Life updates…

I began writing a post today about life and book updates, and quickly realized I needed two posts instead of one long, monster sized one. Life has been a little busy for me lately. We’ve had gorgeous spring-like weather through February and March so I’ve been outside as much as possible hiking, mountain biking, running, and enjoying the sunshine and flowers. It seems to be coming to an end right now as we’re headed into spring break. 😦 I guess I shouldn’t complain about a week of sleeping in, though!

We also have baby bunnies at my house. That happened by accident, actually. A strong wind knocked a giant oak over six weeks ago, which landed on our bunny hutch and crushed it. The bunnies made it out just fine… So fine in fact that they weren’t too shaken up to procreate. Now we have two new moms and seven babies that are twelve days old. Here’s a few pics of my precious little babies:

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My little gray and white otter mom had two babies, one just like her and another that’s a black otter: black on top and white on bottom – that’s the one in a pic by itself. This one looks just like his dad so I’m calling him Mr. Fluffy Jr for now. (And I’m assuming he’s a boy just because…)

My little black bunny had five babies. Three are all black like her, one is all gray, and one is gold. Everyone is in love with the little gold baby! My kids are coming up with fun and crazy names for the babies. It’s almost a game because we’ve come up with so many possible names for each baby.

We’ve also been mushroom hunting out in the mountains for yellow foot and a fun mushroom called hedgehogs, which have soft spikes on the underside. They grow together and make a super delicious soup with a delicate flavor. I might actually like their soup better than chanterelle. Here’s a mushroom we found that’s not edible, but it was pretty so I wanted a pic:

20150318_162253_resizedI swear I see a dozen or more types of mushrooms each time I’m in the woods. A few are edible, but there’s some crazy looking or pretty ones too, and I like taking pictures of those. This one is a prettiest pale, peachy yellow. Too bad it didn’t show up in the pic better.

So, happy spring! And happy spring break if you’re in school or have kids.

And I’m off to write my post about writing…

All in my Head – A story behind the story

Do you like behind-the-scenes stories that show you how a movie or book came about? I love learning what inspired a great story. The other day I was skimming through my journal and noticed something new about how I got the idea for It’s All In My Head. On February 6th, my husband and I planned to drive to Eugene to watch Jerry Seinfeld. We were super excited, to put it mildly. Then… a giant snowstorm hit and buried Eugene in snow and ice. It was fifty degrees here, an hour and a half south of Eugene, so it was extra frustrating. The show wasn’t cancelled, either, so we emailed our tickets to someone who could use them. That night, we watched the start of the winter Olympics instead. I got hooked on watching the snowboarders and their tricks in the halfpipe, flying twenty feet up into the air to flip upside down. It’s amazing what they can do. The following Monday, I was driving on our country highway and looking the pretty green hills here when a book idea hit me. I wrote 10,000 words in a week.

So if I got to see Jerry Seinfeld, I might not have watched the Olympics and gotten that idea. Funny, huh?

The book flowed at an amazing rate–the idea took over my life the way Marcus took over Avery’s!

By the way, here’s the inspiration for Marcus, a real snowboarder who competed in the Olympics, Sage Kotsenbrug. He thought he was after a gold medal… and didn’t realize he was inspiring a book! If you’re not familiar with him,  Wikipedia says, “He won the first ever Olympic gold medal in men’s snowboard slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russa, and became the first gold medalist at these Olympics.”

Marcus  - Sage Kotsenburg

This is a photo I snagged from his FB to help me write my novel.

The character of Marcus is fictional, of course, with his own quirks and beliefs. I was mostly inspired by Sage Kotsenburg’s attitude, and then his determination. I was surprised when I listened to all of the snowboarders talk–they were competing in a highly competitive, international stage, but many were funny, supporting each other, and enjoying themselves. Like, really enjoying themselves and the love of what they could do on their board. That’s what I wanted to capture in my character, Marcus.

I’m not sure where the story idea really came from–it just hit me, what if some normal girl had the voice of one of those guy’s in her head all of a sudden?

If you’re wondering about Avery, I had a picture of her in my mind and happened to come across a picture in Glamour magazine that matched what I envisioned. So I clipped this and kept it in my inspiration folder.

M AveryI was after an off-beat, unique beauty. People are beautiful in their own way, and there’s so many different faces and traits.

The story developed into all kinds of layers. Avery had a crush who was starting to take notice. She also had some pain in her past, ambition and plans, and a weird situation with her friends: her bestie is with her ex, and they all hang out together.

I took the manuscript through a week-long workshop and found even more emotional depth and complications, so by the end of the writing process, I had my longest and most complicated book. It’s about two opposite people thrown together who learn to see the beauty in each other, all while Marcus is a voice. I called it an inside-out love story, because yes, it’s very romantic and (I hope) surprising.

Here’s the blurb for the story that resulted in all of this:

He’s taking over her life, but is he even real?

Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head—an adventurous male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants to work on her screenplay, go to her writing classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her.

Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, and basically take over her life, and even her body at times. He thinks she’s freaking hot and does not like Nash touching her. Marcus may be smart, talented at snowboarding, drawing and playing the guitar, but he’s not real! When she needs help, she has to call Nash.

She can’t tell anyone about Marcus without sounding like she’s crazy. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…

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It’s All In My Head is on special for 99 cents this month in Kindle, or you can get a gifted copy by signing up for my newsletter.

Why am I running a special and giving away copies? Because November is my birthday month 🙂 and I want to share this awesome story with you.

Waterfalls in the rain, and mushrooms too

This time of year it gets rainy and night falls at five o’clock. By most accounts, it’s time to read by the fire with a cup of hot coffee. I do enjoy reading and writing during the long winter evenings, but I also love getting out into the mountains to enjoy the cool air, misty mornings, autumn colors and mushrooms. I live about forty minutes from the base of the mountain range so I often go up into the Rogue Umpqua Divide to explore, hike, mountain bike, and pick berries. There’s dozens and dozens of different mushrooms in the woods too this time of year, pushing up through the moist moss, growing out of logs or hiding under ferns. Most are fun to look at but not fun to eat, except chanterelles. You can find them in the stores in Oregon right now, or pick up to a gallon without a permit. There are other edible mushrooms too, but chanterelles are by far the easiest to identify and best tasting. Just do some research on identifying them and on scaly chanterelles, which can give some stomach upset.

I usually pick a bag to make mushroom soup, egg and mushroom scramble, or other dishes. The other night I stuffed breaded wild turkey breast with a chanterelle/bacon/scallop stuffing, and then made chanterelle gravy to go over. It was easily the best meal I’ve eaten in several years!

I’ll share a few shots below of some whacky looking, unidentified mushrooms. I took a picture and left them alone for others to enjoy.

I’ve seen a lot of bear sign on my last few hikes. In one spot, I hiked up a ridge and found a group of about a dozen large tree trunks that were scratched clear into the wood, and some still had bear hair caught in the bark.

In another spot, I hiked way up a hillside into the old growth timber and followed a stream up the mountain to some meadows. On the way down, there was bear sign that hadn’t been there before–a big icky pile of it. Right next to that, the bear had torn apart a five foot sapling, tearing the top half of the tree off and then chewing off branches. I’m guessing it might have smelled my trail and marked its territory! I love finding little mysteries in the woods and imaging what could have happened. It’s all a guess, but still fun. I haven’t encountered a bear in the woods while on foot. They’re very secretive and like to hide from people. But I’ve spotted a few while driving on a country road. The most recent one, this year, was a small black bear, probably a baby from this year. I caught sight of its back and watched it take off into the trees as we drove around a corner.

Man, I wish I had taken my camera on those hikes so I could share pictures!

Here’s some from other hikes. This is Grotto Falls, out in the mountains east of Glide, Oregon.

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These falls are beautiful, especially in the fall time, and fun because you can walk behind them into a large cave.

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This mushrooms was a over a foot wide. The little one next to it was a normal sized mushroom a few inches tall.

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Not sure what this is, but doesn’t it looks like coral from the ocean?

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This one caught my fancy because it’s growing out of an old log, sticking up six inches.

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This is Youtlkut Pillars, which you can climb, if you can find them. There’s one sign that I know about, 1/4 mile from them, marking the road. Maybe you can climb them for me if you’re so inclined, because I’m not going up that!

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Celebrate the Art

A lot of authors write about what success means to them in this ever changing world of publishing. I’ve thought and written about different levels of success, and something really struck me lately.

When my son finishes a drawing, that’s the end of the process. He accesses how he did, shares it and maybe saves it if it’s a really good one. He gets to feel successful and proud of himself right then and there—because he did a good job and put his best effort into it. Do you remember that feeling? You showed your picture to your mom, who proclaimed it beautiful, and you went away feeling great because you created something.

I did have a moment like that with my very first one. I wrote it on an electrical typewriter somewhere around the 6th or 7th grade. I remember shaking from excitement as I called my best friend and read her the last page. I finished a book! I did it!

In writing, at least as an adult, finishing a book is just a step in a much bigger process. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to celebrate that moment of the journey. Why? Because nothing happens. As adults, we’re waiting for the results. It’s not always about external results. In fact, relying on those external rewards can leave you feeling empty.

There’s a moment during the writing process where the novel really comes together for me. It happens when the idea is down and developed along with the plot and characters. There’s a moment, even before the draft is done, when I realize I have something good. It’s better than my previous books. The idea is different. I love spending my day with my characters. I feel proud of what I’m making, even if it’s not all of the way done yet. This moment is for me, when I can celebrate adding a new book to my body of work. It’s my success moment.

I recently took a two hour painting class with my son. The instructor walked us through painting a parrot. Mine turned out looking like a gorilla bird with very wide shoulders and a strong face. My son’s turned out like a happy Toucan. We have our paintings hanging together on the wall now and plan to take more classes. He’s a dedicated artist, putting in hours and hours, much like I did with writing when I was ten. It’s a huge joy to share his journey with him, and it reminds me that creative endeavors are about the art, whether it’s painting, drawing or stories. It reminded me to celebrate finishing a book, even if it’s not out there yet for people to read. I finished this book! I did it!

Weekend roadtrip: wood ducks, sea lions and eagles oh my.

This last weekend I decided to jump in the car and visit Ashland, the main setting in my work in progress. It’s home to Southern Oregon University and the world famous Shakespearean Festival. I ended up in Lithia Park, a huge park (93 acres) that centers around Ashland Creek from the small downtown area clear up to Mount Ashland. The park is just breathtaking, so of course my photos won’t do it justice. You can check out the park in all its seasons on Google Images here.

I took this one from the first bridge.

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The creek is so picturesque, and there’s a spot by the bridge where it’s perfectly flat and little kids can wade in warm weather. There’s also a playground right there and a really nice hiking trail. On such a warm, sunny spring day, the park was full of people, which makes it that more fun in a setting like this.

A little ways up, the duck pond had several wood ducks. They’re typically super shy so I was thrilled to see them up close.

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So after Ashland, I headed north and to the coast on 199, which goes through Cave Junction and down into California. I love how the terrain changes so much in different parts of Oregon. Parts of the drive looked much like Eastern Oregon, where it gets much less rainfall. I love this route because we go through the Redwoods, and I’m amazed at their size every single time.

I came across this awesome creek bed on the way over–at Rough and Ready Creek. This photo shows half of the rocky valley. There were streams cutting through everywhere.

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I arrived at the Northern California coast about an hour before sunset, and at one of my favorite places, I came upon a group of sea lions sunbathing. They were much closer than I’d ever seen them, right on the sidewalk!

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Several came up out of the water and waddle-wiggled their way up to the others. They flopped right on top of the pile and wiggled around until they slipped into a spot to sleep.

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The sun set while I watched the sea lions, and then it was time for a seafood dinner.

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Oh, the other fun sighting: a boat with my name on it!  Maybe it’s a sign…

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Costa Rica – the trip that inspired my novel

I realized I went to Costa Rica before I began blogging so I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared any photos. I did write about getting the idea while on the trip, actually while walking on the beach. I wrote a summary in my journal then and even started the story after we returned, but it would be three years later when I finished the project. There were all kinds of little details that I incorporated into the book–I’m finding more and more that I love to use a real setting so I can find little things to make the story come to life.

We stayed by Playa Flamingo, just like my characters, and walked or rode bikes around the area for ten days, through warm rainstorms and sunshine. We went in July, the wet season, and I set the book around the same time so I could describe the area as I experienced it. My characters went to the same restaurants and beaches we did, although I made up the resort at the end to make the plot work. Annalisa and Drew even rented bicycles from Claudia as we did. We were riding along on a muddy road in our swim suits, barefoot, when a Tico waved and called “hello,” and I used that in the book too.

While the book is filled with tension and conflict, along with high moments and the beauty of Costa Rica, our trip was all fun. My husband has an uncle living in Costa Rica, and we ate a few authentic meals with his tios and got advice on navigating the area and culture. We also went fishing off the beach for rooster fish…and I ended up catching  sting ray. We took turns fighting what we thought was a fish for forty minutes while a crowd gathered, but when we got it in closer we realized what it was. Luckily for us, the line snapped and we didn’t have it free it by hand.

We spent our time walking or riding all over the place, to different beaches and places to eat. Getting away from our normal lives gave us space and time to think, and that sparked my creativity and my new story idea.

When it was time to return home, we rode the local bus back to Liberia and the airport, which was a fun experience in itself. A man stood up during the ride to play a guitar and sing. Then we stayed in an ancient motel–the building was 200 years old. We just don’t see that in Oregon. I think we spent something like fifteen bucks for the room.

Here’s a few of my pictures:

 

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A few fun little things. Whenever we were out walking, we would hear or see big iguanas fall out of the palm trees. It didn’t seem to hurt them. There were also little geckos everywhere that chirped at night. We spotted glowing fish in the waves. While walking through the jungle to the beach, we saw hundreds of tiny bright orange crabs. There was color everywhere and new things to see. Of course I’m dying to go back!

Because I live close to the Oregon coast, it was hard not to contrast the two places. I hinted at that in the book, too. The rugged and wild Oregon coast, where the book begins, captures how the characters feel. Then, in peaceful and tropical Costa Rica, they begin to work through their problems and discover what’s important to them.

I want to share a sneak peak from the book too, but I’ll make a separate post for that.

My 100th Blog Post!

It was almost three years ago (and 100 posts!) when I started this blog/website. That was right after I had launched my author page on Facebook. It’s been an amazing three years with my professional life centered around what I love to do. And oddly enough, I’m most thankful that I can see lots of ways to grow as an author. It really is about the journey and not the destination! I like to think I’m still in the beginning of a fulfilling and exciting adventure, one with lots of twists and turns and milestones to celebrate, and more importantly, people to share it with. 🙂

I’ve shared about quite a few hikes over the last couple of years, but I have so many more places to go. Of course I want to revisit all my favorite places in Oregon. That’s one thing I love about where I live: all the hiking and wild areas to explore in the mountains and on the coast. I’ve started visiting Eastern Oregon more and finding a different kind of beauty there. I recently learned there’s a small number of moose living in the North Eastern corner of Oregon, and I’ve been dreaming about exploring there in the summer and seeing if we can spot them. They’re some of the smallest moose and have little antlers. So here’s to new horizons and more writing!

I thought I’d celebrate my 100th blog by adding another freebie to my list – this one is free today and tomorrow. If you haven’t read The Cowboy Kiss, now’s the time! It’s short, fun and flirty. This joins my two perma free books, Embers of Hope and The Fairy and Her Giant.

Here’s a view back at my house (somewhere out there) from a hike to a mountain top.

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