Sunday, July 28, 2013

Flying into Fifty

I celebrated a milestone birthday two weeks ago.

My family headed from the valley to the coast to spend the day with my brothers and their families. We’d no sooner gotten there and unloaded the food we’d brought to contribute to the barbeque dinner when my brother David said, “Hey sis, come with me. I’ve got something for your birthday.”

My other brother Sean and I climbed into Dave’s pickup and he drove to the Toledo airstrip.

Dave has a single-seat gyrocopter and a friend of his, Brad, has a two-seater. Dave’s been trying to schedule me a ride with Brad in his gyrocopter for a while. I figured that was my birthday surprise.

Instead, Dave introduced me to a logger/plane builder/pilot/bee keeper named Toby Parker and asked if I’d like to go up in his plane with him.

“Sure,” I said, even though the guy was a total stranger to me.

What else could I say? Dave was practically wiggling with excitement over the surprise he’d arranged for me.

So up we went. Toby asked me what I wanted to see. I said, “Pretty things.”

After we flew over David and Tiffany’s house, he flew us towards Newport, over Yaquina Bay and along the coastline. We got out over the Pacific Ocean and Toby said, “I’m going to smoke a cigarette, so you fly ‘er.”


I turned the plane with my foot pedal and banked it with the lever between my legs. As we came back around the plane bumped. Toby gave me a big grin and a thumbs up. “When you bump like that it means you made a perfect turn – you came back and hit your own air. You’re a natural.”

He spent the rest of the 50-minute flight – a minute for each of my years on this earth – telling me why my husband and I should build our own plane. Then he proceeded to show off by stalling the engine and doing some nose dives and downward spirals – but that is fodder for another tale another day.

Let’s just say I had a great time, and I got some fantastic photographs, but I was glad to get my head out of the clouds and my feet back on the ground.

Thanks so much for such a memorable birthday, David and Toby! And thank you family for not giving me black balloons or a cake that said, “Over the hill.”

You didn’t need to. The US Postal Service took care of that part of my milestone birthday. When I got home, an invitation packet from AARP was waiting for me in the mail box.

You can fly away on your birthday, but you still can’t escape the number of candles on your cake when you come back down.
I'm not sure how I got here so quickly. But nifty 50, here I am!




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Happily Ever After

On June 27th, my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. On July 20th, family came from all across the U.S. to throw them a 60th anniversary party. It took a full year of planning to find  a date when we could all coordinate vacations, money, and time to get together in one place. My parents had 9 children, and then took in a 10th when her mother died. So, in addition to all the siblings, there are grandchildren and great grandchildren. There were cousins and aunts and uncles and extended family from all over who descended on Salem, Oregon. And celebrating with us were also my parent's friends from the Senior Center and bowling league and their water aerobics class. It was an amazing time.

As a romance writer, my stories are about the beginning of relationships. That time when everything is new and you are working through your past and your present, hoping for an amazing future. When I end a book with a wedding, or a marriage proposal, in my mind I see those characters living truly "happily ever after."  But I must admit, the thought of 60 years of marriage is so far away from my character's beginning relationship that it doesn't cross my mind. I've never written an epilogue that says "60 years later." The beginning is easy to write about because everything is new. Everything is exciting and sexy and the future seems endless.

After the characters have been married for some time, when the newness is long gone, when they realize that they are now in the day-to-day living of their lives, how do they stay together? How do you stay together when you realize that you will never change this person to be your ideal prince charming? When you learn that he snores and will probably never learn to waltz? Or you learn that she really never loved football but just watched games to be with you? Or that her favorite thing to do is to read books instead of watch TV with you? Or her family is smothering? Or his mother is trying to control every part of your life including naming your children?

How do you stay together when a child dies and the grief is so overwhelming that you are not sure it will ever leave you alone and when you look at each other, you see that child in the other person? How do you stay together when a man has built his entire career in an industry and then learns the guys at the top are corrupt, and in turning them in and putting them in jail, he is still the one to lose his job? How do you not blame each other, or yourself, when a child makes poor decisions around drugs? marriage? pregnancy? giving up children? How do you keep a sense of hope and joy when your body gets crickety and your eyes don't work and you take more pills to keep you alive every day? How to you keep a sense of yourself and your relationship when the world is changing so fast you don't recognize it anymore?

All of these are reasons people leave each other. Just look at the divorce rate.  Death.  Economics. Depression. Just simply giving up because "it wasn't what I expected it to be."  What does it take to stay together for 60 years? Sure they love each other. That's the first thing. But many marriages break up even when they still love each other. So, how do you continue to love each other and make your relationship grow, and you can honestly say you are happy with your choice?

After stories were shared about our childhood memories, and the many positive impacts my parents have had on all the people around them, I asked what was their secret of staying together for over 60 years. They'd had nine children and three miscarriages. They'd suffered the death of two of those children, and countless medical and financial difficulties both for themselves and for various children. My father lost a job after 16 years with the same company. My mother almost died of blood poisoning in her leg when she was pregnant with twins and later in life when she had a heart attack. Yet, my memory of them is a relationship that was mostly happy and always in love. Surely I knew when things were bad for our family, and definitely when they were sad and difficult. But bad/sad things never took over our lives. They were things that happened and then we moved on with hope for the future and joy for the present.

My  mother stood up to answer my question, and this is what she said:

We believed in our vows, through sickness and health. Of course, it helped that during several years  I worked nights and John worked days. We couldn't afford a babysitter, so that's what we had to do.(insert audience laughter here and a comment about how that didn't change their sex life because they continued to have children) We wanted lots of kids. Then we had these kids to take care of and...well...we didn't believe in welfare or giving up. We never expected someone else to take care of us or make things better. We just kept going, getting up every morning and doing what we had to do. That's all there was. We just kept going, and here we are. (big smile)

All I can say is Wow!  So simple and yet profound. How many times have I said to myself, this is just too hard and given up?  How many times have I given up because I wasn't willing to put in the work? How many times did I make life more difficult for myself because I was too focused on tomorrow instead of what I had to accomplish today? How many times did I give up because things were not the way I expected and I just couldn't see a way to make them become what I expected?

Definitely a lesson for everything in life. Just keep going. There is no other choice. You make your own way. You make your own choices. Sometimes, simply putting one foot in front of the other is all you can do, and that's okay.

I hope for all of us to see 60 years with someone who shares life with us on a daily basis.  For some of us, who found our partners late in life or went through first marriages that ended through death or divorce, it means we will need to live past a hundred to make it.  For my husband and I, it means we will be 116 and 118 years old on our 60th wedding anniversary. But I'm willing to try. I want to see what it's like. I want to see what I learn. I want to be able to say, "We just kept going, and along the way we did our best to enjoy it, and here we are." How about you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dream Catcher

A while back there was a discussion about building "buzz"  about a book before it came out. I'd like to build some buzz for the mystery series I'll launch in 2014 and came up with the idea of using/giving Native American Dream Catchers.

Dream catchers were made from willow sticks bent into circles and covered with bits and pieces of ornaments and leather.Then a web was strung in the middle to catch the bad dreams and allow the good dreams to flow  through.

I just attended a powwow and found the perfect dream catchers to use as  prizes. The gentleman who makes them also gave me a brief lesson about the web-like ornaments. First off he said I picked Native American ones because they only had two knots. Indians make the catchers with a knot at the beginning and one where at the end. He said Whiteman catchers have more than two knots.  He also told me the types of feathers on my specific catchers were pheasant, turkey,and guinea. The only significance being you can't sell eagle and hawk feathers, so they use the feathers from domestic birds. The pheasant feathers came from a game farm.

The reason I wanted dream catchers for prizes has to do with my protagonist in my mystery series. She is half Native American and her deceased Native American grandmother comes to her in dreams helping her solve the mysteries.

As a reader do you like receiving prizes other than books or along with books?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Busy Life

There is an old saying that I think must be true:  If you want something done...give it to a busy person.

I remember the opening of a speech I gave about a decade ago that went something like this:

     This last summer I traveled through 5 states with my family, attended an out of state conference, went camping in the mountains, spent a week at the beach, helped the hubby remodel the kitchen, hosted out of town visitors, participated on Portland to Coast race-walking team, sewed 70 rucksacks for my kid's middle school field study, and...
                                                                   .....wrote a book.

As I recall, there were gasps of shock and awe.  Looking back, I can see it was pretty darned impressive. Manic.  A tad nuts.  But, the point is, I did it.  How?  I forced myself to carve out time and discovered that a half hour here, an hour there,  some late night scribbling, and some bleary-eyed mornings eventually added up to a manuscript.

So, if you're feeling a tad over-whelmed and way-too-busy, count yourself lucky.  Chances are, you'll get 'er done.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Going Coastal

When this blog goes online I'll be on the Oregon coast spending time with some of the best people I know--other writers. This particular group is all over the genre spectrum.

For an entire week, we will be learning and sharing our experience with the amazing opportunities independent authors now have in this new publishing arena.  This is a group of writers who have been publishing for a number of years.  Some, like me, started young in fiction and short stories, and then went on hiatus for awhile pursuing another career and writing non-fiction before returning to their first love.  Others in the group had the fortitude to start young and kept with it through thick and thin.  For their efforts, they have now published more than 100 books over a 30 year period.  Then there are a lot of writers in-between with 5, 10, 20 novels, or perhaps hundreds of short stories instead of pursuing the longer form of fiction.

The most important aspect of these writers is that they have been consistently writing.  Whether it was one book a year or five books a year, they kept with it. It didn't matter if they worked 40 hours a week, they were still committed to writing. Some of them I've known since the 1980's, others only in the past decade, and a few I will meet for the first time.  For those I've known awhile, I've watched them continue writing through marriages, divorces, sickness, triumphs and tragedies with children, and the changing publishing market.  They are all a model of consistently writing, no matter what life threw them.  To me that is the mark of a professional writer--someone who has decided this is a career. Someone who has taken responsibility for meeting deadlines--even if they are self-imposed. Someone who knows and understands we write not only to entertain or to tell a story that holds some truth for us, but also as a career.

Because writers tend to ply their trade in isolation, we really value time together.  I belong to a number of writer organizations. Some have monthly meetings, like my Romance Writer's of America chapter.  Others meet only online, or have group email offerings.  But it is rare that I get to spend an entire week in the company of a diverse group of writers that I admire and trust. It is truly a gift I cherish.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Working In My Jammies...

It's funny how things come in threes. Eleven hours ago (PST, 7:53pm on Sunday), August
McLaughlin posts on Facebook...Caffeine calms me and I have serious trouble reading sitting still. What's one of the quirkiest things about you? Here's my response...I work at home, but I get dressed like I'm going into the office...mostly. If I get out in the garden first, I pull weeds in my jammies.

Five hours ago, I'm at a family pot luck for the son-in-law's birthday, and...who even remembers how it came up in conversation, but I pipe up with, “I LOVE shopping for jammies.” The daughter adds, “Yeah, don't even let her in the pajama department.” Lots of good-natured laughter ensued. I can't lie. I love jammies.

None of this has much to do with writing books, but when I was thinking about what topic to write about for my next Windtree Press blog, I began to wonder, how many writers out there work in their jammies? And if you do, which ones are your favorites? Mine are pink and grey with Minnie Mouse splashed across the top. These jammies can be worn year around. A good buy I'd say.

So on another topic, I've decided to eat better. Actually I decided this about once a week, but I'm serious this time (I hope). I've had more carbs and sugar in two days than anyone in their right mind should have in a month. So for dinner, steamed veggies: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and rainbow slaw; topped w/unsalted butter, chicken, and cubed fuji apple. The sugar withdrawal will start tomorrow, but tonight, I'm going to enjoy. Any good ideas for sugar free, and low salt meals?


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independent Spirits by Jamie Brazil...Name This Drink!

Happy 4th of July!  Whatever your plans are for the day – whether you are working or taking the day off – I hope you'll to take a moment to reflect on independence and what it means to you. 

For me, it’s a turning point.  Okay, it's not quite like Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence... my battle is with publishing. With the help of Windtree Press, a cooperative of indie authors, I'm declaring my freedom from traditional publishers, the agent gatekeepers, and those that control what we can and can't read. Tom hated taxation without representation. Well, I'm willing to give up the representation, too.
So I’d like to raise a glass and share a recipe on this fine day of publishing independence.  In a blog earlier this week I mentioned how I liked to drink an alcoholic beverage and read in the evenings.   As a BIG fan of tropical concoctions, I’m always experimenting.  Lately, I’ve been keen on this mix:

1 shot coconut vodka

6 oz. Virgil’s Zero Cream Soda (I use the “Zero” not to curb calories, but because the taste is more subtle than their regular blend)

A generous squirt of lime

Mint leaves (I use a “chocolate mint” my mom sent me… grows like weeds… want some?)

I’d like to proclaim this the official cocktail of Windtree Press.  But there’s no name for this drink. Not yet.  Suggestions?