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Just attended my first Romance Writers of America convention! What a trip! Okay, that term dates me. But honestly, had a wonderful time.
You know, whenever you commit to go together with others, share a car, a hotel room, expenses, etc., you always kind of wonder how that will be. Especially when you don’t know the others that well. Years ago, I shared a room at a sales convention with a woman who only went to get away from her home so that she could drink. And drink. I didn’t mind that much, but she wasn’t that conversational once drunk on her behind, you know? But I digress.
I went to San Diego with two romance writers from our local RWA chapter, and we met up with a couple more once there. Shelley Winsor, Laura Emery, Lee Souleles and I got along like besties the whole time. No one had any annoying habits! No one had ulterior motives! No one felt they were better than the rest and therefore, were not snobby or self-absorbed!
The convention itself was fab. The workshops, publisher spotlights, keynote speakers, book-signing, goodies & swag, vendor fair, and meals were all well planned and carried out. The workshops I attended were: Maximize Your Discoverability on Amazon, What Really Happens at a Romance Novel Cover Photo Shoot, Mastering the Art of Great Conflict, Newsletters, Back Matter, and Other Indie Marketing Strategies, How to Sustain and Advance an Established Indie Career and Chapter Treasurer Seminar. I also enjoyed sitting in on Spotlight on St. Martin’s Press where I listened to 7 acquiring editors talk about their needs and wants at St. Martin’s. What a great bunch of ladies! As authors, we tend to look at these folks as goddesses. They didn’t disappoint.
The swag and goodies were plentiful, but the book-signings were beyond belief. Nearly every major publisher was represented by their authors, and dozens of fabulous indie authors signed as well. (And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what attracted me back to RWA after several years away.) My co-travelers brought home nearly 200 signed romance novels! You should have seen the back of my SUV—packed nearly to the ceiling!
The San Diego Marriott Marquis Hotel was marvelous, we had an end room with beautiful views of both downtown and the marina. The Tequila Bar & Grille became a favorite hangout, and one night we ventured down to the Harbor House in Seaport Village for a lovely dinner with several members of our chapter. On the walk back, we watched aerial fireworks shot off from Coronado Island!
All in all, a terrific trip with great people. We are already planning a trip to Romantic Times in Atlanta next year!
Ten years ago, my husband and I had the extreme pleasure of traveling around the coast of Spain and Portugal, from Barcelona to Lisbon. What a trip! We’ll never forget the exciting ports, the gorgeous M.S. Deutschland, the lovely company of our friends. One point of interest was the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar. We marveled, and took the usual photos while passing through (the ones of us with our hair horizontal in the wind aren’t worth reprinting here) the eight-mile wide waterway.
We are looking at again cruising the Mediterranean in 2016. One of the trips we considered would take us to Gibraltar, but not through the Strait. What’s there, I wondered? So I read up. Felt a little dumb for not knowing that Gibraltar, which is made up of about 2.6 sq miles and is home to 30,000 people, is a the British Overseas Territory. Listed as “Gibraltar, Great Britain” in the travel documents, this small community is located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and its top attraction are Barbary Apes, tailless monkeys that congregate in a viewing area. “The last remaining population of the species on the European continent, these playful primates are thriving.”
Of great interest to me are the historical aspects of Gibraltar. Think about it – this point is an amazingly strategic spot to control entrance to the Mediterranean, and during WWII, it served as an enormously important base for the Royal Navy. There are caves and tunnels throughout the rock.
We may not actually take this cruise, but I’m happy that doing the research brought me up to speed on this tiny bit of geographic fascination.
In my last post, I talked about how I’ve made changes in my life. One very important thing I forgot to mention is my new position as president of Circle of Hope, Inc. Some of my followers know I’ve been involved in the non-profit world for many years. Almost five years ago, I joined this small, local, charitable group at the urging of two of my friends. I was almost immediately elected to the executive board as Secretary, and two years later I move up to Vice-President. Now, as of July 1st, I’m the prez.
Circle of Hope provides emotional, educational and financial assistance to those fighting cancer who live, work or are treated in the Santa Clarita Valley. But in a smaller nutshell, we raise money to help pay the cancer-related bills our clients can’t afford to pay. Our organization is 11 years old, and we have a board of directors of about 16 people. We have an ace Executive Director. We hold several fundraisers a year, and we derive a significant amount of our revenue from these fundraisers. Competition is tough, grants are difficult to come by, and big-money sponsors are few and far between. Still, we press on, as we assist women and men battling breast, uterine, cervical, ovarian, prostate, testicular and colon cancers. While it’s a challenge to constantly be looking for money, one look into the faces of our clients, one session of listening to their stories, one big, tearful smile of gratitude makes it all worthwhile.
I’ve been accused of being an idealist. But without those of us who believe in the goodness and the possibilities, there would be no Circle of Hope. I have lofty dreams and expectations for the next two years. I know there will be discouragements and disappointments along the way, but there will also be successes and joy. Here’s to seeking, finding and sharing the generosity I know is out there.
(You thought I was going to say “Twists and Turns”, didn’t you? Just messing with you.)
I want to explain something, and I want to do it in such a way that you’ll understand completely and maybe even empathize a little. I’ve made a change this year, an unplanned and rather unconscious change in a very important area of my life, and I feel surprisingly great. What monumental change could this be, you ask?
I stopped worrying about my books. I stopped stressing over whether or not I was doing enough or the right things to sell books. I stopped mentally flogging myself for being unable to finish my WIP. I stopped obsessing over Amazon reviews and sales figures. I gave myself permission to love my books, love my modest number of fans and to let that be enough.
I feel immensely better. Incredibly better. I no longer feel the need to keep up with all the latest and greatest marketing techniques. No longer feel I’m in a competition with other authors. I’m free! Free of all that struggle and heartache and feelings of defeat.
For those who’ve been on this journey with me, relax. I haven’t completely checked out of the hotel. I will finish The Gypsy in Me. I am in the midst of contracting new covers for the first two books in that series, which I will unveil and release when Gypsy is ready to come out. I’ll make it a 3 book box set. But I won’t push myself to the point where it hurts to think about it. I don’t need deadlines or any other “shoulda-coulda-woulda’s” that steal all the joy out of writing. Don’t need it.
There will likely be another lighthouse book, too, when I have a good enough idea to set in motion. Perhaps, by releasing myself from all these imagined obligations, I’ll have a mind free enough to invite the muse back in.
On this date–April 13–in 1923, my mother was born, number 9 in a family of 10 children and 1.5 adults. The .5 would have been Poppy, her father, whom wasn’t around all that much. When I think about my mother’s 83 year lifespan, it seems like something I read in a history book. Both of my parents lived through one of the most rapidly changing eras of modern times. She lived on a quasi-farm, without indoor plumbing. I don’t even know if they had electricity. Her grandfather, Joseph Newdigger (Neidecker) was an Austrian stowaway at age 13, who arrived in the U.S. around 1850. He settled, at first, in Arkansas, where he met Mary Elizabeth Hooper. They married in 1868 and settled in Newton County, Missouri. They had 3 children, but by 1878 Joseph had moved on and married Louisa Rebecca McDonnel, a Native American, with whom he had 13 more children over a 17 year period. One was my grandmother, Mary Catherine.
My mother never knew her grandparents, and I don’t think she knew her father very well, either. Her mother succumbed to cancer when Mom was only 13, and Poppy was long gone by then, off to father two more kids with someone else. My mom and her younger sister were passed around amongst the older siblings until they could be married off. Both of these young sisters faced unwanted relationships early in their lives, stories they lived, but weren’t inclined, to tell.
Think about population in America’s rapidly growing years. Joseph Newdigger fathered 18 children, and one, just ONE of these children had 13 more children. Consider that most, if not all, of those original 18 kids had an average of 10 more. That’s 180 lives. My grandmother, Mary Catherine, had some 28 grandkids and and least 32 great-grandchildren. The figures are mind-boggling when you consider it all.
So I meant to write about Mom today, and got all tangled up in stats. These large families certainly had an effect on her life–but what kind of effect? Competition for attention, even life’s necessities? Once any of those aunts, uncles and even older sibs moved out of the line of sight, they were virtually lost to her. No telephones, no “change of address” cards. Hear-say, maybe… the neighbor that lives over near the church “heard” that the oldest sister, Mamie, moved to Texas with that guy that comes around selling egg-gathering baskets… it was easy to lose touch. Today, I can spend a few minutes on Facebook or Ancestry and locate many of my long-lost or unknown descendents. Strange, huh?
Mom has been gone for 10 years now. I wonder what she’d think of Facebook and all the myriad ways the Internet ties people together? With her background of riding an old nag to school, using an outhouse, killing her own chickens for dinner and leaving school at 13, how could she have even a basis for understanding today’s world? I barely understand it myself.
Nonetheless, she made a good life for Dad, my two brothers, my sister and me. She didn’t need to look up on YouTube about how to make a pie crust or reupholster the couch. She loved us all with a devotion and passion she was denied as a child. She was socially shy, however, and I have to smile thinking about how tramatized she’d be by Facebook’s friending/ unfriending and “like” systems. Best that she was spared that nonsense!
Happy Birthday, Mama. Love and miss you.
For the last few years, my family (specifically my brother, his wife, my husband and I) have been taking once-a-year field trips around Los Angeles to take in some iconic and/or historic sights. So many of us grew up here, smack dab in the middle of a rich, cultural stew, and have never seen so much of it. We’ve toured places like Griffith Observatory, the Getty Museum, Angel’s Flight, the Bradbury Building, etc. We augment our little trips with out-of-the-way eateries and unexpected side forays. For our Downtown venture, we boarded the lite rail and took it to Pershing Square. We took time to admire a stories-high, vintage painting of Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek on the side of a brick building.
Read more about Anthony as Zorba
This year, we decided we go in search of stars’ graves. Funky, perhaps juvenile, I know; but it caught my fancy so off we went to Glendale. After first partaking of a delightful lunch at the Los Feliz Cafe, we headed on over to the one of the most beautiful cemeteries ever. Forest Lawn in Glendale is also unbelievably huge. Over 300 acres, with over 300,000 gravesites. It is the single largest final resting place for movie stars–over a thousand individuals of some level of show business notariety. My brother and I are both film buffs and truly appreciate many of the legendary stars of the past, so we looked forward to seeing how they…ended up. But you won’t find any “Maps to Stars’ Graves!” at Forest Lawn. Quite the contrary. The young man at the gate was polite and quietly explained where we might find James Stewart and Liz Taylor, but beyond that, we were on our own. According to Seeing-Stars.com, the establishment can be downright hostile about sightseers.
While touring the park, we came upon the Museum, which is currently hosting “Revolution 2: The Art of Music.” Can you imagine my delight? Here was a treasure trove of original album cover art, rock star portraits, magazine covers, and a special section showcasing the art of William Stout. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, but above [Beatlesongs!] is a sample of Stout’s work. You may also know him from Firesign Theater and Life of Brian.
A video was playing, and we sat a while to watch Live Aid 1985, the portion offering Elton John, Kenny Loggins, and George Michael. Talk about being in hog heaven.
Afterward, we entered the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection for a telling about the painting and refurbishment of Jan Styka’s “The Crucifixion” – a canvas that is 195 feet wide by 45 feet high. The video accompanying the display was very entertaining and informative.
Finally, we got back into the car and went in search of Jimmy. We found him, right where the gate attendant had said he’d be, beside his wife Gloria. We were humbled by the simplicity of this wonderful man’s grave.