Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blogs this past week...

The Atlantic's pictures of the Olympic torch on its way to London. How cool is that?

With finishing my own edits on the book due, I haven't had as much time as I like to visit the various blogs on my blog roll. The horse video yesterday was sent to me by my sister. The above link was posted at her blog. I still tried to pop in on a few.

Anne Patrick interview over at Melanie Atkins:

Stephanie Burkhart shared a post on photographer Ansel Adams, and she shared a blog on Percy Jackson.

Word Wenches delves into "luncheon." I love this kind of stuff, exploring the history of words.

Jude Urbanski shares an excerpt from her book Nurtured in Purple:

Patty Froese shares an interesting post on what she considers romantic, and I have to agree with her on this.

Lynette Endicott hosts David Bond at her blog, and he shares a bit of his novel The Attache, and he has a second book out, part of a series, A Time for Everything Book One: Time To Build. I really need more time to read.

Naomi Musch has a great post on writing blurbs, which I'm adding to my resource list.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Link to Horse Ballet...

This is amazing. I'm sharing it here for me. It's 6-7 minutes.

Horse Ballet or Dressage is a sport unlike any other. My horse was trained to second level Dressage and competed under his previous owner. Dressage takes years of training and requires a horse to respond to the slightest commands. I didn't know much about it. I've been horse crazy all my life, ridden whenever I had the opportunity, but never owned one of the remarkable creatures.

God has His own plans. My horse and I connected when I was his groom. His previous owner felt he would be happier with me. We had five wonderful years together, until his health required I make the unenviable decision pet owners must make. I still miss him.

Back to Dressage. When I first started working with him, we had an ongoing battle because he always drifted to the left. The poor creature came to me, and we had a horrible time learning to communicate. I couldn't understand it why he was being so difficult. I felt so guilty when I finally figured out he was obeying the command I was giving him. Because of badly healed torn ligaments, my right foot twisted out, which meant my right leg perpetually pressed against his side, moving him to the left.

I didn't have the skill to ride him in Dressage, but I exercised him from the ground and watched him put himself through his paces sometimes. Breathtaking.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

God bless our troops...

Seven years ago, today, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, USN, a SEAL, was killed in Operation Red Wings.

Last year, I read The Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It changed my life forever.

I bought the book and put it in my to-be-read pile. I knew it wouldn't be an easy read. I knew I needed to be mentally prepared. I waited. I kept glancing at it, thinking I needed to read it soon. But not yet. Then, it was time. I started by reading only one chapter a day. It was all I could handle. I knew what was coming. Then the hard part came. I couldn't put it down. I read clear through to the end in a day. I cried, and prayed.

As I read, I penciled stars in the margin, marking particular passages that spoke to me. I glance through the book, from time to time, re-reading those particular passages. I'm not ready to read the whole thing, again. You see, I start to cry as I read only those short passages.

It's a year later, and I'm reading SEAL of Honor. I read it a bit at a time. I need the breaks because I cry. May God bless all those who serve with honor and courage, and may their families be strengthened. My gratitude is pitiful in the face of such sacrifice, but I offer it all the same.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Note to self...

When I am questioning my decision to pursue my writing I step back and look at what led me here.

I've spent the last while recounting my journey to becoming a writer. The actual physical, day to day steps, one leading to the next.

What I didn't recount:

All the prayer.

When I first started writing, it was for fun.

Then things started to happen.

I started writing more. It was there in my head. I didn't think about whether it was right or wrong or whether or not it was the best choice or decision. I enjoyed writing, so I wrote.

Others encouraged my writing. People I trusted.

It became a challenge.

I honestly never truly believed I would be published. It didn't keep me from continuing to write. I discovered writing was a great way to kick ideas out of my head, rather than having them race around like hamsters in a squeaky wheel.

It all started out so innocently. A bit of fun. A lark. Why not?

I had one of those feelings about my job changing, my transcribing job. Instead of ignoring it, I listened. I spent more time with my writing. At the same time, I couldn't figure out a way to save my transcribing career. Times were changing, much sooner than I expected. I figured ten years down the road, I'd need to rethink my career path.

When it happened much sooner I panicked, but I didn't freeze. I kept taking a next step and a next step. It dawned on me I should probably take a look back to see if this path I was on was a blind alley or actually had breadcrumbs leading me along.

It was amazing how easy those breadcrumbs were to see. Sometimes, God laid down whole loaves. I would have had to willfully ignore them to miss them.

This started a new approach. In stead of seeing what breadcrumbs I'd already managed to pick up, I started looking ahead of me. Searching for breadcrumbs to help me stay the course.

On the days I question my decision, I mean question if I'm out of my mind and fooling myself, I  ask God to toss me a breadcrumb. I have an armful of loaves.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I am a writer...

I didn’t know I was about to lose my job. I was told they needed time to implement a new system, and then I’d be working again.

Where was the harm in devoting my new free time to writing while I waited?

I took the advice of the judges and re-wrote my book.

I was informed my job no longer existed.

Time to regroup and review.

I had the time: why not see if I could pursue my writing?

Desert Rose has a mentoring program. I enrolled myself. I received more great feedback.

You know what I learned?

Regarding the first rejection: I wrote a horrible query letter. If I’d received the query letter I’d written back in 2007, I would have rejected me, too.

With help from published writers within Desert Rose, I rewrote about half the book and the query letter, then submitted the query letter, synopsis, and first three chapters.

As the months slipped by, I kept writing.

I received the request for the full manuscript.

More months slipped by, and I kept writing. I also researched publishers including self-publishing. I reached the point where I prayed my manuscript would be rejected because I was beginning to realize the company I chose wasn’t a good fit for my story or for me.

God answers prayers.

I was rejected. I cheered and did a happy dance.

I combed through the story one more time. I talked to my friend Kris Tualla, who has both self-published and published through Desert Breeze, and she suggested Desert Breeze Publishing.

Acceptance! And a contract.

I AM a writer.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Becoming a writer...

…or becoming Laurel Hawkes.

Those who know my history know why I chose a pen name. Laurel Hawkes was a shield to protect me.

I wrote a Christian Regency romance. It was the romance I wanted to read.

I submitted it.

It was rejected.

I was crushed.

I joined the local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter, Desert Rose. I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed associating with other writers. I didn’t really believe I’d ever be published. Once a month, I socialized with other people who understood what it was like to live with characters nagging you night and day, taking stories in their own direction or secondary characters demanding stories of their own. Once a month, I talked writing.

Because I’d written a complete story and submitted it to a publisher and been rejected, I qualified for PRO status. Most people didn’t know. This was back in 2007.

My closest friends knew. No one else.

I kept writing, because not writing was not an option.

Being published was something others encouraged me to do. I didn’t really believe it would happen. My stories are a little outside the formula. Not a lot, but enough to be noticeable, and a little less desirable by the mainstream publishers.

In 2009, I entered the rejected story in a contest. It didn’t do particularly well, but the judges gave me some great feedback.

I still didn’t really believe my books would be published. It was a fantasy, nothing more.

In 2011, my work world changed.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blogs for the week...

Patty Froese, of course, has some great posts. I wanted to be able to find her recipe for DIY laundry soap, so I'm posting the addy here.

Writers In The Storm is a great blog, filled with writing tips from a variety of authors. Today's is about fresh character descriptions:

The Trichordist had an amazing article on piracy. Though it spotlights the music industry, it works with writers and other artists as well.

Lynette Endicott has a trailer out for her book More Than A Job, which is on my wish list.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ladyhawk and me...

By now, in the story, I’m writing a first person fan fiction, LOTR from Frodo’s point of view. I’m realizing how much of my own story fits with Frodo, so I’m actually exploring my life in what I considered to be within safe parameters.

I’m also writing romance, expanding CRB’s story. When she first suggested I help her I’d told her I couldn’t possibly write romance.

I was wrong.

I then told her I’d write it, but she’d have to write the dialogue.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t long before we had a running joke: “Oh, wait, you can’t write dialogue.”

Then I decided I’d only be writing these two stories.

I  was wrong.

Other stories were running around in my head, and I started writing them down. They were all contemporary.

Then a reader of CRB’s story hunted me down and contacted me, via email. She urged me to write a Christian historical romance.

I regretfully informed her it was beyond my skills.

I was wrong.

I didn't think a publisher would want my book.

I was wrong.

For those who think I always have to be right and can’t admit I’m wrong, clearly, you’re wrong.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


As Ladyhawk, I interacted with people all over the world. It was amazing.

Being Ladyhawk also presented a bit of a dilemma for me. I liked Ladyhawk better.

I wanted to be Ladyhawk.

God is merciful and kind.

It occurred to me: Why not?

So I went about exploring Ladyhawk and learning to become like her.

What I discovered: Ladyhawk was my true self. By disguising her as Ladyhawk, I was protecting her until I was strong enough to stand for myself.

As Ladyhawk, I traveled to visit other LOTR friends I’d met online. I participate in LOTR events, including reading aloud at libraries, conferences, special weekends. I traveled to Los Angeles, Florida, Texas, and Kentucky. Everyone knew me as Ladyhawk, and Ladyhawk was me.

These were the first people to know me — me the writer.

They didn’t know the person who lived in fear, who lived a flat life, struggling one day to the next.

They saw the potential. I needed to live up to the potential. I began to see I wasn’t nearly as weak as I’d always believed myself to be.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Being Ladyhawk...

I loved CRB’s story. She’d done some editing for me on my story, and I offered to return the favor. She agreed. And so it began.

It started out as light editing, and then one time I sent back a paragraph completely rewritten. She loved it, and encouraged me to continue. I did. It was her story, so I was always mindful of keeping it hers. She wouldn’t like something, and I’d have to swallow my pride and rewrite. We would sometimes send stuff back and forth dozens of times until we had fixed every word.

Every single time, without fail, our editing back and forth always made the story 100% better. I love good editors.

I continued to expand my friendships within the community.

At the time, I was working for a company. It wasn’t the best situation for me. I was frustrated and looking for something more suitable.

Everyone on the boards (forum) knew about my horse and my work. I knew quite a bit about most of them as well, an eclectic group that shared a love for LOTR. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

My horse colicked. It was bad. My vet didn’t think he’d make it. He did, but I knew it wouldn’t be much longer. I had to make the decision all pet owners hate to make. My writing friend offered to call. I was terrified to share that much more of myself. She was supportive and encouraging. She was my first taste of unconditional love totally untainted by the insanity of my childhood. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and asked if I could call her the day after. It would be the first time in five years I wouldn’t wake up at dawn so I could go grain my horse. She readily agreed. I called her and cried, and she was perfectly okay with that. She’d had me call her at work. She was totally focused on me and what I needed. It solidified a friendship that has grown for the past 10 years. With her, I was Ladyhawk and Judy. I was as whole and complete as I knew how to be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Becoming Ladyhawk....

I soon had more interactions with people who knew me as Ladyhawk than I did with people who knew me as Judy.

Ladyhawk participated fully in the LOTR fan community.

I’d developed several friendships within that community.

One of those friends asked if she could email.

Sure. I was still leery, but more out of habit than real concern for my safety from those within the community.

She wanted to share a story she’d written.


She’d written a romance for Frodo.

We emailed back and forth, extensively, before I agreed to read it. I expressed my concerns. For the first time in my life, I had to discuss with someone how I felt about relationships between men and women. I was terrified. I’d never before discussed it. Ever. We went into details. What was I thinking?

Who wanted to know my ugly perspective? I certainly didn’t want to taint anyone with it.

This was the first time I had to face my past as Ladyhawk. Ladyhawk was outspoken, funny, a writer, and still finding her way. She’d been born the day I joined the fan club.

Now, I had to add a past.

**Side note: I’m not suggesting I was a split personality. I’m not, nor have I ever been. Like most people, I simply had different masks I wore. I was one person at school, another with friends, another at church, and still another at home, depending on what was demanded of me. Then I added Ladyhawk, the person I was when I was online. All of them were the same person; I simply shared different things in each case, keeping parts hidden from the others, to keep my core self safe.

Monday, June 18, 2012

7 or 77, 7, 7

Patty Froese tagged me in her blog, and I've been tagged a couple of times on facebook. I think I'm ready to follow through. I'm taking the broader possibility of page 7 or 77.

1. Go to page 7 or 77 of your work in progress (or most recently completed novel).
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines and post them as they're written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 other authors, Rhonda Plumhoff, Beth Trissel, Anne Patrick, Stephanie Burkhart, Stephania McGee, Vijaya Schartz, and Kris Tualla.

From Luck In Love, I chose what's currently page 7, which will change once the formatting is done, not to mention a plethora of editing awaits, but for now here it is:

Brushing away the dampness threatening to spill over, Sara nodded. She gave Todd a glance, and found him grinning and tipping an imaginary hat in her direction. To her own surprise, she found herself smiling back.

A new smile spread across her face, and she burrowed deeper into the warmth of her coat. The wind picking up off the lake would drive her inside to seek warmth soon.

She remembered boarding the aircraft. An excited tremor had coursed through her. She'd found her seat and buckled herself in, anticipation rocketing through her. As the aircraft rolled

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great posts this week...

My all-time favorite blog post, which I wish I'd read long ago! Rob Preece shares a man's perspective on the romance dance:

Gail Delaney shares how she started and an excerpt from her re-release of her updated first book. How cool is that? I added it to my TBR pile.

Beth Trissel shared love quotes, many from her own books. What a fun idea.

Sara in Bookland reviews Conception and interviews Jennifer Hartz.

I love visiting Sweethearts of the West.

Tina Pinson elaborates on refrigerator stew and writing. Love it! She also has an interview over at Lynette Endicott's blog.

I try to visit Patty Froese's blog every day.

The Balanced Writer is talking about blueberries, and yes that caught my attention.

Jude Urbanski and her book Nurtured in Purple is featured over at Desert Breeze Publishing and she has an interview at A Christian Writer's World blog.

Michelle Levigne created a website for her series.

Stephanie Burkhart shares interviews and a visit to Solvang, CA, this week:

I need more hours in the day to read!

Enjoy the day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ladyhawk changed me....

As Ladyhawk Baggins, I could be whoever I wanted to be.

Who did I want to be?

Ladyhawk was willing to take risks, and yet she was strangled by fears.

People like my writing.



I started chatting with different people on the various threads of conversations.

All these people knew nothing about me, except what I told them. I endeavored to be as honest as I knew how. I revered the truth, but hadn’t yet realized how much of my life was a lie. I did the best I could. I pushed to try harder.

Game Changer: One of the people on the board lived close to me, and we decided to meet. I’d created an email account as Ladyhawk Baggins. My safe account.

Our first outing was meeting at a theater and watching Fellowship of the Rings together. What an incredible experience to attend an event with someone who loved the whole experience as much as I did. I didn’t have to tone down my responses. We laughed at the same places. We cried in the same places. We jumped in the same places. She was a lot younger than me, and we didn’t have a whole lot in common, but we both loved the movies, and it was delightful being able to share that enthusiasm without being shushed or subjected to eye rolls.

I was allowed to be myself.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Whole New World...

I remember the first time I decided to be brave and make a comment. I was terrified.

I’d been lurking for quite a while. I watched the various discussions in the forum and couldn’t imagine actually jumping into a conversation.

I chose not to jump into the deep end to begin but to touch my toe into the water.

As if it were yesterday, I still remember the terror of the first time I hit post. My hands were sweating, and my breathing and heart rate were fast. A part of me laughs. It was online. No one really knew who I was or anything about me, except Ladyhawk. I’d even gone so far to protect myself by putting my location as Bag End.

What were they going to do?

I was in.

The wait was horrible, waiting for someone to respond to my comment on someone else’s post.

At first, every time I would post I would agonize over someone answering me. I was only commenting on posts by others. Some where musings. Some were fanfiction. There was also the Prancing Pony where a lot of silliness went on.

I read some amazing fanfiction (fans writing stories using characters from the original work).

Then came the day I created my own post. I no longer remember what it was about. It might have been the fan fiction I’d started. I don’t know. I identified with Frodo on many levels, and started exploring the story Through Frodo’s Eyes, or how I saw it. It was eye opening. It was fun unearthing my old creative writing skills. The next thing I knew, I had a little following of readers waiting for the next installment.

The story needed a home of its own, for me. I didn’t think anyone else considered it worth saving. I also didn’t believe it was worth saving alone, so I asked a couple of other fanfiction writers if I could include them on my website. They agreed. I was flattered. I had an outlet for all my emotional outpourings. I was safe within this little world I’d created.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Re-creating myself...

Ladyhawk lurked, for quite a while. (I dropped the 'e' as my way of tailoring the name to me.)

The forum offered a wide variety of topics. Everything from total and complete virtual silliness to in depth discussions on the books and the movies. I followed conversations, for quite a while, without saying anything. I gradually become familiar with individual names. I discovered the way a person wrote was as individual as one's appearance. I didn't have to see the name to know who'd written some of the comments.

I'm still amazed by the fact there were people from all over the world chatting with each other. The magic of the internet to connect the world.

Typing my first comment was easy; hitting the post button was terrifying and elicited a battle between deleting it and actually being brave enough to jump into the fray. What if they didn't like me? What if I sounded stupid? What if I didn't fit in?

Many of the people could argue the books with astonishing skill. Some hated the movies and others preferred the movies over the books, but most of us felt the movie added to our love for LOTR. I watched a heated argument rage for days. In the end, the two ended up agreeing to disagree, only to end up arguing again about something else. I was in awe: People could argue without being nasty and remain friends.

I lost count of the number of times I'd type a comment and hit delete.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A new door...

When I went to see Fellowship of the Rings I never anticipated what it would mean to me. FotR isn't the first movie I've been passionate about. Ladyhawke, The Man From Snowy River and Return to Snowy River, The Princess Bride, to name a few, have all been watched so often I've memorized them.

What was different about FotR?

I now had access to the internet.

Wanting more information about the movie, like when Two Towers and Return of the King would be coming out. I went searching for the official movie site. I not only found it, I also discovered the online community there. People who loved the movie as much and more than I did. People who didn't know about my past or what I looked like. They didn't care if I was rich or successful or not. They knew absolutely nothing about how messed up I was. I could be the person I wanted to be, and there was no one to call me on the performance.

Sounds dishonest.

In order to participate in the community I had to create a "handle," a persona by which I'd be known in the LOTR community. I agonized. My imagination had been crushed. I was afraid of daydreaming. I was tired of seeing my dreams in ashes, so I stopped. Yes, it's possible. I wouldn't recommend it. It's difficult to learn how to dream again, but I'm rushing ahead of myself.

I fretted and debated.

Finally, I remembered a nickname I'd been given a half-dozen years before. Ladyhawke. A fellow student in one of my classes bestowed the name on me because of my eyes. Arguing was not even a consideration. I was more than willing to take it. Now, I wanted the nickname back.

I signed up, and entered a terrifying, intimidating, and brave new world. :-)

*If it seems like I'm taking a long time to tell this story, I am. For one thing, I know details matter. Entire "vistas" have opened with a single, perfectly timed thought. For another, I'm in the midst of editing, and to be honest, my brain is all but dead. Editing is harder and takes longer than the actual writing of the story. The initial writing only requires the framework. Editing requires all the fine-tuning, shuffling, re-arranging, remodeling. I'm jumping ahead of myself again. Back to the story, tomorrow.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oh, look! More blogs...

Michelle Levigne created a blog for her Tabor Heights series.

Jean Kinsey shares her writing style.

Shaunna Gonzales shares what Happiness is on Thoughtful Thursday and an excerpt from her book on Wednesday.

How could I resist going for a walk with Sophie and her dog Henry.

Maria Hammarblad has an interesting post on history and pop culture:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Other blogs to explore...

Tina Pinson explored Writernese. It's a pretty extensive list of terms writers use like WIP, genre, and GMC.

Patty Froese recently wrote "Legally Wed." I'm intrigued.

AR Norris talks about her first time, being published. :-)

Karen Michelle Nutt hosts Anne Patrick, who shares her inspiration behind Kill Shot.

How could I resist funny dog stories? Lynette Endicott hosts Janis Lane.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A New Adventure Begins...

I had to start this post with The Background Story's post from the other day. Yes, HAD to because it touched me to the point of tears.

Back to my own story. Where we left off: Fellowship of the Ring wasn't simply an eye-opening experience.

My sister wanted to see the movie. I didn't. I was afraid they would jack up the title and put a whole new story underneath it. I'd seen previous attempts, and was disappointed. My sister bribed me into going by paying for my ticket. Free movie? Deal.

Even so, I was nervous and unenthusiastic. I couldn't shake the feeling I would be wasting my time. Worse? I would regret agreeing to attended.

I settled in, prepared to hate the movie.

The opening was pretty impressive, but seemed to be affirming my fears. It had been years since the last time I'd read the book. I hadn't read it again because I hated having no one with whom to share it. I couldn't share it with my siblings because I was the dummy of the family. Yes, I know that isn't true. Now. I believed it at the time.

Then there was the opening shot of the Shire. Breathtaking. And there was Frodo. He'd always been my favorite, the one with whom I identified the most. I hadn't examined closely why this was so.

There was Gandalf, the wizard by whom I judged all other wizards.

Bag End: I used to draw my own pictures of Bag End; Bilbo's hobbit hole.

It was all exactly as I had pictured it in my mind. Tolkien's skill with words is such that he is able to convey general ideas with such detail anyone is able to visualize his world because he draws on broad ideas, such that a person is able to draw on their own memories of a similar place. There, on a giant screen, was the Shire, exactly as I remembered it.

The fireworks at the Long Expected Party startled me, exactly like real fireworks would. It was the first time in the movie I was "scared" and enjoyed it. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to be surprised again.

My awe grew as I scrabbled for what I could remember of the story and found unexpected connections, again and again. The characters were very much as I had envisioned them.

Then there was the first appearance of a Black Rider. This time I was scared because it was frightening, but again it was a fear I relished and wanted again.

There were things I knew weren't in the book, but I was willing to go along with the storyteller, Peter Jackson, the director. He'd earned that much of my trust.

More details of the story were flooding back.

One of my vivid memories of the book was of a rushing water with horses and riders formed by the frothing river. I kept thinking there was no way they'd be able to depict that scene to my satisfaction. Hope flickered. A part of me wanted Jackson to succeed, but a larger part wasn't sure it was possible.

Then it was there. Filling the screen.

I hissed, "Yes!" And felt tears fill my eyes. I stopped looking to be disappointed, and drank in the story. It was only the first third. I wanted more. I was eager for more. I went back 33 more times to see this installment in the theater.

What was different about me as I walked out of the theater? I usually kept quiet. I could not shut up. I babbled about the story, the special effects, the things I didn't expect and the things I did, the amazement at how much had been included from the book, and on and on and on.

What was the most significant thing? What was life changing?

I had experienced every possible emotion from fear to joy, laughter to tears, anticipation, hesitation, love and hate, uncertainty, triumph, everything from one end of the scale to the other, and relished every single minute. I wanted more. Instead of shying from all those emotions, I embraced them full-bore. I wanted it all. Emotions that had been shut off for as long as I can remember were turned on, and I was ready and willing to experience them all. I discovered I could feel them all and not be destroyed or out of control. Emotions added variety to life, depth and richness and vibrance.

My life had been flat. Suddenly it wasn't, and I never wanted to go back.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The story continues...

Though my dog and my horse had wrought changes in my life, I still lived on the surface. By this time, I'd been through two counselors, both of which never heard about a lot of things. I didn't see the point of bringing up stuff that was all my fault. I couldn't bear the thought of having any more blame laid at my feet. The burden was already so heavy.

I became a transcriptionist, in the late 90s. I was terrified by the internet. I had purchased my big, fat, Dorland's medical dictionary and the current prescription drug book. However, after calling the Reference Desk at the library -- for the third time in less than a week, because my drug book didn't have what I was looking for -- I had to re-evaluate. Each time, I asked them where they'd found the information. Each time, they told me, "The internet."

The internet was dial-up and free. I only used it for work research. Nothing else. Ever.

Then a major marker: 9/11. I felt connected to the world in a way I never had before. I'd lived in Thailand and Europe, but never had I felt the world was so small as I did on that day. I mourned with millions. I knew it changed everything.

A decision was handed to me: Do I continue to live the way I always had or did I make a different choice?

I wanted to make a different choice, but I had no idea what or how.

The turning point: December 2001 and seeing The Fellowship of the Ring.

My world exploded, but in a way I had never imagined.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Back to the beginning...

Edits are continuing along. I'm taking the opportunity to do some reflecting to gain a better perspective of where I'm going.

I'm hoping that by starting at the beginning, I will somehow create a new picture or a more complete picture. Not the beginning, beginning, but the beginning when my life started to change. Today's post is about laying the ground work. I've collected a lot of puzzle pieces over the last ten years. I want to see what's revealed now.

I spent so much of my life stumbling along. I'd make plans, and God would laugh. I reached the point where I decided planning ahead was a fruitless activity. What was the point if something was going to come along - something I hadn't anticipated - and change everything? Because it always did. I couldn't even plan my life a week in advance sometimes. Planning a day in advance was a challenge, from time to time. Occasionally, planning an hour in advance was too much. I was often amazed by the stumbling blocks thrown in my way.

So I lived my life a bit at a time. What happened happened, and what didn't didn't.

It sounds flaky, and by all accounts and purposes, it was flaky. That being said, I was blessed with some amazing experiences because I was open to the possibilities.

I remember, in my late 20s or early 30s, someone minimalized my personal sorrow over being single. (I've mentioned it here before, but for anyone new reading, all I ever wanted to do was marry and be a mother. It didn't happen.) They told me I needed to take the opportunity to fulfill my dreams because once I was married, it was all over.

Wait... What?

By that time, I knew I'd seen more and done more in 25 years than most people did in a lifetime. I'd fulfilled every dream I'd had up to that point and several I'd never imagined. For example, this was before I owned a horse.

Though my philosophy of planning was flaky, it served me.

For years, I talked about my wanderlust, then I decided it was time to take off the gypsy boots.

So much of my life was lived in quiet turmoil. I learned to pretend all was calm, on the surface. I adopted a dog. She became a grounding force in my life. Being flaky didn't cut it. She had to be fed and walked and cared for, every day, no matter what. She was a constant. Then I adopted a horse. The dog was incredibly flexible in comparison. Then again, I wasn't the typical horse owner. I boarded my horse not far from home. Every day, for five years, I drove out and grained and groomed. We didn't ride much. Riding wasn't the point of our relationship. There is something about the association with an equine, unlike with my canine. My vet once quipped that if reincarnation was real, then she wanted to come back as my horse or my dog.

My dog adored me. She would do anything for me. My horse was disdainful and not particularly trusting, but there was a bond between us. My dog was my angel child, and my horse was my problem child. I loved them both, and they both taught me different things, and yet it was the same: Old dogs can learn new tricks, and trust is earned not by what you say but by what you do. Healthy relationships are worth the pain and time and effort. Unconditional love is a gift.

My furry children helped strengthen the foundation (Jesus Christ) on which I'd build the rest of my life. They were my living proof God loved me unconditionally.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Arizona Dreamin'...

...A Romance Reader Event.

It was fantastic!

Start with the whining: I crashed. Everything that could go wrong, as far as my body is concerned, did go wrong. Under any other circumstances, I would have sent myself to my room on Friday, curled up in bed, and stayed there until Sunday or today. Not sick. A bit dehydrated, though I tried to stay on top of that, allergies, etc. This weekend, giving in was not an option.

Now, for the fun stuff: Picked up,  April London, (an aspiring writer) and one of my facebook friends, at the airport. (Keeping names private, unless sharing a link to a professional site.) Checked in, and helped with stuffing goody bags, which included books, bookmarks, trading cards, a CD or two, anything a book industry person wanted to donate.

With the time I had before the wine and cheese party, I worked on backstory for Mark, who's been modeled, in many respects, after international cover model and businessman Jimmy Thomas. Jimmy is on over 3,000 book covers. He created his own book cover company, making professional covers for a wide variety of romance genres. Recently, he added Romance Novel Center, a site for connecting authors, cover artists, models, editors, publishers, etc. I'm learning the importance of connecting with others in the industry. I've already had the opportunity to share information as others have shared information with me.

"A" kept the schedule straight, and I learned to let go of the need to be right and trusted her. We arrived on time to the wine and cheese/meet and greet. Unfortunately the A/C was out, so the hospitality suite was incredibly warm. As reserved as I tend to be -- or believe myself to be -- I was amazed at the number of people I knew and with whom I felt comfortable chatting.

Gail and Jenifer, from Desert Breeze Publishing, were there. They were surprised to see me because I hadn't mentioned I was attending. My excuses: I was busy worrying about the Desert Dreams Conference, editing, writing, and more editing. The truth: A part of me didn't believe I was worthy of being noticed. I'm working on it. I know it's all in my head. Long-held habits are difficult to break. Learning to be honest with myself is a start.

I enjoyed chatting with Gail and Jenifer and look forward to working with them. They're funny and made me feel very welcomed to the Desert Breeze family. Jenifer wisely brought a fan and generously shared the breeze.

My main reason for attending? To meet some wonderful friends I've made online, amazing, incredible women. I'm so grateful for the privileged to call them friends. (Meeting Jimmy again wasn't a bad reason either. *g*)

Jimmy had joined the party, and yes, he remembered meeting me at the Chocolate Affair and didn't wait to give me a hug. The man knows how to hug. Charming and personable, as always.

I'm not one much for parties, but for the first time in my life truly wanted the evening to never end. We moved the party to one of our rooms. It was such a pleasure to chat face to face. Rhonda Plumhoff, who writes cookbooks Literary Chocolate, shared some of her decadent truffles. Dark chocolate truffles -- melt in your mouth deliciousness.

Sleep beckoned, I thought. The first night, I couldn't settle. Made it to bed by 2am; woke at 3am, and again at 4am, and gave up. Feeling wide awake, I continued to work on my current WIP until breakfast time. "A" was up early as well. Biscuits and gravy for me. Eventually we were joined by others. Registration started at 10am, where we were given our goody bags, schedule for the day, and signed up for author workshops. I was feeling a little rough around the edges, so left myself plenty of time, I hoped, for being down. Good thing. At noon, there was "speed-dating" with the 20 authors with the 95 participants. The authors would move from table to table giving their "pitch," helping attendees decide which six authors with whom they wanted to share a half hour workshop. I went to my room and crashed. I set the alarm for 1:30pm. When it sounded, I felt like I was swimming through quicksand to the surface of wakefulness.

At 2pm, pictures with Jimmy started. I hung out with my friends and watched, and yes had my picture taken with him. One was taken Friday night and shared on his Official Fan Page at Facebook. This one was the official Arizona Dreamin' backdrop. Sitting and watching the photo shoot and chatting with friends was a joy.

My friends made sure I attended Deena Remiel's workshop. I know Deena from Desert Rose, and she writes paranoormal romance. It's been fun to watch her writing journey.

Time for dinner, and the readers sat with their favorite authors who would set up their own table. I was honored to be sitting with my friends at Jimmy Thomas's table. I want to be an author at next year's Arizona Dreamin', and he's set a high standard.

The Man of Our Dreams contest: The four men, JP, the winner, Ron, Andrew, and Ryan were all delightful and played to the crowd of mostly women with enthusiasm and good humor. They took pictures afterward with anyone who wanted one, again with a donation to a charitable cause (HDSA). They were great sports.

Again, my friends took me to another workshop. This time it was Morgan Kearns. Her passion for writing was catching, and I'm looking forward to more of her books. I was able to ask a question I'd been holding ever since I read one of her books. I was definitely there as a reader. :-)

More socializing in the hospitality suite, ending the event where it began. Though there was now A/C, there were lots of people, so it was pretty warm. By 10pm, my eyes were starting to do the blink, blink, blink, can't stay open much longer routine. I took myself to bed, reluctantly.

I slept a little better, but still woke at 5am, without the alarm. I readied myself for the day and went for a short walk outside to enjoy the sunrise. I sang a few hymns to myself, amused by how little voice I had. I hadn't realized you could lose your voice from laughing. I also realized something else: Last week, I'd been struggling with this path I've chosen. I asked God for a breadcrumb. Yes, He did it again: He sent a whole loaf.

A breakfast of biscuits and gravy quickly turned into a feast of laughter as we gathered one more time. And then it was done. Not truly over because we all plan to attend next year, but done for now. This time, my sister took "A" and "S" to the airport, so we had a little longer to chat.

What else I realized: I often don't feel like I fit in anywhere. As I shared this weekend, I was amazed by how comfortable I felt and how much I felt a part. I was a part of a group, several groups, where I belonged in one way or another. What was different about these friends? I realized it applied to all of the friends I've met online: These are the people who accepted me from the beginning, not because they knew me or my family, not because of the way I looked or how successful I am, not for what I do or for my standing in the community. We share a common interest, and they accepted me because they believe me. They believe I am the person I try to be. They believe I am worth knowing and worthy of notice. I feel the same way about them. More? In a world where identity theft is commonplace and con-artists (spammers et. al.) abound, we each have chosen to practice a remarkable level of trust. I'm honored by the trust they've shared with me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Awesome blogs this week...

We Are One, Last Thought on Memorial Day...

Honoring the fallen on Memorial Day on Shirley Connolly's blog...

Stephanie Burkhart shared her experience in the Army and the importance of Memorial Day to her:

Lynette Endicott has a couple of posts with Delores Beggs regarding disabilities, including how she deals with her own...

Off to Arizona Dreamin'. Enjoy the weekend!