Carnival Rides

merry go round2016 has been a Carousel ride for me that will obviously be research for future stories.  A big challenge was when Ed had to cut through four inches of concrete of our bathroom floor. We could not find anyone willing to do the job for him, not even locals who work for beer money. Lots of yucky details unlikely to show up in any future novels, but it was a turning point for our construction project. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime project since March and may be usable living space in another month or two.

A high point was attending the Historical Romance Reader Retreat!  Check out the Gallery of pictures to see the gowns, the hats, authentic historic games and coins, high tea, grand ball, and glorious setting. The movie was The Law and the Lady and it was great for more reasons than watching Fernando Lamas on horseback. And of course there were Books and Authors!

In July I joined the local Aquatic Center and the swimming, water yoga and weight-training, has significantly improved my health and mobility. I also began reading Jane Austen books for the first time and these two additions to my time and psyche have helped me endure the drama of this election process between HRC and DT.

On election night, my sisters and I were vacationing at the Oregon Garden Resort, we all voted early, and it was good to be together for such a historic event. I’m sure there will be political drama and turbulent news up to and even after the new president takes the oath of office in January but I’m going to trust that America is great.

There have been many surprises and shifts so far this year to many of my family and friends, and some were nasty but opened doors to brighter futures. We will hope for the best and I’m going to make brownies for our Thanksgiving party.

Celebrate the Carousel!

Wedding Reviews

Tis time for fun memories.  Most of you know I study romantic comedies from classics like, “When Harry Met Sally” to recent one’s like “The Big Wedding” and whatever catches my attention.

In decades past, romance novels were practically required to have a Happily Ever After ending often portrayed as a wedding. Fortunately the stories have changed as readers’ expectations are not always favorable toward weddings. Actually, sometimes weddings are the worst! Drama! Emotions running wild! Even when everything goes great there are layers of stories behind the photos. So for your amusement I’m sharing tidbits of three weddings from the past decade when I was the mother-of-the-bride.

The Big Wedding was the most recent.  The father of the groom is a wealthy businessman with two sons and he wanted an EVENT so he paid for doubling the guest list in addition to an excessive amount of booze. The bridesmaids all loved their dresses but looking past the royal blue for the day, one woman is a CPA, another a LMT, one blond is a bank loan manager the other a beauty consultant. There’s also an optician, a cupcake baker, and a HR manager.  The men represent a broad flavor of careers from minister to stock broker, computer sales, food services, construction, and more.  The bridal party also included two flower girls, a ring bearer, and a junior bridesmaid who escorted the dog.

Adding to the story of this (above) picture, one woman is newly pregnant and kept it secret until stripping out of her dress after the pictures were done so she could breathe. Sadly, the groom’s beloved grandfather died only weeks before this event but there was a tribute shrine and tearful toasts to him at the reception.

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The Outdoor/Theme Wedding happened on a Tuesday afternoon so the bride and groom could always celebrate their anniversary on the Summer Solstice. Men In Kilts! The men were all part of a competitive band in their younger days. Though this was a tight budget affair, the groom is also a professional chef so the food was outstanding. The location included a large pond with pedal boats and the bride did pedal around the pond in her wedding gown.  They had originally planned to wed in a rustic campground in the mountains but the roads were washed out during the winter and a new location had to be found three months before the day, and it was so much better! Guests came to Oregon from Ohio and Alaska and it was the only sunny day during the entire month of June.

The Small Wedding was the first for our family and riddled with drama; recent funerals, uninvited guests, emotional issues! Fortunately the actual event was delightful and everyone had a great time.  Even now, ten years later, we still cringe at some of the memories. The main story worth repeating about this event is that after the honeymoon the groom had a growth on his neck checked then immediately began treatment for aggressive lymphoma. Yes, he survived and has been cancer free since, they are still thriving and darling together.

It is impossible for me to look at a wedding photo and not wonder about all the stories behind the smiles. As big a deal as a wedding might be as a “rite of passage” event in our journey through life, it’s really just a party and not a HEA. The marriage deserves the celebration but it’s not an ending in any way, it’s the beginning of a grand adventure.

This is why I love reading and writing romance novels, and the requirement of studying romantic comedy films. Love happens all around us and the stories are limitless and unique!

Renovation

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Mercury is in a retrograde season, as are Mars and Saturn. This is a nudge from the planets to review, research, rewind, renew, and the “re” word-of-your-choice.

The rocks Ed is standing on with our dog and 7-yr-old grandson are only accessible during low tide. This image is how I feel about retro energy as it reminds us to go-with-the-flow. We have the opportunity to look beneath the waves and know there is both a solid foundation and sandy streams that are often hidden with the currents.

Natures rhythms are not something to fear unless they include earthquakes, hurricanes, eruptions, bolts, and turbulence. These phases are reminders to communicate clearly, relax, and be aware that all actions have a reaction. Sometimes it’s a boomerang reaction, sometimes it’s delayed, but if you inhale you need to exhale and I always recommend doing both.

Renovation has been the theme of my life for the past year and we are in the process of the building a small home, the one we debated and dithered about for six years because we couldn’t picture what to build. It was like a blank canvas (actually a plot of scrub grass) and we only had a clear vision of needing a flush toilet and a large metal building to store the toys of my family for summer camp outs. Now we are creating a nice living space to be comfortable in all seasons. Alas, we now have to remove that flush toilet and cut through four inches of concrete to correct the drainage. This is another example of retrograde energy – deconstruct and rebuild.

I’ve learned to appreciate pause and review retrograde seasons, though this one has a strong “spinning wheels” flavor. That term was coined about fifty years ago because the cars were designed so if you had one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake the tires would spin and burn a lot of rubber, going nowhere. While I am spinning my wheels I can look around and see that I am creating a fun future I would never have dreamed of, despite the sewage issues.

I’ve heard a few people state they are “living the dream” yet the sarcasm is strong when they say it. I don’t understand the appeal of chasing dreams when creating something is tangible and vibrant. Now I’ll close with the nasty RE word, responsibility. It is required. Be responsible for your happiness, your life. Creating because of a dream requires actions and often – renovations.

Love in the Movies

Robbie's 2nd Birthday party!

Robbie’s 2nd Birthday party!

A few years ago I discovered our local Good Will store has a few shelves of DVD’s in their book section. I found some great movies to entertain my grandchildren when they were babies. Now I check those shelves monthly because I am building my library of feature films, comedies, and romances from the 1990’s and 2000’s. During an all day Story Mastery workshop a few years ago, Michael Hauge stated that Hollywood doesn’t make good romantic comedies anymore. I think I understand what he meant then. Studying classic movies is a great distraction from the current political news.

In my opinion, this current election season in America is being watched and analyzed by a lot of very smart people, especially college students, around the world. If you want a lighter side look – Mike Rowe gave a great recap in his “That’s Debatable” article earlier this month. If you don’t know Mike from the show Dirty Jobs, you may recognize his voice as the narrator for a few adventure shows on the Discovery Channel.

No matter who moves into the oval office in 2017, I expect that escapist fiction with uplifting endings will still be sought for entertainment. It amuses me that The Donald and Ivana Trump had separate cameo appearances as themselves in what are now classic comedies from the early 1990’s. A wonderful movie released in 2008 features the Clinton campaign of 1992, and beyond. I may not comprehend politics while it is in process but it does shape our lifestyle and history even in romantic comedies, and especially when the Tom Hanks character states he hasn’t been in the dating game since Jimmy Carter was president.

I don’t remember if I ever viewed a full uncut version of “Sleepless in Seattle” until a few months ago when I found a 10th Anniversary Edition for three dollars.  In the special features is a commentary by the director Nora Ephrom and her sister, Deliah, as they reminisce about writing and filming the movie as they watch it together ten years later. They don’t discuss plot-points or bloopers but how maps and magic were themes; and the importance of having action buttons to end a scene. They chatted about the color palette and specific use of red and how it was limited until a certain point in the story, and that Nora hates royal blue and seldom has any blue in her movies.

One comment Deliah made during the commentary of “Sleepless” is that we watch these romantic stories to fall in love again. We only fall in love once and go to the movies to recapture those feelings through experiencing others falling in love even though we know it is “love in the movies” and not love in reality.  I can relate to that concept personally. I specifically relate to romantic comedies when they include ensemble casts and I am fascinated when the settings are a character on their own, like how the Ephrom sisters include NYC as edgy and dynamic flavor for the story.

I was scanning through news headlines last week and noticed a tiny item relating to Nora Ephrom and that one of her sons has completed a documentary about her life and works. This was a delightful confirmation that learning about Love in the Movies is worth my attention.

Rite of Passage

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My book and swag displayed at a cocktail reception.

This shortest month of the year, even with an extra day, has been flavored with activities sort of like it’s after graduation and I’m now doing the new career among my Romancelandia peers. The first event was getting seven romance novels to read and judge for the RITA awards which are presented like the OSCAR but for romance novels.

The second event was being on display as a romance novelist for a public event sponsored by my RCRW chapter. Both of these events activated my inner giggles while also requiring my time and effort to meet deadlines specific to my books and career.

As a contest judge, it was my duty to read some of the latest romance novels in my genre by unknown to me authors. Five of them were a thrill to read. There may be some networking with those authors in the future as I work forward on my WIPs. The arrival of these novels also made me reconnect with the local used bookstore that operates on an exchange credit and discount program. Instead of donating novels to the library, that has limited shelf space for genre fiction, local Paperback Exchange stores are great for readers to find new authors.

bus cards 001As I prepared for my first promotions in Romancelandia I wanted to do a give-away for readers and wandered around a local craft store. I decided to dress up my business cards with a pair of earrings. The front of these cards has my name, photo, tagline and website. The back has the cover of my novel and email which is what a potential reader needs as this wasn’t a book selling event. Fortunately my sister makes jewelry so I was confident she’d show me how to do it, except she ended up just making them herself. What do you think?

I’m really having fun with this promotional aspect of my career, and handing out books, and having readers ask for when they can get my next one. I promise, they are in process.

Mom’s Day

This sat on Mom's counters in the back room where she spent more of her days.

This sat on Mom’s counters in the back room where she spent more of her days.

We still honor my Mom’s Birthday every Feb 1st because her energy is still very much a part of who we are and we believe she likes it. In the first years, the celebration mirrored many during her life with us getting together for a spaghetti dinner and apple pie. Then we realized instead of a big party, Mom would rather we do something special for ourselves in her honor.

On Feb 1st, 2010, I already had a website and a blog but that morning I felt it was time to become an author-business, instead of a writing hobby, so I submitted forms to the state online. My sister and I wondered when it would be official then, less than two hours later, I got the confirmation with a DBA registry number and everything.

In 2013, I delayed signing my first publishing contract for my debut novel for two days so it was dated Feb 1st. By my birthday that May I was already negotiating the publishing contract for the AM101 marketing workbook with my partner. Both books were released a week apart in September.

In recent months I’ve been proactive with my writing projects and business strategies. This will enable me to present my diverse projects into one brand for a new website and future promotions as these projects turn into books. My only plan today was to upgrade my cell phone to a smart phone.

However, Mom added her touch today. Mainly our eldest daughter had a great change of plans happen – long story but she knew it was because of Feb 1st. For me, the RWR (Romance Writers Report) magazine arrived today and I’m in the list for my debut novel, and as officially a PAN member (the RWA Published Author Network) which is pretty cool.

Welcome to 2016

Grandpa introducing Kiernan to the Mars Rover - and lots of other aviation and space history.

Ed introducing Kiernan to the Mars Rover – and lots of other aviation and space history.

The word is out in a variety of forecasts and predictions that 2016 is the year of the Fire Monkey and resonates to the number 9. Nine is associated to completion/ending of a cycle or pattern so something new can begin.

Celebrity deaths have been in the news this past week but that is not a representation of how this nine energy could affect your life. Assuming 9 = death is self-defeating. Instead consider your personal past and choices or changes that framed your life during 2007, and 1998, as years that also resonated to the number 9. There were big shifts in our family lifestyle and careers in both of those years.

1998 was our first year in Oregon after our move from New Jersey so may seem to be the beginning of a cycle. But in looking back it was the year we attempted to recreate our former lifestyle of corporate weekdays and adherence to the school calendar, with sporadic family adventures. It was a very reactionary year as lots of stuff made us let go of the old, adapt to the new, and eventually begin routines that did not resemble anything we’d envisioned.

2007 began with Ed’s career change of no more travel and working from home. Again there was a lot of reactionary actions as nothing was falling into place, until we released expectations and learned to go with the flow. So – looking back does help make us become attuned and a bit forewarned.

Recent events have brought some dramatic endings and new beginnings which makes it more obvious that this is the year to toss that luggage with the broken wheel/zipper/handle so we are required to buy new at the start of an adventure.

My experience is that nine/completion/ending energy is often a wild ride so just get-it-done. Dreaming or wishing for those ‘good-ole-days’ or for when ‘things-calm’ will just make it harder. Expect to react calmly as things happen, then go with the flow and look at what ever is over as what needs to be released. Because…

2016 will resonate to the energy of a Red Fire Monkey! Who is thrilled with the image of swinging from the trees this summer? I am and will up my exercise regime now so I’m ready to play Tarzan.

Consider that the 2015 energy was the Wooden Sheep, and 2014 was the Wooden Horse. That means the energy for 2017 with a new president leading the USA will be a Fire Rooster. Hmm, this is one reason I don’t attempt to understand politics.

“Monkey is a smart, naughty, wily and vigilant animal.”

Which candidate for president does that describe? I expect the political shenanigans will continue and I hope it’s not an explosive transition as the wooden sheep becomes a fire monkey.

Happy New Year!

Holidays

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We now have a tiny tree that sets on a table and the angel is too big for the fake branches on top.

Our Christmas decorations and activities are now festive touches for just the two of us. When the girls were young, and we hosted holiday events in our home, it was a big deal to add sparkle to every room. I even had embroidered red and green hand towels for the bathroom.

We used a tablecloth that was decorated with poinsettias, eventually it became the skirt under the tree to cover the stand.

Oregon is getting drenched, flooded, and the winds were wild last week. Snow is piling in the mountains and ski resorts and more storms are forecast. At present, our Jack Russell is the most affected because she’s wrapped in a towel after every venture outside. We’re not sure if she dislikes towels or if she is playing an escape and tug game.

Arkkadde

We added another “D” to her name as “Arkkadde” was created from our grandchildren initials and Declan was born in September. It’s pronounced like “arcade” though many think we are saying “Our Kady.”

We still wonder about the first two years of her life before we brought her home. Now that she’s been here a year her personality is much more lively and she’s taken ownership of us and her home. She doesn’t cower or quiver much anymore and is as happy to have her jacket put on for walks as she liked getting fit into her life jacket during our summer activities. The local groomer, who trims Arkkadde’s claws, is amused and pleased at how much more lively and friendly this little dog has become.

While our weather is nasty here, and two of our daughters had flooding challenges during work commutes, all is well for us and we are grateful. We’re grateful for day-to-day stuff while being aware that our crappiest days could be nirvana to many.

Knowing that many on this planet would consider my worst days as dreams come true days, is a rather fascinating exercise to figure out how to make that happen. In fiction, at least….

I met The Bloggess

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Jenny and me! As she autographed her new book – Powell’s 11/14/2015

I found The Bloggess shortly after I started blogging in 2009. I was looking around this online world to see if it was a venue for me that would benefit my writing. I wanted to see what established bloggers posted.

Jenny Lawson as The Bloggess was wild, ribald, and ridiculous. I was hooked on her voice and in awe of her persona. Her topics are cringe worthy reading that produce guffaws more than snickers, and dozens to hundreds of comments by her followers were almost as good as the posts. I seldom made a comment as I couldn’t add to or improve on anything already in the threads.

Two years ago I featured her and her memoir in the Author Marketing 101 article on nonfiction personas.  Last year I featured Let’s Pretend This Never Happened on my blog.  In April this year, I shared her Bravery by any other name  post on Facebook.

So it was a really big deal for me to spend hours at the Powell’s Jenny Lawson event last night, it’s been on my calendar for months. I would be there no matter what life tossed in my way. And it was Great! A true Fan Girl experience.  And I have the picture to prove it!

However, as much as I admire Jenny as an author and businesswoman, it was meeting her fans that made the biggest impact on me. The event was standing-room-only and the floor roped off, as at the capacity limit, for hours. Jenny’s fans are real people with personal, emotional, and physical challenges who suffer with depression, disorders, phobias and manias. Now they have an example of how to step out of the shadows and help themselves and each other. Through Jenny’s authenticity and humor they have a voice, an advocate who tells it like it is! Jenny’s fans are also the counselors, friends and family who are helping dissolve the mental illness stigma.

There’s a wonderful speech on You Tube as Jenny accepts the “2014 NoStigmas Hero Award” (via skype) on behalf of everyone who shares the battle to be “Furiously Happy” in spite of horrible things.

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