Okay, I’m actually only going for a week, but since it’s Hawaii, it’s a week in Paradise. Which is almost the same a migrating for winter.
If I can’t hibernate in winter, I should get to migrate. Maybe someday.
At least my husband understands my need for Vitamin D infusions. (So does my primary care giver, but she’s not invited on this vacation with us.)
As I mentioned last week, Mr. Wonderful took me to Hawaii for my 50th birthday. Well, I wasn’t actually THERE on my birth date, but it was close enough to count.
This time I’ll actually be there on my birthday.
I have to admit, this is a PERFECT gift for someone who:
Comes to life in the sunshine
Suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder
Has been feeling claustrophobic beneath the Oregon gray skies
(Of course, as I wrote this post, it was all blue skies and sunshine outside my office window. The weather man had predicted the same for the entire week. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it’s harder to recall how bland those cloudy skies make me feel when God paints them baby blue and brilliant.)
This is what I’m looking forward to waking up to every day.
Here’s what I expect to see on a nightly basis.
Best of all, I plan to do a couple things I haven’t done yet:
Horseback riding with my oldest daughter
Stepping as close to a live lava flow as allowed
What’s strange about Hawaii in December is the Christmas trees and other decorations. I’m used to snow and cold being associated with those things, but that won’t be part of my birth month on the island.
Also, Hawaiian Christmas music isn’t the same-old same-old that’s been playing on the radio in Oregon since WAY TOO EARLY in November.
All those ukelele-accompanied songs remind me I’m enjoying a tropical holiday…during the Christmas holiday season.
Have you been to the tropics in December? What stood out to you?
Roane Publishing has launched another short story anthology into the world. I love these things. You might recall that my first published fiction appeared in one such anthology in February of 2015.
I’ve been with Roane for three years and have never regretted a day of it.
Odds are good none of the authors who’re dropping in for a quick visit today are sorry about submitting their work to a small indie house rather than chasing a literary agent or a big house.
Since ONE SWEET MORNING brims with romances set in spring, we’ll be discussing that season of new life with the four ladies with stories in this collection.
Thanks for taking time out to stop by my blog today, ladies. The question I have for you is “What is your favorite thing about springtime?”
For the record, my favorite thing is the return to green and the blooming of flowers, sure, but more importantly that SUMMER will soon be here.
Here are the answers:
Theresa Kemble (Author of “Spring into Action”):
What is my favorite thing about springtime? For me. it’s the Sun returning it’s warm rays back to me after a dreary winter. (Yes, I’m one of those people that hate the winter! Well, except for the holidays, which I totally love!) I love warm gentle breezes, the scent of flowers invading my senses! It’s pure joy for me! Spring to me means a fresh start, hope for something new and exciting! In my story, “Spring into Action”, my heroine,Tamara Goode hopes for good things as she start’s a new chapter in her life. As the saying goes… Spring hopes Eternal!
ME: I also love sunshine, Theresa!
Claire Davon (Author of “Spring Water”):
Spring is such a great time of year. It’s when the promise of new life and new beginnings takes hold, and winter begins to fade in the rear view mirror. I grew up in Boston, so when Roane wanted spring romance stories it was a natural fit to set my story in Boston. I always loved when April rolled around when I was growing up. We were finally were able to think about warmer weather and no more snowfall. By that time I was good and sick of the snow! By that time fifty degree weather called for t-shirts and shorts. I love the promise of spring, when the snowbanks recede and the landscape is revealed again, just as people are revealed, scrapping their heavy layers for lighter clothing, and lighter moods.
In my story I talk about the swan boats, and that was one of my favorite memories throughout my time in Boston. They were like a rite of passage. When the swan boats started, you knew that the city had moved into spring mode, and warmer days were coming.
ME: I shivered when you said fifty-degree weather called for t-shirts and shorts. It will have to be 65 or warmer before I bare my arms and legs to goosebumps.
Suzi Finlay MacDonald (Author of “Only the Heart Knows”):
My favourite thing about springtime is that it’s a time of new beginnings. The natural world is waking up and starting over, and all that positive energy can give one the courage to take a chance on something new, or get rid of something that isn’t right. In ‘Only The Heart Knows’ Maddie has chosen springtime for her new beginning, but when things change it takes courage to make the right choice.
ME: Something about sunshine gives me courage, too.
Kim Strattford (Author of “Sparkage”):
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where it stayed green all year. Then I moved to DC area and got to experience the full effect of four seasons–how gray and bare winter can be. So the best part of spring is seeing the grass turning green again, the crocuses blooming, the trees leafing out, and the daffodils and other spring flowers exploding.
Spring lasts a hot minute here. We usually go from winter to summer with maybe a week of spring, but still, I love it.
ME: I’d heard that about spring lasting a week or less in DC, but the cherry blossoms are lovely.
To grab your copy of ONE SWEET MORNING, click here or on the cover image above. These authors and the indie publisher who believes in them appreciate your willingness to support them.
Check out the rest of the posts for this release by clicking below.
A blue sky spreads to infinity. Glaring sunlight seeps into frost-bitten soil. The early spring bulbs raise their heads from slumber.
It’s Spring at last. The calendar says so. That would be March 20 at 9:15 am (PDT) for the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere.
But some weather channels hint that another late blast of snow may blanket the ground again.
Could winter give up it’s hold already?
I’m sure all my friends in the northeastern United States are beyond sick of shoveling snow and hunkering down as another blizzard pounds them. So what if the groundhog saw his shadow? That was MORE than six weeks ago now, so enough!
In case winter is holding you hostage, I’m going to share some photos of spring on the blog today.
Crocuses are the early bloomers in my yard.
Tulips like to raise their heads, too, but since Easter came early this year, those Dutch tulips in my beds will wake up a little later.
Even with the blue sky, it’s still sweatshirt weather in my backyard.
People in my neighborhood are more than ready for the season of flowers.
A picture popped up in my “memories” that made me realize one sign of springtime I’ve been missing for the past couple years.
Maybe I’ll need to plant a flowering plum tree somewhere in our yard. If the HOA grants permission.
Our grass stays green most of the year (with watering in July and August), but the sound of mowers is a sure sign that spring has sprung.
What is the tell-tale sign of spring in your world? Is spring your favorite season?
My Muse is extroverted in every imagined scenario. My actual body and mind are introverted enough to happily stay home every weekend reading a book.
While Musie celebrated the idea of the Deep Thinker’s Writing Retreat, my mind shriveled into the fetal position and begged to visit a library instead. Preferably the one on my iPad which wouldn’t involve moving away from my couch.
Since the retreat was in Florida, my body argued with my feeble mind. “There will be sunshine and blue skies. We can get our daily dose of Vitamin D without taking that soft gel.”
The part of my brain that knows I need a writing tribe and that my writing is falling short—somehow, since I can’t get an agent to jump on it—also slapped the curled mound of quivering gray matter. After all, 2018 is a year for metamorphosis, and the biggest part of that is with my writing.
The battlefield inside didn’t stop me from packing a bag or waking up at 3AM. On waged the upheaval between mind, soul and Musie, while I kissed hubby goodbye and boarded a plane for the first of three legs of the journey to Destin, Florida.
It was a writing retreat. I expected to write.
In fact, I set myself a goal of completing 5,000 new words for the third Sweet Grove Romance. I figured, that’s five hours. I’ll be there six DAYS, surely there will be at least five hours to write.
Not if I expected to sleep.
Not if I hoped to glean the lessons I needed for character development.
I know this is my weak area, and the retreat organizers gave us three days to work on our characters. In fact, we spent hours brainstorming the hero and shero of every retreat attendee.
This after the entire group tossed out ideas for characters of the “group” story we were brainstorming.
Brainstorming is my super power. No less than six people told me that at the group. One woman (a former managing editor for Zondervan) told me to expect an email from her every time she got stuck. Oh-kay.
But the only time I got to write anything was on the final day of the retreat. Then I was expected to craft the first scene we had brainstormed earlier and share it with my group mentor, Susan May Warren.
She wanted me to share a rough draft scene with her? Was she honestly expecting to see my best work?
Enough of that. Even if the retreat wasn’t what I expected, it was an incredible experience.
A Day in the Life
I don’t sleep in. The fact I was in a different time zone didn’t matter.
I woke up around 5:30 AM (3:30 my time). My roomie woke up, too, and we headed down to the beach for a walk. This became our normal morning routine for the next four days.
Breakfast was meant to be served at 7:30. The oven wasn’t cooperating, so that didn’t happen the first several days. (Eventually the maintenance man arrived and determined that the convection setting was the default, so the retreat hostess had been using that instead of a regular bake setting.)
At 8:45, Rachel Hauck led the group in devotions. She’d recently taught a class on the Song of Solomon at her church, so we got some condensed thoughts from that.
Enlightening, for sure. I was considering the intimacy of my relationship with Christ…and finding it sadly lacking.
Then the morning sessions began. These were the topics:
Stories that matter
Characters that matter
Lindy Hop MEGA
Plot your bookends
Scenes that matter
Building your premise
No, we didn’t do ALL those the first day. There were two morning sessions and these were the topics for those sessions (ten planned sessions in all, although it ended up only being eight).
After lunch, the larger group broke into two smaller brainstorming groups of six attendees, one mentor and one scribe (the Administrative Assistant for My Book Therapy was our scribe and the retreat hostess was the scribe for the other group. Both of these ladies are published authors).
Here’s what the afternoon brainstorming sessions were supposed to look like:
SEQ Brainstorming (four sessions)
Plot Brainstorming (two sessions)
Black Moment Brainstorming (one session)
Scene One Brainstorming (one session)
One session of writing time
Two sessions for one-to-one meetings with mentors
Note how I said “supposed to” in the preceding sentence? Yeah, the brainstorming of the hero and shero took the first three days of the retreat for the six authors in our group. A full hour or more per character.
This left no time for scene brainstorming because the rest of the sessions were needed to brainstorm six plot outlines (LINDY Hop four-act plot diagram).
I will say that we brainstormed the black moments and first scenes as we went, so all the bases were covered.
The first three nights, we watched a movie from 7 to 9 PM. Each person was assigned something from that day’s lesson to find in the movie and we discussed it after the film.
We used THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY to discuss characterization on Friday night.
On Saturday, we talked about the major plot points with THE LEGEND OF TARZAN.
They made us cry on Sunday with THE IMPOSSIBLE. We talked about why that movie “worked” when the story was not action-packed. How did they build the emotional tension?
Not surprisingly, the emotion building still fit into the LINDY Hop structure we’d been learning.
Using movies is a great way to solidify the importance of characterization and plot. Everyone has the same frame of reference, so the question of subjectiveness is alleviated.
For the most part. There were varying themes for TARZAN that could be determined by naming different things as the “man in the mirror” moment or “black moment.”
The Deep Thinkers Retreat might not have been what I was expecting. (Notice I didn’t call it a writing retreat there. I think it’s meant to be a writer’s retreat rather than a retreat for writing.) Still, I learned so much that my brain overloaded on the flight home.
My next Sweet Grove romance was written using these methods. In July, you can judge for yourself if this retreat made me a better storyteller. What makes something a retreat? Have you ever when to a retreat with one set of expectations only to discover it would deliver a different set?
Who wouldn’t want to go to Florida in the middle of winter? (Okay, winter is only a month from being “officially” over, but still.)
What writer wouldn’t want to attend a five-day writing retreat with two best-selling authors? Maybe someone, but not this author.
I wish I could tell you more about it, but at the moment, I’m in transit. Since the retreat is held at a house in Destin, Florida, I’m having to zig and zag all over the place to get there from the Pacific Northwest.
I left before 7 am this morning from Portland to fly to San Francisco. From there, I’m heading off to Houston, which appears to be the only major airport on the west side of Destin with flights to the little airport.
I arrive at 6 pm, exactly one hour before the shuttle leaves from the airport to take a bunch of us writers to the retreat.
Bright and early (okay, not really early in my book) on Friday morning, the retreat begins with breakfast and devotions led by Rachel Hauck. Not sure who that is? One of the best-selling authors. She writes Christian historical romances and historical fiction, so if those aren’t your genres…you’re forgiven.
There will be classes in the morning. Group sessions for brainstorming and applying the lessons.
In the afternoon, I’ll be writing my next Sweet Grove romance novella. That’s the entire focus of this retreat for me. I hope to come back with 5-10 thousand new words. If nothing else, I’ll have an incredible hooking scene and complete understanding of my characters’ motivations.
Because the first draft WILL be written before the second book releases on March 13.
Yes, here’s the pretty cover, in case you missed my post about the series. (You did? Here’s the link.)
Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how well the retreat worked out for me. Maybe even this time next week.
Or maybe not since I’ve scheduled March 1 as an official “recovery” day from all the travel and lack of sleep.
Did I drop gray-lenses glasses over my eyes? That’s what it looked like at ten this morning when the moon cast the sun in its shadow.
Yes, my home was near the path of “totality” in Oregon. Since today is my son’s birthday, we headed south to his house into the path of totality.
Two minutes of darkness on a bright sunny day must have sent people in the Middle Ages into a frenzy. (Maybe that’s why they called it the Dark Ages? Okay, I’m being sarcastic. I understand what made those “dark” times.)
After I made a delicious birthday breakfast of French toast and bacon, we headed out into the sunlight. A golden ball shone from the crystalline aquamarine sky.
My husband had two camera rigged up. The rest of us were making bad puns, occasionally glimpsing through our “approved for eclipse” glasses.
The warning on the flimsy frames said I shouldn’t look at the sun for more than three minutes at a time.
Someone suggested an eclipse playlist. Of course, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” made the top of the chart. I quoted “You’re so Vain” because a local station played it yesterday, so it was fresh in my mind.
We made plenty of suppositions about how many human sacrifices the Aztecs fed to their volcanoes during the two-minutes of darkness during their hey day.
And of course, I wondered what might happen if your shift to “werewolf” was tied to the solar eclipse rather than a full moon. In fact, we decided an Ocelot-shifter might be a better choice. Something that loved the sun but went into hunter mode when the sun set.
Look for that story in the near future.
After the Chiquita banana stage, I glimpsed through my special spectacles more frequently. Soon a bare cuticle of a thumbnail of sun could be seen.
The glasses came off and the midnight sky turned granite as the sun-powered corona transformed the mid-day-night-like sky.
Whoops rose in the air. Neighbors ignited fireworks (apparently, in Woodburn, OR, any time is a great time for fireworks). Crickets sang their songs.
It was a glorious view. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.
And story-inspiring for my author brain.
Faces were ringed with joyous smiles. Eyes sparked, lit with an inner fiery star.
My daughter hightailed it to her job. Sadly, everyone had the same idea.
Traffic slowed. Suddenly, freeway travel between the Oregon state capital to the largest city in the state looks strangely like a day in Los Angeles.
Thankfully, my husband was telecommuting. And there’s internet at my son’s house (or the home of his second parents where we enjoyed the total eclipse of the sun outside by their gazebo) for me to do a little writing.
These pictures don’t do it justice. Once I can get to my computer and my husband can download his GoPro footage and his speedy-lens still photos, I’ll share the cream of the crop with you.
If you were in the path of totality, what was your experience? When have you been awed by two minutes (or less)? Read more
Authors take vacations, but sometimes they aren’t for avoiding the keyboard. This author travels occasionally with her engineer husband, and most of the time those are working vacations.
What? It’s not vacation if you’re working.
Maybe you’re right. Or not. The third definition for vacation at dictionary.com says: “freedomorreleasefromduty,business,oractivity.” In this case, I’m freed from my household duties and my regular activities for a specific purpose: to incite creativity.
Creativity and Canada are a decent mix, I’ve decided.
Sometimes I spend too much time inside my office. The lovely walls with all their inspirational sayings and plaques of my book covers move like a trash compactor (picturing a scene from Star Wars IV here).
Even when the sun pushes back the gray clouds, all I see are the words that need to be rewritten or revised or edited. The list of projects in mid-completion expands to block out everything else.
In short, the creative space I’ve slaved to build in my home office (and on my back patio) works against me.
This is when I need a change of scenery. Sometimes going to the coffee shop works. Or I’ve plugged in at the library.
But in light of the daunting tasks facing me in the months ahead, my muse begged for something bigger.
So when my husband told me he had a conference in Vancouver B.C. and asked, “Do you want to come with me?” I jumped on it.
All I was hoping for was a new view outside my window, a touch of sunshine and maybe a little magic in the air.
Several people gave me ideas of things to do while I visited this Canadian city. I smiled and nodded, listening but thinking, “I’m not going there for a relaxing vacation.”
No need to rain on their good advice. I even checked into a bicycle tour of the city because that’s something I’ve decided I will do if I go to Europe with my husband on a business trip. It’s a great way to breathe foreign air and glimpse the local sights, all while stretching the flabby muscles in my legs. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!
The weather app (who needs a weather man when you have a smart phone) advised me that it wouldn’t be sunny during my stay. But the first couple days wouldn’t bring precipitation either.
I could deal with that. I’d be able to get outside and walk along the harbor which is only a block from the hotel. Fresh foreign air: check.
Of course, spending time isolated in a hotel room to write isn’t the same as writing in my office. The maid wants to come in and clean. There isn’t food and water close by to keep me fed and hydrated.
And there are no cats to assist me by climbing in my lap and scrubbing their chin over my typing fingers.
The lobby in the hotel has a small area that would work for writing, but it’s pretty busy, and I’m a person who prefers silence during certain stages of writing.
Was this going to be a bust after all?
Here’s what I wanted to accomplish on this vacation: draft the third installment of my sweet contemporary romance series.
That meant 20,000 words in four days, which is about an average accomplishment for me when I’m in the drafting phase of a story. Five hours of writing per day equals 5,000 words.
Of course, I only had three days in Vancouver. The Monday and Friday of the week were travel days.
Monday was sunny and gorgeous when we arrived. Much better weather than in Portland when we left at 4:30 in the afternoon. My muse perked up her ears and gazed out the window on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.
Find a place to get coffee and breakfast (sorry, Marriott, I’m not paying $20 to eat breakfast)
Scope out restaurants with great people-watching views for budget-friendly lunches
Set up a snack-stocked writing area at the desk in the hotel room
Oh, Starbucks, how do I love thee? I know plenty of people aren’t fans. Fine. But for less than half the price of the Marriott offering I get a mocha grande (non-fat, no whip) and a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. Sounds like the perfect breakfast to me.
Better yet? It’s directly across the street from the hotel.
Three blocks down, I locate Waterfront Food Court. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a mecca of variety in eats and bountiful bodies to watch.
Day one, I enjoy falafel and Greek salad while reading on my iPhone and stealing glances at the people flooding through the seating area. Day two, should I eat salad or grab a slice of pizza?
I love having choices.
I packed healthy snacks in my suitcase, but my husband didn’t want me to starve. So he snagged a bag of pretzels and white cheddar popcorn from the offerings at his conference. (I’m pretty sure the popcorn is for him since I don’t like cheese on mine.)
All three priorities met. Better yet? The walkway along the harbor was better than I imagined. Check it out.
Yes, there are TWO lanes on the path. One of them is for foot traffic and the other is for bicycles (and a few in-line skaters whooshed by, too).
I wanted to share my thoughts on the city, but my post is getting long. Look! A topic for a future post. SCORE!
Is there such a thing as a working vacation for you? Or does it have to be about relaxing and sightseeing?
The world’s longest beach is located on the West Coast of the United States? It seems like a stretch.
You’ll discover that the 28-mile long peninsula in Washington State is indeed the longest “drivable” stretch of beach in the world. A beach in Bangladesh technically takes the title in distance of beach (but it isn’t vehicle accessible).
Two times in the past decade, we chose Long Beach, Washington as a March destination. Which probably isn’t the greatest choice weather-wise. The Evergreen State isn’t misnamed and in order to keep its verdant vegetation requires irrigation.
Nature obliges. In short, expect rain if you visit during a season other than summer. And don’t be surprised if precipitation accompanies your trip in June, July or August.
Since there is a Worldmark resort in Long Beach, and it’s located an easy drive from our home, it was an obvious choice for a “saving year” Spring Break when the kids lived at home.nd a mini-vacation when someone had “use it or lose it” vacation time.
Even without those tempting factors, it’s worth consideration if you’re looking for a beach destination for your next vacation. Family Activities
An array of activities await all along the Long Beach Peninsula.
There is a family fun center (or three). Here you can find rides, like bumper cars and a carousel,, and games, maybe even Skee Ball, my favorite.
There are indoor AND outdoor miniature golf courses. This is entertaining for everyone, especially if you can’t make a single par.
Two go-kart tracks are an easy walk from the Worldmark resort where we stayed. If you’re unlucky, you might get the cart that has only one speed: putt, putt. You’ll put the pedal to the metal and eke along, slightly faster than a slug on slime.
If you go to the coast, you’ll want to stop and see the lighthouses. There are two historic lighthouses on Cape Disappointment.
The Cape Disappointment light was build in 1856. Because of problems with the fog horn and light not reaching ships, the second lighthouse was built. Take a nice hike along the Cape Disappointment Trail. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
The North Head Lighthouse is on a rock headland in Cape Disappointment State Park and has been in service since 1897. If you’re fortunate, you might not get blown out to sea while visiting this site.
A paved trail offers a unique view of the peninsula. The Discover Trail runs 8.5 miles from Ilwaco to Long Beach. Mile markers track your progress, and side paths allow access to the beach. It’s perfect for walking, running or biking.
Horseback riding on the beach is another enjoyable way to pass the time on your vacation. A local rancher brings horses to a paddock adjacent to the Worldmark resort where we stayed, but there are other vendors, too.
Did I mention this is the longest stretch of beach in the United States?
Maybe you prefer a little sunshine with your beach outings. That’s fine. But you might be surprised to see the locals at the beach during slanting rain showers. They’ll be walking their dogs (without leashes), jogging, flying kites, windsurfing, parasailing or surfing.
In the evenings, cars will park in full view of the sinking sun. Trucks will have their beds facing the ocean while their occupants recline on camp chairs, eating and drinking.
People drove campers and motorhomes on to the beach. Talk about a drive-up ocean view for any meal! I wouldn’t recommend this when the sand is soft, but during the rainy season, even the dry sand doesn’t give way very easily.
What are your favorite beach activities?
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It’s easy to beat the sun awake in the tropics. Or anywhere in the winter. Is this balmy breeze stirring palm leaves to dance and sing a sign of winter?
Today’s the day. It’s time to say goodbye to Paradise and return to the reality of home.
For whatever reason, that reality involves a winter storm advisory. Because after enjoying shorts weather for five days, it’s only fir to return to sub-freezing temperatures, icy roads and the wintry mix the Pacific NW is famous for–when the regular deluge gives way to colder weather.
Every morning we enjoyed a walk, either along the beach or through the quieter, sleepy streets. There won’t be any of this once we get back to the mainland. Who wants to get drenched in the name of walking outside?
What Makes it Paradise
Perhaps everyone has a different concept of Paradise.
In the Bible, it could be the Garden of Eden or a place in the center of the Earth where souls waited for release.
In my world, it’s a place where the days are sunny but not hot. Where the only thing on my schedule is whatever sounds good. Where I don’t have to wear socks and shoes.
And the pace of the day reflects my mood.
There are palm trees. The sky is a crystalline aquamarine, the color of my Caribbean blue diamond. Maybe it’s a blue topaz sky since it’s December.
Waves lap against the soft shores. The briny smell of the sea underwrites a sweet aroma of baked goods.
And there are no calories. At least in my mind.
What Makes it Goodbye
Is there any song so mournful as “Taps” when a bugle plays the cadence?
It suits the mood. It’s the perfect way to say farewell.
There’s an end, so we say goodbye.
Which also means there’s a beginning. It’s an ocean away in a colder place. Pine trees will carpet millions of homes with their needles.
Because it’s nearly Christmas.
The voices of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby have even reminding us of the season when the flush of sweaty beneath sunny rays lent to amnesia.
Seats are reserved on a flight. Cats wait our arrival thousands of miles away.
There will be a hello.
But first we must say “Aloha Hawaiian vacation.”
Those Hawaiians knew what they were doing. Aloha means hello and goodbye.
Because in this temperate land of sweet pineapple and aromatic coffee, they’re really the same thing.