Check out Sheila's latest interview with the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.
Last week I was in San Diego for the annual Romance Writers of America conference where a couple thousand women converge to learn the craft of writing, make business connections and consume copious amounts of coffee and chocolate. (And the bar gets a fair bit of action, too.) Parties and power lunches abound and the diet gets thrown out the window.
It's a treat to see all my favorite people in the business - writing pals such as Nancy Naigle, Lisa Hendrix, Pam Binder, Brenda Novak, and Shirley Marks, and my buddy Susan Wiggs, to name a few, the great team at my publishing house, Harlequin, my wonderful publicist Nancy Berland, and my lifelong friend and agent Paige Wheeler. And I so enjoyed making new friends like the gorgeous Carla Neggers. Most of these people I only get to see in person once a year so this conference is always a treat. The frosting on the cake this year was getting to visit with readers and even a member of my street team at the Literacy for Life book signing event.
Lots of brainstorming goes on at these conferences, where authors come to learn new ways to grow their readership and improve their books. In between, we have some fun sight-seeing and partying. But in the end, the purpose of the conference is business, and as writers we take our business seriously.
We all want to write the best story we can, hopefully one that will encourage and entertain you, our readers. Because, after all, you're the most important part of this business. What would we do without you?!
... has the cops called on them. No, just kidding. Although Gerhardt's family reunion did get pretty wild and crazy with karaoke performances loud enough to scare the wildlife (oh, wait, that was us), crazy luau costumes, and strange nighttime prowlers. (Glad I was happily and ignorantly asleep when that one happened.)
These days it seems we're all busy and going a million directions. It can be hard to stay connected, especially from one generation to the next. A yearly getaway can be a good answer to that problem. All trapped together in a mountain cabin we were forced to spend time together. (Not that it was a hardship. I enjoy my husband's family.) This year we had a special treat with Gerhardt's half-sister from Australia joining us. Great fun. Of course we had to sing "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" for her. It was recorded by... somebody. Not us because by that time I'd used up all my iPad memory recording many other memorable performances. So I guess you'll just have to take my word for it that I was fabulous. :)
And so another family reunion is a memory and we're all looking forward to gathering at Christmas, when there will be much pandemonium again as we fight over gift gags and tacky presents.
I guess on that note I'll bring this blog to a close. Time for bed. Tomorrow I fly out to San Diego for the Romance Writers of America conference. Hoping to see many of my buddies there. And who knows, maybe a reader or two will join us at the Marriott Marquis hotel on Wednesday from 5:30 - 7:30 for the big book signing party. If you're in San Diego this Wed be sure and come by. Probably all your favorite romance authors will be there signing books!
Travel, as they say, is broadening ... especially for the hips! Especially when you're traveling around Germany, land of chocolate, Schnitzel and the world's best pastries. My husband Gerhardt and I love the country and the people. (He grew up there and we lived there when we were first married.) We try to get back every few years to see the wonderful friends we've made. On this latest trip not only did we enjoy catching up with old friends but we made some wonderful new ones as well.
Our time with Ursula Rudor was inspiring. She and her husband were pastors in the East for many years before the wall came down - not a cool time to be a Christian. But they were steadfast, and she has many stories to tell, stories that remind me how thankful I am to live in a free country.
We had a great time with our pals Sybille and Gundi, and Sybille's sweetie Fred, who made roulladen for a dinner party we were able to attend. Yum! (And thanks friend for the headache remedy. You're a doll!)
We spent several hours at the home of new friends Wilfred and Gabby. We enjoyed tea and sightseeing with Siegrid, and Christina, also a new friend, invited us to join her English class. One of the women there gifted me with a beautiful Schultuete (a cone filled with goodies that children receive on the first day of school). I thought this sounded like something fun to adopt over here - a good way to get kids excited about going to school. The women asked if we did anything for our kids the first day of school... "Do you have a little party?" they asked. I replied that no, the ones who party are the moms!
The food was spectacular, the architecture inspiring and the views breathtaking.
All in all, our visit to Germany was wonderful. It's almost a perfect country. The only things to complain about? German drivers. (Guys, seriously, do they teach you to pass on a curve on a hill in driving school?) And the pay toilets. (Even when I'm shopping you're going to make me pay for the privilege of using the potty? Seriously?)
Well, nobody's perfect. And I guess I can spare the change. Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland. Ich liebe dich.
And now, back to my diet.
Ladies night out - so many towns have them. It's a great way for women to explore their local downtown, get out with the girls, and have fun. And it's a good deal for the merchants also, helping to create visibility. In Bremerton, WA, that's especially good since many of our local businesses are owned by women.
When some of us first talked about doing this it seemed like a simple enough idea. It turned out to be a little more complicated than we'd originally envisioned and it was certainly more work. My committee of amazing women labored over this for months, signing up merchants, getting sponsors, bringing in special entertainment. And boy, we had it in spades last night: the Sweet Adelines sang barbershop for us, the symphony provided a quartet, we had salsa music from a great band. And we even had tap dancers. Something for everyone. Our merchants went all out, offering everything from free flowers to chocolate covered espresso beans and free lattes. Almost everyone offered appetizers and wine tasting. And chocolate - you can't have a women's event without lots of chocolate! And of course, our ladies got goody bags with some freebies in them to start them on their treasure finding adventure. Ladies, if you could have seen us stuffing all those goody bags you'd have given us medals... or at least chocolate.
When it comes to something like this you work so hard, try to cover all your bases and then... hope the weather will cooperate. It did! A lot praying kept the rain at bay until ten minutes after the event ended. Talk about perfect timing!
And a good time was had by all. This was only our second Ladies Night Out so maybe we're still in the honeymoon stage, but our team of women was pumped last night, high on success and good vibes. Yes, and chocolate.
One man heard me talking about it at the bank with my teller and chimed in with, "Why don't you have a men's night out?" Well, simply put, you guys don't have the shopping gene. (But hey, if someone wants to plan one, go for it!) Anyway, like the old Cyndi Lauper song says, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
So, a big, public thank you to my wonderful committee of local businesswomen and volunteers who worked so hard. A big thank you to all the women who turned out, too. We did, indeed, have fun!
Today our little city of Bremerton turned out to watch the annual Armed Forces parade. Ours is one of the biggest parades in the country, which is astounding considering the size of the city. But we are a navy town and you could tell that today by the large turnout in spite of a steady rain which was anything but warm. Felt more like March than May!
Still, all branches of the armed forces came out and every high school and middle school band dutifully braved the rain and cold to play for us. Service organizations, city officials - everyone was there. It was so great to see such a huge turnout considering what a cold, rainy day it was. Still, everyone was in a festive mood.
There's something unifying about this kind of event. Seeing all the branches of the service represented - so many!- drove home to me that a lot of people are risking their lives so that I can happily sit home and write. I certainly came away appreciating all the young people who feel called to make defending us their career. So I applauded and hooted along with everyone else as they marched by or drove past in vintage army jeeps. And I took pictures, of course.
Loved the guys giving out hot dogs and potato chips! Lucky Gerhardt got a hot dog. I, alas, am dieting so no hot dog for me. Wah.
Still, I had fun in spite of getting drenched. I felt badly for all those school kids in the drill teams and marching bands. Hope they were all properly rewarded with hot chocolate when they got home!
As for all the military folks who came out... thank you for your service!
DOES MY HUSBAND LOOK WORRIED? Maybe he sensed that today we were going to have a Friday the Thirteenth boating adventure.
It started off innocently enough. Our condo neighbors have a boat. Lucky them! (I've been hankering for a boat.) He’d had shoulder surgery and needed someone to run the boat for him. (Lucky us!) The weather was supposed to be great. We all set the date for Friday.
On Friday at noon we walked to the marina, armed with the necessities of life: pop, pretzels, and oranges (and an egg for Sheila, who was determined to stick to her diet.) We did our pre-cruise check and Captain Gerhardt settled in behind the wheel. The engine started right up. Sounded a little sickly but, not letting a little thing like that stop us, we began to putt-putt our way out of the marina. Two minutes later the engine putt-putted to a stop and we wound up drifting into a slip, an unwelcome third between two other boats. Thank heaven they were small!
And, thank heaven for Bryce the boat detailer who saw our dilemma and helped us tie up and work on the engine. And work on the engine. And work on the engine. At this point I turned to my husband and said, “Maybe I don’t want a boat.”
At last it was time to give up. Fortunately, a nice man in his bilge pump boat came over and towed us back to our slip, while we hummed the theme from GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. As we limped back someone remembered that it was Friday the Thirteenth. Well, that explained it.
Anyway, it was quite the adventure and, in spite of our technical difficulties we had fun. Because when you’re with nice people you can always have fun no matter what. So, many thanks to our hosts. And, better luck next time. (We’ll be sure to check the calendar before we take out the boat!)
... are the best! There's something about spending extended time with good friends that is simply good for a woman's soul. Of course, it helps if you have exceptional friends like I do!
I just recently returned from a midweek mini-vacation spent with "the Game Girls," a group of women I've been hanging out with for many years. Once a month we get together for lunch at someone's house and then spend the afternoon playing games. This can range from card games to word games, the two newest favorites being Farkle and a card game called Golf Ten.
We soon realized that we needed to enjoy more of a good thing and so started doing a yearly weekend getaway in April, which we dubbed "Enchanted April," naming it after that classic chick flick with Josie Lawrence and Joan Plowright. We've been doing this for about ten years now and we've been to a lot of wonderful places: Whidbey Island, Portland Oregon, and Granville Island in Vancouver, to name a few. We even took a weekend cruise from Seattle to Victoria one year. This year we were on the Oregon Coast. For the most part the weather cooperated, but even if it hadn't we'd have had a great time. (You don't need good weather to stay up until two in the morning laughing and playing games.)
We have several gourmet cooks in our group so the food was spectacular. And the treats were, too. Trader Joe's dark chocolate caramels - oh, chocolate heaven.
But really, the best part of the trip was being able to share our joys and troubles, to be able to be ourselves and know that whether we were at our best or worst we were still loved. Because we've long since gone from friendship to sisterhood.
How about you? Do you have a special group of friends you hang out with? I hope so, because I'm convinced that friends are one of God's greatest blessings.
BEFORE YOU READ THIS... here is my disclaimer. This is not to make anyone feel guilty for what you have or how you spend your money. And if you have cable, yes, I'm a little bit jealous. But this is a lesson I learned recently when I was whining and I wanted to share it with you for what it's worth.
"I don't see why we can't have cable," I grumbled. This whole thing of saving money by having a TV antenna and recording shows on our old VCR was ridiculous. In my humble opinion. Life was so much easier with cable when I could program all my HGTV shows to automatically record whenever they popped up. (Yes, costs had gone up but I was worth it.)
This was a constant complaint and my husband really wasn't happy to hear it again. His usual argument: a terrible waste of money and a rip-off. "You can find HOUSE HUNTERS on Amazon and Netflix," he reminded me.
Fine. Just. Fine. Someone in this household was not listening to his wife. I stuck my chin in the air and went to bed to read. The book was an autobiography of Lopez Lomong, an African Olympic athlete, who was taken by Sudanese rebels at the age of six and wound up escaping only to grow up in a refugee camp. In this camp, the UN, trying to take care of so many, offered the refugees oil and enough grain to last a week if they ate one meal a day. The big highlight of the week was when the dump truck dumped the workers' garbage, which could consist of anything from a half-eaten banana to a scrap of bread. These lost boys would jump into the garbage and fight over the scraps.
Reading this I felt God's reprimand. What are you eating? How do you live? Have you looked at your incredible view recently? And you're complaining because you don't have cable? Seriously?
I realized how right my husband was. We already lived in the proverbial lap of luxury and I wanted more? There are people in the world subsisting on garbage. I'm thinking perhaps I can find better uses for that money.
You'd think that would have been enough lessons for one night, but no. I read on. "What is the point of such complaining?" said Lopez. "After all the whining and complaining is over, you still live in a refugee camp. All the complaining in the world won't make your life any better. Instead, you must choose to make the best of whatever situation in which you find yourself..."
I thought of my feet, which were tingling even as I read - the peripheral neuropathy, a souvenir from my chemo treatments two years earlier. Actually, I try not to complain about the neuropathy. It's not extreme, and I can lie with it. But it does bother me enough that I'm still trying to cure it with everything from laser treatments to vitamins. It dawned on me as I lay reading that instead of seeing this as a frustration I could consider it a bit of a blessing because it's a reminder that God took me through a really rough time, that I'm still here to enjoy my family and friends, that I still have an opportunity to grow and learn and do some good in the world. Sometimes, after going through hard things, it's easy to put them so far behind us that we quickly skip on with our lives and forget how much was done for us. (At least it is for me.) My neuropathy serves as a reminder of how I was spared and how blessed I am.
So, here I am with my tingly toes and my money-saving entertainment methods. Remembering to be grateful and closing the complaint department.
How about you? What are you grateful for?
What a great Easter we had this year! After having lost a daughter and my big brother the last few months, the message of resurrection was especially comforting. So was having all my family together. In fact, I told Gerhardt that this was the best Easter ever.
We made a weekend of it, with egg coloring and cake decorating on Saturday followed by a granddaughter's softball game. Oh, brrr! March in the Pacific Northwest isn't balmy and we huddled inside coats and under blankets. But we survived to make it to church on Sunday morning. Then it was time for Easter dinner and egg hunting.
Sunday did not give us good egg hunting weather but that didn't stop us. We hunted indoors at my daughter's house, sending the kids in all directions... including into a certain granddaughter's mad hatter hair. The highlight of the day, however, was the boys' egg hunt. We felt that they needed more of a challenge than the kids, so we blindfolded them. Oh, my! One shouldn't observe grown men blindfolded and fumbling around for eggs with a weak bladder. My son was disappointed I only took pictures instead of a movie (since he wanted to see what all the hilarity had been about) but honesty, at some points I was laughing so hard I don't think I could have held the camera still.
Then we followed up by playing a game my friend Karol gave me called Pie in the Face. This is basically Russian Roulette with whipped cream and only a few of us were brave enough to try it So much silliness, so much laughter. But laughter is a big component of the glue that holds us together. And we definitely had a day of family bonding.
How about you? What fun activities does your family do to stay bonded?