantasy men, who will of course greet me like the queen of romance I am!

We've just spent a week in Orlando at Disney World. Children and adults from all different cultures and races can relate to the magic of family, of love, of finding a place that is safe and wonderful, and, for a few hours, forget the cares of the world and just explore their own childhood. John Lennon's words come to me, "Imagine all the people..." and I saw evidence that people could stand side by side when they have at least one thing in common. We don't ask what we don't share. We live by the things we do share in common.

I guess I could call Disney World and Disneyland (my home turf) my Mecca of sorts. We bring the grandchildren there to share with them what we shared with our kids. Our kids share their love of fantasy with their own children. It's an indescribably wonderful way to spend a few days together, memories that will last a lifetime. Because we never know when we'll be separated.

I once talked to a partner of Disney who said WD had taken his daughters to a park and found the merry-go-round animals had chipped paint and some of them didn't work. He vowed that when he built Disneyland, "It will be a place with no chipped paint and everything works." His legacy lives on.

My worlds are internal. I am the stoker of the fire. I plant the seed and the reader takes that and grows it into a fantasy of their own choosing. Maybe I am the cage around the tomato plant, that keeps it from falling over. I losely guide the reader here and there, like a painting instead of a photograph. This is fiction. Blurry, fuzzy fiction, with enough grit, heartache and emotion to make it just real enough to ask the reader to come along on the ride.

Aside from trends, the writer in me knows I have to keep it fresh, and unlike other authors. My voice has to be unique. I have to weave universal themes such as true love, love heals, love conquers, and love everlasting. I'm not a billion dollar business (yet), but I'm inspired by the world building and that little touch of magic Disney has given me. I'm grateful my childhood was the way it was, every part of it, even the parts that weren't so much fun.

How lucky I am.  I create the fairy tale of the ball, the handsome prince, and the big beautiful blue dancing gown. Oh yes, and the promise of Happily Ever After.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

NASHVILLE - MY HEART TOOK A DETOUR

Many of you know my narrator, J.D. Hart, has become my best friend. But there was a day when we first met in person. Now, this man has read my most intimate sex scenes, and lived the ups and downs of a writer who wants to become more and more successful. It's a bumpy road, and with already a lot of things on my plate, I decided to jump into the world of audio books. We started working together and I think after five or six books, I had the opportunity to come to Nashville for a conference, and meet him for the first time.

Talk about butterflies! 


I stayed at the old Union Station Hotel, right downtown. J.D. came to meet me that evening I arrived. I must have changed my clothes three times. All sorts of things went through my head, like, what if I just can't stand the guy? What if he can't stand me? How will this affect our working relationship going forward?

We met, and OMG, I was shaking like a leaf. We went on a carriage ride down Broadway, while he pointed out all the joints that were famous, listened to the music floating everywhere and had a wonderful crab dinner.



Next day he took me on a tour of places that were meaningful to him - these were all things I'd asked him to show me. We saw where he first lived when he came to town as a young songwriter, where he wrote music, where other famous stars had lived, or performed for the first time. I got to meet his lovely wife, Cherokee, and have dinner at the Grand Ole Opry We went to a Country Diner taping at Northstar Studios, where I personally met Roy Clark, Larry Gatlin and others.  

That was nearly two years ago and our friendship is stronger than ever. Our audio book production tops 24 now. He has become a character now in my books, because the books are seen through his eyes, as he tells the story according to his interpretation.

This talented actor, singer-songwriter, voice over artist and now narrator has done for me what no one else has ever done: take my stories and turn them into additional works of art.

As he told me about his many stories, I asked permission to write a story based on him as a character. So, Nashville SEAL, the novella came out last year as a Christmas present to my readers and you guys loved it. We then recorded the audio book and it was in high demand, still is. J.D. sings in this audio book some original works he performed years ago. Book 2, which is to be released tomorrow, is Nashville SEAL: Jameson. It is the ongoing story of this young CW star who marries Lizzie, and who goes on his first deployment with SEAL Team 3.


My SEALs are buying a vineyard and will be expanded into Wine Country as a theme in upcoming books. Since most SEALs don't stay in 20 years like perhaps other branches of the military, some of your favorites, like Nick, Zak, and others, will find their way to Sonoma County to get into the wine and beer business. Oh yes, they'll have Frog Piss beer, and it will be green.


More will follow in upcoming stories, but I hope you'll read along with me as we continue to tell the stories of young brave warriors who change, take different life choices, fine the women of their dreams, and still remain in a very tight community as they raise their children. I plan to have other authors write in this Wine Country world as well. More about that later!

Enjoy Nashville SEAL: Jameson!! You'll get to hear J.D. sing again...I promise you'll love it.

Join us on Monday for the big release party. We know how to party! Link here.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Strawberry candles, fresh corn from the garden and seeking choices, not harmony

I've been reading those little books again. None of my favorite shows are on TV these days and I've watched everything I want to that's streaming. I'm having a productive summer writing. My garden is doing well. This morning I harvested the first of my corn.

My mother used to talk about how in the midwest they'd say "knee high by the 4th of July" and I always think of that when I look at my corn. I just planted some new starts this weekend, so in California, it's a bit different. But the promise of "knee high" gives me hope that even though my garden isn't perfectly manicured, I'll have corn. And I do!

I bought a big strawberry candle at Mollie Stone's market in Palo Alto when I was there for the reunion party, then found it online and cheaper, of course. I enjoy that fleeting strawberry scent which is perfect for summertime daydreaming, or writing, or whatever. Candles and music are big for me, as is the ambience of place, so I can get into the rhythm of the story. I'm listening to Jim Wilson and Ludovico Einaudi almost non-stop.

I've said before that a story is like a patchwork quilt, made up of different colors and patterns, like the characters in the book and the past and emotions they bring to the story. If everything was "perfect" from the beginning, we'd soon lose interest. I do like to show some perfect things all throughout my books, but I want to show how close to a precipice the perfect, or order of my character's lives is. How easily it can fall away, be neglected, or ignored intentionally for other pressures.

So is it harmony we seek? I know my readers love the Happily Ever After, and I will deliver that every time without fail, or I can't call myself a romance writer. But worshiping the hero or heroine is worshiping the choices they ultimately make. This holds true whether we are talking about a good crime fiction, romantic suspense or inspirational romance. We celebrate the choices that are made, showing the change in the character from the beginning of the book. We show how he or she has learned something new.

I learn something new as an author with each book. I have my doubts sometimes at the beginning or in the middle (they call it the soggy middle for good reason), like I think everyone does. Of course, I keep those to myself, until the story "gels" for me, and that's when I feel the movement of my soul, pouring it out there for all to see, and hopefully enjoy. As a writer, I go through that change just like my characters do.

So creating art is a process, but it's also a practice. Loving is a practice. Marriage is a practice. Being a good friend is a practice. And writing a bestseller is definitely a practice we get better and better with each book we write. We turn our doubts, our chaos, our many parts of the story into a beautiful quilt of emotion and theme, just as we practice patience and allow all those chaotic parts to come inside us.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

I have a good excuse for why this Sundays With Sharon is late. But I don't want to tell you! I'm becoming a nocturnal writer. I understand now those who are with their families during the day and then command the night to write. I have come full circle. I am one of those now.

Our tour of San Diego took us to one of the several SEAL bars (the touristy one) in SanDiego, run by a former SEAL. I make it a habit of not naming real places, so if I want to change them later, I can. That way I don't get lashed by the fact police. So, I won't tell you the name of the bar we hung out at with our little group of Coronado touristas.


The book I'm finishing now, has a beautiful sex scene before and after the arrival at the Waterwheel Inn, which is a favorite place my SEALs like to go. It is filled with romance. It just seems like the place to fall in love. It's where my SEALs spend a week's salary to take their ladies on a special night. The real name of the Inn is the Kenwood Inn. I say this because they want the publicity, and my son works there so it's good for him too.

I've used the lobby of this place in several books. It's also in one unfinished book, Be With Me, where my heroine places her palms against the glass of a case and the old pen that was once held by the strange man coming to her in her dreams rolls toward the glass all by itself. And then later she sees him looking up at her. He's standing in the mists of the azure pool at midnight, by full moon, and she is being pleasured by her then-partner, who stands behind her and does not see the vision. She will travel across space and time to find him because she instantly knows he's the love of her life.

The image of that scene is so stamped on my brain, I think it might be the last thing I think of when I finally close my eyes at the end of my days. Life was one way. My fantasy life was another way. Did I ever get there? Only time will tell.

So, when I sat at the Scupper in San Diego, I felt my SEAL Team 3 guys sitting in the corner, watching a ball game on one of the big screen TVs, or outside by the firepit watching the little hotties walk past. Fiction makes real what was formally unreal.

I bought challenge coins on the strand. I ate an ice cream like so many of my SEALs do. I put myself in my story, so I could write it from the inside out. And yes, fiercely. Because what I'm describing are not the facts, but the feeling about what it's like to be one of my characters so I can be inside their skin when I write their dialog. So I can feel like I'm on my honeymoon again, in a place where a mysterious man comes to me and I fall in love all over again, just in time for the next book.

Life is pretty darned good.




Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Little Brother Retires!

My little brother, after years of commuting from Petaluma to the City and beyond, is retiring. I'm so happy for him, for his roses, his garden, his lovely wife and his beautiful daughter. They will finally get to spend more time with this wonderful man.

Would you believe in all the years growing up and even now, we have never argued? I mean, not once! Considering how I seem to get into it with other family members from time to time - not often - but I speak my mind - we've never had a cross word. I don't know how that happened, but nothing was important enough to blow our friendship over.

Getting up to Roseville was a long 2+ hour drive in nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic. And coming home was no different. My husband drove 5 hours total yesterday, but it was so worth it. I left my purse there, but luckily my daughter will return it to me today.

Darrell has lots of things he wants to do with his time - volunteer work and things he's never had time for until now.

Will I ever retire? I laugh to think my YOUNGER brother is retiring. Do any of us ever really retire? I don't think so. Not if we have a long, loving and family or friend-filled life. Not if we do the things of our heart and soul. Not if we bring value and love to other people's lives.

Our parents are gone, but I think the spirit of their love and support was there yesterday. We shared many memories of family events from the past, and many of the cousins and relatives from nearby, some driving greater distances, shared in the celebration. We miss those gone, but we celebrate life and life's changes.


Oh yes, and I got to pass out some bookmarks. Like I said, I don't think I'll ever retire. And that's a good thing, right?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

CELEBRATING FREEDOM In All Its Forms

I'm reading a great new book co-written by one of my favorite authors, Laura Kaye, also known as Laura Kamoie for her historical books, America's First Daughter. It is so fitting that this weekend, as we celebrate our nation's independence, that we review some events that took place in the lives of key players at the birth of this new nation. This book is about Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Patsy, and her relationship with her mother, her father, and the woman who was her blood relative who also became Jefferson's lover, bearing several children for him, and remained at his side until his death, Sally Hemmings.

I have said over and over again the truth is stranger than fiction, and this story is no exception to that. The two authors researched over 18,000 personal letters written to and from Jefferson, and gives us a good glimpse of what it was like to live during those dangerous times. The details of their circumstances and the closeness between Mrs. Jefferson, and the slaves she "owned", inherited from her father, all the while recognizing that some of them were her half-siblings, shows what a remarkable woman she was. Her daughter, Patsy, would come to know the playmate she had as a child, rumored to be her relative as well, become her father's long companion after her mother's death. To say this very public and important family had issues and secrets, is putting it mildly. The story, as told by the daughter, Patsy, is so riveting it plays like a movie and I forget where I am while reading it.

While I can't begin to write a historical novel, I was first drawn to the book because I have a futuristic novel I'm currently working on, involving a direct descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. There are similar themes, such as the concept of Freedom, the price and meaning of Independence, and the true definition of Liberty. And yes, that's all you're gonna get today. You'll be seeing some excerpts in the coming weeks and months when I'm ready to finish it. My tenative title, while I work on the story, is Free To Love.

They say circumstances don't make a man, they reveal a man. What I enjoy reading, and writing, are stories that acquaint us intimately with characters who make decisions in a hopelessly flawed and dangerous timeline. Moral absolutes become sometimes life-threatening and compromised. Often the decisions are between the lesser of two evils than the difference between a shining star and a grease stain. I love the rich conflict of this story, and hope that some of that will rub off into mine.

America's First Daughter helps me understand how precious our freedoms are, and appreciate the costs others who came before had to pay for that freedom I enjoy today.

Remember, evil exists when good men do nothing. If good men did nothing, we might still be a colony, struggling under the yoke of a controlling empire. Or, we might all be speaking German. Maybe with all the events happening this July 4th weekend, we would do well to remember that.

They say freedom isn't free. Are you willing to pay the price? Some of us may have to. And some of us are innocents, but just like those who lived and died during the times of our young struggling nation. Not just soldiers paid the price. Their families and loved ones did too. And in the end, it was worth it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

FALL IN LOVE WITH AS MANY THINGS AS POSSIBLE

I admit to being somewhat of a tee shirt junkie. But it's also my uniform. I should hang them in my closet on hangers, instead of folding them, and get rid of some of the St. John suits and jackets I'll probably never wear again. Letting go is hard for me. St. John has been replaced with tee shirts.

This one spoke to me, and if I'm not careful, I'll be buying everything in their online catalog. You know me already: 100 Koi, 60 Chickens. I'm a collector of things, not only stories.

So last night was so wonderful, attending my 50th high school reunion. Palo Alto was not the town it is today. It has grown, and in the maturing process, I'm glad to see some are still holding warmly like an old teddy, the roots that made it so magical. We were a collection of kids from differing backgrounds, able to come together and share our commonness, politely and with respect. Can you believe I never heard a word of politics? And we had a Congresswoman there! How refreshing!

They even warmly welcomed this smut author! What a treat for me. I actually had been a little apprehensive of it. Now I wonder why.

Funny how life's importance changes through the years. Not about what we do, but what we've experienced. What we've loved. We loved living here. We love being from here. I could live here again, but then, I say that every place I visit, don't I?

Do I regret there is no longer a way to have a little bungalow somewhere near downtown Palo Alto so I could dip into that familiar pool, have stimulating conversations and perhaps re-experience what a magical place it was growing up?

I regret my children didn't have this experience like I did. Maybe it was the year, the times, and a whole host of magical things converging to make it so. Maybe it was us. Maybe it was fate that so many leaders and great people came from this group. So many of us have changed people's lives, and still live to tell stories about the process and enjoy the prospects for a bright future.

I go home filled up. My tank being nourished from the completion of my last audio book, Band of Bachelors: Alex, and spending time with my best friend, J.D. Hart. Maybe it's from spending time with people who understand who I was then, and who I am now. (Not everything, but enough so that I feel appreciated). How special to reminisce about wearing 3 pairs of stockings we got for .33 each in those little blue boxes, so many that our garter belts sometimes flipped open when we walked down the hallways.

And like a true romance novelist, I want to know who they loved, what moved them, and what they are looking forward to. Not what is gone.

Life happens when we are making other plans. John Lennon is credited with this quote, and I think it's the wisest thing he's said.

If I could, would I move back? Or, would I take up another adventure, perhaps living on a beach in English Bay on Antigua where I'd have to take a motor ferry to get to my cottage? I think I'd choose the latter.


There is still so much for me to explore, but at the same time, it's so nice to feel like I've come home.

Yesterday was like that for me. What about you?