Finding Peace Through Gratitude

Finding Peace Through Gratitude

Writing fiction has always been my passion. Mysteries, cozy mysteries, suspense, contemporary fiction, it doesn’t matter. I love getting lost in the land of make believe, creating characters, settings, and stories, living vicariously through them. And when I read a story, it’s all about being transported into the world of which I’m reading, feeling like I know the characters. It’s that connection that’s critical. And it’s that connection that makes the end of a good book come too soon.

That being said, I’m dipping my toe into some non-fiction writing and working on a book titled Finding Peace Through Gratitude. Its pages are about the storms I’ve weathered in my life, coming out a better person on the other side, all credit given to the two “G” words – God and Gratitude. It’s an interactive book with a challenge for the reader at the end of each chapter. The projected publication date is January 1, 2018.

Hop on over to my non-fiction website if you’re so inclined. It’s a place I’m developing to be calm and peaceful, somewhere to escape the busyness and chaos of the world. A multi-vitamin of sorts. Posts will continue here, on my fiction website, on Wednesdays, and I’ll be posting about nature and gratitude on my non-fiction site on Fridays.

See you there in the quietness.Tranquility!

 

 

 

 

Permission to Write

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This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writer’s conference in Niwot, CO, hosted by Rachel Weaver, founder of  Colorado Writing School. I went with enthusiasm for what I might learn and came away with so much more than that. I came away with a head chock full of knowledge, a soul with renewed energy, a heart with renewed passion for the craft, and most important of all, validation for why I do what I do. A hall pass.

We writers are an insecure lot, and if we’re not making a lot of money at what we’re doing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if our time spent writing is frivolous and if we should be doing something “important” instead. Despite five published books, another due out by the end of the year, it’s a rut I fall back into frequently, like the gutters my bowling balls rolled into when I used to bowl.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft (a book I highly recommend for writers of all levels) states that only approximately 5% of writers can support themselves and their families with their writing. Considering his book was published in 1999, eighteen years ago, that the number of writers has grown exponentially with the boom of self-publishing, and  the cost of living has gone up, that percentage is likely even lower today. Does that mean those of us who fall into the less than 95 percentile should pack it up and stop writing? Absolutely not!

Going to conferences or writer’s workshops gives me permission, if you will, to do what I love to do. My day job is a job. It’s my vocation. Writing is my avocation. My passion. And being in a room filled with other writers, those who find joy and fulfillment in the written word and telling stories, doesn’t only make that okay for me, it makes it healthy and good. And  Lord knows we can never have enough goodness.

Conferences and workshops provide the power of brainstorming with each other, the room alive from the electrical energy of so much creativity in one place. In one of the sessions I attended, the writing prompts and exercises produced the synopsis for book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries. That, alone, made it a success. 🙂

Lunch was spent with Kerrie Flanagan, author, presenter, and writing consultant, who shared invaluable insight. Another was an agent panel with Becky LeJeune and Shana Kelly, who also had invaluable advice when querying. A writer cannot get these nuggets of gold camped out in an office with the door closed.

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Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. In a profession where most of us are introverts, finding comfort within the walls of our home office or tucked comfortably behind a computer screen, conferences and workshops offer a way for us to interact with people to “get” us. They provide connections to others in the industry. And it’s even enjoyable for us introverts!

So write on.  Go create. Get your stories out into the world. Permission granted.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.           W. Somerset Maugham

 

 

 

 

The Joy is in the Journey

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We as a whole are a results-driven society.

  • We work so we have financial freedom, success, recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.
  • We raise our children with the goal of creating loving, responsible, productive people.
  • We create a date night with our spouse to keep the spark alive in the midst of daily chaos.
  • As writers, we write a set number of words (or minutes/hours/paragraphs, etc) to produce the finished product.
  • When reading a book, we often rush through it to get to the end in anticipation of what happens to the good guy/gal—or the bad guy/gal. (Or am I the only one who does that?)
  • We diet to reach a desired goal.

I could go on indefinitely.

While striving for our desired results isn’t a bad thing, if that’s our focus, we’re missing out on the process.

The process is where the gold is discovered. It’s in the process that we’re refined and made stronger.

It’s the process of achieving results that’s the teacher, showing us how to get from point A to point B while revealing the necessary seemingly little steps that eventually lead to the final result.

It’s in the process that we learn patience, perseverance, and self-control. When things aren’t going the way we’d planned, we learn to pivot as needed, taking the longer route if necessary, learning that our way isn’t the only way. It opens us up to bigger, broader horizons if our eyes aren’t stuck on the goal.

It’s in the process that holds the joy. Detours are often more scenic, more relaxed and enjoyable. We can either get to where we’re going by hurrying, scarfing down meals on the go, potty breaks only as needed, or we can sit back and enjoy the ride, take the time to taste exquisite cuisine, wander a bit in nature, getting to the same destination but with more to show for it.

Results are out of our control. Joy is not. Set your sights on the process and get to where you’re going joyfully.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

 

 

 

Character Interview with Rose Donnelly

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This is the last of the character interviews from the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them.

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Melanie’s grandmother, but I’ve raised her since my daughter, Violet, left her with me when Melanie was just four years old. Violet broke Melanie’s heart when she decided that making it in Hollywood was more important than her own daughter. At first Melanie didn’t understand, but as she got older, her resentment grew. I pray that someday Violet will find peace and she and Melanie can have a relationship. But I have to say, raising Melanie has been my greatest joy. That child is more precious to me than anything in the world. I couldn’t ever imagine my life without her. Back when I was working as a nurse at St. Luke’s hospital, Melanie helped me take care of her granddad when he became ill. She has been a Godsend.

Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota all my life. I was born here, and I’ll die here.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
No further than my own front porch. I love my home and every day I spend here is a blessing.

What is your favorite pastime?
Gardening and cooking. I love to work in my flower gardens and to teach Melanie how to cook. We Minnesotans love our hotdish, dontcha know, so there’s never a shortage of recipes to teach her. And there’s no better place to connect and spend time together as a family than in the kitchen. Melanie and I have had our best conversations while cooking or sitting at the kitchen table.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
When you’re retired, dear, every day is a weekend. My favorite way to spend any day is with Melanie and her friends. And they always make time for this old woman, those sweet kids.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie. And my memories of her granddad. It’s those memories that help me through my broken heart from Violet. But I believe there’s still hope for her.

What is your most fond memory?
When Melanie was young, watching her with her granddad in the garage. He loved to work on cars and she was right by his side, soaking up everything he taught her. She’d come in with grease smudged on her face and cute as a button.

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m the most blessed woman on this earth.

You wouldn’t change anything?
Well, maybe for Violet to finally find peace so she and Melanie could have a relationship. Maybe someday. Perhaps in one of the next books. Tune in to find out.

 

 

CI – Jack Dancy

Jack Dancy

Jack Dancy is the third party in Melanie and Claire’s circle in the Melanie Hogan cozy mysteries. Sit back, grab yourself a cold one, and get to know Jack.

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Can you provide the readers with a physical description of yourself?
My heritage is half Asian from my father’s side and half Caucasian from my mother’s. I look more like my father, unfortunately. I’m about 5’9, have thick black hair, moussed back so it’s distinctly different from my father. I wear black-rimmed glasses, loafers, and designer jeans. Since I’m a clothing and jewelry designer, I like to look the part. I also like sports jackets. Melanie tells me I’m stuffy and too proper, but I’m hoping maybe the proper part will rub off on her a little bit.

Where do you live?
In Minneapolis. I lived in upscale Linden Hills until my partner and I split. Now I own an apartment in Logan Park which is in the heart of Northeast’s Art District. It suits me fine.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Switzerland or Germany. Europe in general. Actually, anywhere but Asia. But that’s just because of my father.

What is your favorite pastime?
Wandering around the Art District. I enjoy short trips to California as well, gleaning inspiration for my designs. I also enjoy reading the classics. I especially like The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Hanging out with Melanie and Claire. I give those girls a lot of grief but they know how to give it back. Especially Melanie. But it’s a relationship I would do anything in the world for. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Lately, most of our time has been spent with me trying to keep her out of trouble. Man, that girl can find trouble! In her defense, though, her trouble landed her a find man. Let’s just hope she doesn’t go messing it up with her escapades.

What is your biggest secret?
I’m gay. It’s not exactly a secret, but I don’t flaunt it, either. It’s personal to me. I was dating Bryce for several years but he’s always been resentful of my relationship with Melanie. Forced to choose, I chose Melanie. His control and anger issues helped make that decision easier.

What makes you angry?
My father putting my mom in an uncomfortable spot with her only child–me. The man is stubborn as a mule, has disowned me because I’m gay, and makes my mom pay for not sharing his opinions. I don’t know why she stays with that old goat. She’s a good, honest, hard-working woman who deserves better.
And, also, people being late. Punctuality is non-negotiable. When someone is chronically late, it shows a lack of respect for another’s time.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie, Claire, my mom, and, of course, Melanie’s grandmother, Rose Donnelly. And my work. I love what I do. It’s an outlet for my creative side and I make a darn good living at it. Getting paid to do what I love is grand.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
I’d rather not say. Some people tend to remember those things and throw them in your face at the most inopportune times. Like Melanie did in Shear Malice. But I got her back. 🙂

What is your guilty pleasure?
Microbrew beer. I guess you could say I’m a beer snob.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Perhaps to be a little less uptight and take more time to enjoy life. Melanie is right about that, but I think I’ll keep that to myself.

 

***To read more about Melanie, Claire, and Jack, enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win one of three signed copies of Shear Madness. The giveaway runs September 1st through the 30th.

 

 

CI – Claire Davis

 

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CI = Character Interview, not Confidential Informant. 🙂

Welcome to the world of Claire Davis, side-kick of Melanie Hogan in the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries, and co-owner of Melanie’s hair salon, A Cut Above.

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Hmmm…that’s kind of awkward. Let’s see…I’m taller than Melanie, but that doesn’t take much. I’m 5’6, to be exact, so I wear flats a lot. I’m African-American with brown eyes and kinky-curly hair. I love bright-colored hair scarves and bright colors in general. I love to work out so there’s that, too. Melanie and I couldn’t possibly be more opposite from one another but it works for us. Our friendship is as solid as they come.

Where do you live?
I’m originally from Southern Florida, but I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota for several years.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paris! The city of love. Or Italy. I love the happy, robust Italian families I’ve see in movies. They’re always hugging and kissing and eating meals together.

What is your favorite pastime?
Being with my daughter, Sydney. She’s eight years old and looks so much like her daddy, my late husband. Tyler was in the military and died while on duty.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Saturday’s are spent at the salon. Mel and I own A Cut Above so Saturday’s really not a weekend for us. Our weekends are Sunday and Monday. Those days I love to spend with Syd, Mel, Jack—when he’s in Birch Haven—Rubie, and at Rose’s house with Melanie. Rose is Melanie’s grandmother and the sweetest, most kind-hearted, yet spirited, woman I know.

What is your biggest secret?
I don’t think I’ll ever be over my late husband. Tyler was everything to me. I’m super lucky to have my current boyfriend—and the only once since Tyler—Cole Mahoney, but I can’t ever give him my whole heart. Tyler will always have a huge part of that.

What makes you angry?
Life is too short to be angry.

What brings you the most joy?
My friends and family. There is nothing better than spending time with them and watching them when they don’t even know I am.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
When one of my flouncy-bouncy skirts got caught in the wind and flew up. Melanie never lets me forget that.

What is your most admirable character trait?
That’s the one thing Melanie and I have in common. I’m super loyal. Also, I don’t let things bother me. I don’t hold grudges or resentments. Life is too short for that stuff.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Maybe to be a little more discerning about who I trust. I want to believe everyone is good and for the most part, I truly believe they are. But every now and then I’m reminded that not everyone is nice. Especially lately with all the trouble makers Melanie has been attracting lately.

You can catch me in Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and soon in Shear Murder.

Carpe Diem

 

Character Interview

Grab a Cup of Java and get to Know Melanie Hogan

This month I’ll be posting character interviews from the world of the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, which thus far includes Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and coming in 2018, Shear Murder. This week’s interview is with Melanie Hogan, the protagonist in the series. I hope you enjoy getting to know Melanie. 

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Other than my greener than average eyes, similar to a cat’s eyes according to Claire and Jack, I’m Plain Jane. I don’t like a lot of makeup, and typically wear my hair loose or in a ponytail. My favorite things to wear are jeans, black boots or black sandals, both with chunky high heels to make me a bit taller than my five-foot-two frame, and hoop earrings. I have hoops of every size and color.

Where do you live?
In a small town called Birch Haven, Minnesota. It’s up north about an hour from St. Cloud.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I rather like staying home or at my Nana’s. Those are my two favorite places in the world. If I ever get adventurous and travel outside of my comfort zone, I’d visit Ireland or Scotland.

What is your favorite pastime?
Hanging out with my best friends—Claire, Jack, and Rubie. And, of course, with Nana in her kitchen. She loves to teach me how to cook and we’ve made some pretty good progress, proving there’s hope for me in the kitchen. I’m also kind of a loner and love spending time alone.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Owning a salon, Saturdays are spent neck deep in hair color and perm solutions, inhaling fumes from artificial nails and hair spray, and listening to the hum of blow dryers, stationary hair dryers and the chatter and laughter from our clientele. I love hearing the secrets they tell. On the wall of my salon hangs a plaque that says If These Walls Could Talk. If they could talk indeed. Sundays, I love to spend hanging out at my log house. I enjoy sitting on the balcony that overlooks the lake reading my devotionals, drinking coffee, and an occasional glass of wine with Claire. I also like to take my little boat out on the lake and drift.

What is your biggest secret?
Well, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I told you, now, would it?

What makes you angry?
Thanks to my birth mother, Violet, and my ex-husband, Cain, infidelity and dishonesty. I harbor just a wee resentment toward them but am working through it slowly. I might just get there before I die. Maybe. Also, anyone who hurts my friends and Nana.

What brings you the most joy?
Nana, Claire, Jack, Rubie, and Claire’s daughter, Sydney. I know it’s kind of creepy, but I love children, and since I can’t have them, sometimes I pretend she’s mine.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Showing up on the first day of beauty school wearing the ugly black polyester uniforms when everyone else showed up in “cool” clothes. Apparently, everyone else read their welcome and orientation packet better than I did. Which is super unlike me. I’m typically a more thorough and follow-the-rules kinda gal than the average person. Well, until a couple of years ago, that is, when dead bodies started littering my life.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My sarcasm. But it is what it is.

What is your most admirable character trait?
I’m more loyal than a dog to my friend and to Nana. That and I’m probably the most stable person you’ll ever meet. Well…there, again, until a couple years ago. My life was so stable, planned, and predictable, that I longed for some action and spontaneity. And boy did I get it! I quickly learned to be careful what I wish for. Carpe Diem