A Life Changer – Brunswick Christian Recovery Center – Teaching individuals a new way to live

When my editor at South Brunswick Magazine, Allison, asked me to write a story on a nonprofit – Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, I was a little anxious. It was important I convey the center’s message of hope. After talking to Joshua Torbich, the director, and hearing compassion in his voice, and love of the work he was doing, not just for the community, but for the men of Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, all my anxiety was laid to rest.

Here’s the three-page story that was published in South Brunswick last week. I hope you enjoy the message, as much as I enjoyed writing the story.

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S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 80

S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 81

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Author Highlight – C. Hope Clark

I first heard Hope speak at the Missouri Writer’s Guild conference a back in 2012. I loved the fact that she always smiled, and consistently wove positivity in her talks.

When I discovered Hope and I were featured authors at a booksigning at Columbia, South Carolina’s Irmo Branch Library in March, 2015, I suggested our husbands meet over dinner the evening prior to the event. After three hours of lively conversation on writing, vacations, dogs, and various topics, we almost closed down the restaurant. Looking around at nearby tables, we didn’t recognize any of the original patrons when first seated. We decided to leave the waitress a NICE tip.

This is the second author highlight on C. Hope Clark, I’ve done, and I admit, she is one busy woman. Hope her answers provide insight for authors everywhere.

 

1) Is it important for writers to help each other, and not charge for services – kind of a quid pro quo – as long as the writer has already developed a mutual relationship with each other?

I believe that writers naturally help each other, and it’s up to each individual to determine where that line starts and stops. At what point do we remain the professional and charge, and at what point do we give back? In this profession, there’s an assumption that writers are not supposed to get wealthy off their words. It’s supposed to be a sacrifice. I believe that a writer needs to set limits on the giving back or they’ll be sucked dry. But time is money in this industry, so each side has to respect that of the other.

 

2) If an author could concentrate on doing three things after their book is published, what would those three things be?

First – Never let one day go by without promoting the book somewhere.

Second – Start work on the next book.

Third – Keep an active chatter online about the book, it’s progress, appearances, reviews, etc. and that includes a newsletter.

 

3) What conferences nationwide could you recommend for the development of an author of any genre? Specific genres?

There are dozens and dozens of conferences each month. And each author needs to decide what they wish out of a conference before they select one. For instance, are they trying to pitch a manuscript? Then find one rich with agents and publishers taking pitches. Or are they working on craft and are a beginner? Or are they seasoned and need in depth work in a masterclass setting? Or do they want to rub elbows with other authors in their genre, necessitating a conference like Killer Nashville for mystery. Do they want a CON or a conference? Bouchercon is a fan-based conference as well as an educational conference. It’s huge, which begs another questions . . . does an author want to attend an event with 800 people or do they prefer something more intimate with 50? Do they want to go someplace exotic or tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Do they want to talk the business side of things or just craft?

As you can see, I’d have to list 50 conferences here to address everyone’s needs and even them would only cover one or two conferences per category. To find conferences, research WritersDigest.com (and then search “conferences”), Poets&Writers (https://www.pw.org/classifieds) , ShawGuides.com, then of course there’s the Association of Writers and Writing Conferences (https://www.awpwriter.org/wcc/directory_conferences_centers) .

 

4) How do you choose your book clubs, or do they choose you?

I scrounge for book clubs because most of them are very obscure and private, but I have to admit that they contact me. There is no one place to find book clubs because most don’t want to be found online. Libraries and bookstores know the local clubs and can make connections. But it also helps to have a book club section on your website. What makes landing book clubs difficult is the fact many book clubs go by bestseller lists in making their selections. Or from lists recommended on Goodreads.

 

5) How do you escape from your writing during the day? When you have writer’s block?

My escape is gardening, raising chickens, reading, and crosswords. My husband says I love reading anything and can’t stand not to have words in front of me. Maybe not that true, but I do adore reading, and I have books on my nightstand, near my computer, and next to my recliner. I can rarely just watch television. It has to be a superb show. Otherwise, I’m glancing at writing how-to books and mags, keeping a journal, or doing crosswords. But gardening takes me away from writing, but I still plot while pulling up weeds and tying tomatoes. And I make myself think about a chapter as I go to sleep at night. You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve awoken in the morning with an idea.

Writer’s block? Sorry, do not believe in it. We can always write. It might not be the project we want to work on, but we can write. I’m a believer in plowing through the tougher days of writing. If I am choosing to write for a living, then I am choosing to ignore writer’s block. I have to report to work. No other job lets you go home on those days you don’t feel like working.

 

BIO:Hope and Emily Grace (2)

C. Hope Clark’s  newest release is Newberry Sin. Hope is author of two award-winning mystery series, The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. She teaches writers at conferences nationwide and is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last 18 years. www.chopeclark.com

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Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat – How a Cat (or Dog) Can Soothe Your Soul & Inspire You to Write a Book

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The soft nudge of a cat’s nose against your cheek, the sloppy wet kisses of a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd on your eyelid – no wonder we love animals so much.

I have a friend that sometimes comes over and watches tv, and often tells me, “It’s so comforting to have your pets around.

Our big goofball (part Bernese Mountain Dog, part Aussie) loves to flirt, belly side up and wag his tail.

Our little girl kitten hops up on my lap, and snuggles on her grey security blankie.

I could go on and on about my pets, but there’s one girl in particular, who my husband rescued on a snowy, wintry night nearly 13 years ago, covered in motor oil, hiding under his car, who holds a special place in my heart. With the intentions of merely fostering, Midnight spent 10 days in the master bathroom de-fleaing, de-worming, and getting to know us. By then, we were in love with her sweet disposition.

Midnight, our black cat, just turned 18 years-old this week. That’s something to celebrate.

Something else to celebrate – she was the inspiration for the children’s book Pat Wahler and I co-wrote together, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT.

For two years, I stared at a book title scribbled on a piece of paper, pinned on my office bulletin board. A book title that my smart, cute, clever husband came up with – THE ONE-EYED CAT WITH A FEATHER IN HER HAT.

They say sometimes if you write down your goals and read them every day, eventually they come to fruition.

The story, inspired by a dream I had, came true after I penned a poem, and phoned my friend Pat to brainstorm about creating a picture book.

A book deal and several years later, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT, is available on Amazon pre-order, with a printing publication date of September 2018.

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The ‘real life’ Midnight, who loves her butter and whip cream, inspires me to be a better person every day. Yes, a ten pound, 18-year old cat, inspires me to be a better person.

She loves her canine stepsister and brother so much, she cleans them every day. And when I rescued a pregnant stray two years ago, Midnight adjusted her comfortable life to include more cats. (We kept two of the kittens.)

Real life Midnight is resilient, positive and confident. She ‘talks’ to me when she wants something, has the loudest purr, snuggles on your lap, gives cat scratch kisses, and holds her own with the other pets.

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat (the book version) who is bullied by other cats, learns to be ‘the best she already is’ with the help of her best friend, Starlight.

I hope the real life Midnight sticks around to see the book version in print.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Peace out and love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

Yoga with Baby Goats & a Coastal Irish Pub – my newest publications

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Copyright Shenanigoats Yoga 2018

Good Morning Everyone,

Normally, I don’t post freelance publications on my blog. My blog is mainly inspirational posts and content. But…I’m just so excited on how these two assignments turned out, I wanted to share with you.

The first is a story on Shenanigoats Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee titled “Got Goats” (published in Long Weekends Spring Summer 2018) and how much fun goat yoga can be!

The second is a three-page spread on Fibber McGee’s, Sunset Beach, North Carolina’s only Irish Pub with a coastal flair, titled “Luck of the Irish” (published in South Brunswick Magazine Spring 2018). Sunset Beach is my favorite place to vacation, and Fibber’s is amazing!

So here you go! Enjoy the stories, and feel free to leave comments below.

Happy Monday! It snowed here in the Midwest last night, so I’m loving it!

Peace out,

xoxoxo

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South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 90

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 91

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 92

Lists – Why We Make Lists…Why We Need Goals…Does it Stem from Our Childhood?

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Today I got stuck on the subject of lists with an acquaintance.

As a young girl, I used to send notes airborne from the second-floor balcony to my parents below, via the winding mahogany staircase.

I floated notes to Mom and Dad on brightly colored paper whenever I felt they weren’t listening to me, taking me seriously, or when I wanted to voice my opinion.

My sister-in-law, Geri, reminisced about a time she was dating my brother, and was hanging out at our house one evening. I was four years old, and had refused to go to bed.

Most of my note scribbling pertained to reasons why I should stay up late.

Justifications were:

I’m not tired.

I hear something outside.

My tummy hurts.

I have to pee.

I need a drink of water.

I’m still hungry.

According to Geri, sometimes I’d convince Mom (based on which excuse would win her sympathy), to garner a more few hours with the adults in the living room. Other times, they ignored me. Eventually the effort of note-writing just wasn’t worth it, and I fell asleep, recognizing defeat.

I suppose I’ve made lists all my life.

At my first home, Post-It Notes came in handy.

I scattered lists all over the kitchen table. Since I attended college in the evening, and worked full time, my lists consisted of –

  • What art projects I needed to finish
  • Lists of supplies for class
  • How to study for my anatomy quiz in Figure Drawing

When I began my career in Telecom, my lists morphed into color-coded spreadsheets of my customers whose circuits I was designing for their networks and stages (steps) of the Provisioning process.

After my first marriage ended, there were lists of goals I wished to accomplish. I was determined to take my mind off my recent divorce, and lift my spirits.

My lists were:

Take a yoga class.

Take a dance class.

Snap more photos.

Go on a vacation.

Get a promotion.

As I checked these items off my list, I met the man I was going to marry.

I created more lists!

What shape diamond do I like?

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Where should we hold the wedding?

What flowers would be in my wedding bouquet?

Savory food for the menu?

What musicians should we hire?

What song would I walk to at our sunset ceremony?

What memory of my Dad could I include in the ceremony?

Today, I create lists of goals I want to accomplish as a writer.

  • Tweet more
  • Finish editing my essay collection
  • Write a better bio
  • Network more
  • Figure out how to sell more books
  • Prepare for those upcoming presentations at schools
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Hubby, Russell, speaking at Troy Buchanan last year about our book, Folly Beach Dances

My writing lists seem far more stressful. Working at home can be both a blessing, and a hindrance. There is no sense of urgency on self-imposed deadlines. Or is there?

Taken from Wikipedia, Newton’s First Law of Motion states –

  • An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it.
  • An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it.

For me, I accomplish a lot if I keep moving. I start my day early with a strong cup of espresso, a sunny bay window and a great view. This keeps me motivated.

Other times, I feel somewhat overwhelmed, so I accomplish the easy items first. Afterwards, I meet a friend for coffee, smooch my hubby, or play with the fur babies. I end up staying at rest. Not always a good plan.

One goal that’s sure to keep me moving – a new picture book with Amphorae Publishing slated for September release, titled “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”, with coauthor Pat Wahler.

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Midnight, the inspiration for our new picture book, with her ‘Daddy’

It’s about overcoming handicaps, building confidence, and learning to be the best you already are.

Guess I could take some advice from Midnight!

Do you find lists helpful in accomplishing goals, or does making lists stress you out? I’d love to hear your opinion.

 

Peace Out and Love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

The Storms in our Life

(This is are repost from last summer.)

Sometimes even though you may have best interests at heart for a loved one or a pet, situations may still be stressful in your household.

These episodes of conflict, or ‘storms’ were described by our pastor, Tim, at O’Fallon Christian Church. These times often seem hopeless, neverending, physically and mentally draining.

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I am currently going through a ‘storm’.

For the past three months our home has been divided – structurally and DSC_0956 Adeline and her babies copyremotionally.

It all started with a female stray cat visiting our back deck in March. We rescued and adopted her before knowing she was pregnant.

Momma Adeline delivered six precious kitten babies, and we witnessed the miracle of birth. It was simply amazing!

Our sixteen year old cat Midnight doesn’t care for Adeline and makes it know by vocalizing in the form of hisses and pig snorts. Adeline, being protective of her babies (even though Midnight doesn’t come in contact with them) takes Midnight’s vocalization as a threat — a brewing storm. This makes life stressful. I’m always trying to make peace between the two– trying to get them to see things the same way.

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Out of the six kittens, four have gone to lovely homes. Two are left – Elvis, a beautiful boy with long body, tall legs, big paws, black with striped head and haunches (manx and black cat mix); and Ireland, a feisty little striped girl (manx) that makes me laugh, loves to play, and gives kisses.

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Adeline is separated from the kittens now, so they can thrive on their own without momma’s milk. At nine weeks, they are eating dry food (which they love), drinking water, and being silly little felines. The kittens enjoy running, leaping, and playing in the master bathroom and master bedroom.

At nighttime, Adeline has the run of the basement, and Midnight is on the main floor. During the day, they live together with the dogs, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. A house often divided indeed – by rooms and by emotions.

No sure how much longer I can live like this. Hubby says it will all work out in the end.

On top of all this commotion, I’m trying to work on my writing. There are good days, and there are unproductive days. On the unproductive ‘writing’ days, I usually clean the house, run errands, fix things that need to be fixed. You get the idea.

Add to that, the trouble my husband has with cat dander. Lately, he has been retreating to the solice of the guest bedroom with Red Dog – typically a cat-free zone.

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Our Australian Shepherd, unsure where to sleep, usually follows me to the bedroom, after I tuck the kittens in at night on their favorite cozy bench in the bathroom.

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“The Culprit”

Dogs are such gentle souls. With the storms brewing in our household, comes frustration, lost tempers, and sobbing. Let me just say, the dogs have adapted the best. Things change at a minute’s notice. The goofy pooches are always eager to lick away your tears.

Why can’t humans be like dogs with their “Oh, well attitude”? Nothing seems to bother them. Seems like dogs just go with the flow, don’t they?

I’ve experienced a pretty significant storm in my life – Tropical Storm Jerry – back in the early 1990’s. During a Blackbeard’s cruise off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, Jerry struck, with twenty foot wind swells pummeling our sailboat of 20 scuba divers. The torrential downpour forced us to don our raingear purchased on Bimini. After 90 minutes on deck in the midst of bitterly cold rain and unforgiving ocean, we attempted singing show tunes. When that didn’t work, we retreated to the warmth of the galley and salon, conversing, smiling, laughing, and trying to remain positive until the storm subsided, all the while the boat was taking on water.

I wish I could tackle all of ‘life storms’ in the same way. Sometimes I forget my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.

As I write this today, I’ve decided to forego my usual morning breakfast ritual of raspberries, oatmeal, and toast accompanied by a dose of Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell from CBS This Morning. Instead, I’ve spent my time reflecting on life, and reading Coffee with God by Sarah Arthur – 365 Devotions to Perk Up Your Day.

Because sometimes…. many times, you just need a dose of God and a good cup of coffee to start your day, to get you through those ‘storms’ in life.

And the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers doesn’t hurt either…

I hope the ‘storms’ in your life subside.

Peace out and love,

Xoxoxox

 

Sheree

A Thousand Sunsets…

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The last week in August, my husband, canine kids and I, spent four glorious days in Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a quaint inn with cabins in picturesque Ephraim, Wisconsin.

Marinas and docks dotted the curvy shoreline, and sunsets were spectacular. We set aside 90 minutes each evening to meander to the inn’s private dock, complete with white Adirondack chairs.

Four evenings brought lively conversations with other guests from the inn – a family with a young boy who loved to fish, a baby boomer couple who wiled away hours during the day searching for the perfect winery, a grandma with her children, and their children who gave the dogs repeated hugs, and a doctor and her husband who hailed from flooded Houston, but were afraid to check texts and voice messages for fear they would be homeless when they returned.

Just as the people we met were unique, so were the sunsets – pastel pink clouds, blue violet strands dancing across the glassy bay, ebony silhouettes set against golden-hued horizons – no two alike, painted by God’s hands.

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And no matter how routine our sunset ritual seemed, I welcomed the hand-holding with my husband, and the dogs’ tags jingling as we stepped lightly across the two-lane road, to settle on the wooden Adirondacks. I never tired of this. It was our time to chill. No schedules. No worries. No expectations. Nature doing what nature does best, in all its splendor.

During the day we visited new coffeehouses, ice crea20170827_192050 cherry crumblem parlors, creameries with homemade gelato, chocolate establishments, gift shops or restaurants or markets selling cherry-themed products – cherry crumble, cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry jam, cherry granola, cherry juice, and cherry spumante. You name it, we tried it.

We hiked along fairy-forest paths that paralleled aquamarine harbors, sank our feet in sandy beaches sometimes tripping over pebbles, stood atop cliff outcroppings with lofty expectations of jumping in (well, at least my husband), traipsed through sunflower fields, visited art galleries, observed an authentic fish-boil from the porch of our tiny cottage, and frequented dog-friendly cafes and restaurants. A special thanks to Buttercups Coffee in Egg Harbor for loving on the dogs so sweetly.

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I’ve not felt this relaxed since our anniversary trip to Pearl Harbor, and the grandiose waterfalls, beaches, and stunning scenery in Maui, Hawaii.

But of course, travel back to that familiar place is inevitable – home.

Last evening, I listened for the beauty at our abode –

It showed me favor in the crisp fall air with crickets chirping, coyotes wailing, the faint sound of a motorcycle revving its engine in the distance, the monotonous hum of our refrigerator, and the sound of voices from the television on the lower level.

Four cats reposed in harmony – one cleaning and preening velvety fur and precious paws while sniffing night air, another curled up on the sofa, one more playing hide and seek in the tunnel of the kitty city condo, and one waiting at the garage door for Daddy to come home from a long day’s work.

Two goofy canines slumbered on the king size master bed complete with tons of throw pillows. They dreamt of running as they yelped and fidgeted.

It’s nights like these I cherish the ceiling fan pushing cool air downward from the open window as I nestle ‘snug as a bug’ under the covers.

It’s times like these that remind me of the thousand sunsets of my life I’ve been lucky enough to share with loved ones, by quieting my mind, and realizing that beauty is universal.

Stop. Listen. Observe. Feel.

Quiet your mind, and look for the sunsets in your life. What you’ll discover might just be amazing!

Peace out and love,

 

Sheree

 

 

Just Listen for the Beauty

This has been a popular post; so I’m sharing with you again.

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I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

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I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

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Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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A Writer’s Conference, Some New Ideas, and Several Awards

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the All Write Now Conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The conference was held at the University Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.  Perusing the schedule, I circled the workshops I wished to attend.

First hour, Brian Klems, Senior Online Editor from Writer’s Digest spoke on “25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish a Book”.  His handout included information on the ‘how’s, whats, and where’s’ of resources on getting your book published and building social media platforms. Along the way, he gave personal examples of his road to publication, and humorous stories living with three daughters.

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Second hour, Robert Yehling presented a workshop on “Keys to Writing Conversational Dialogue: The Driving Force of Your Fiction and Nonfiction”.  His workshop explained how the right dialogue is so vital in writing, because the reader directly relates and ‘hears’ what humanize characters. He gave personal experiences of meeting autistic surfing great, Clay Marzo, which served as the anchor for Robert’s biography on Clay, Just Add Water.

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After lunch, literary agent at Speilburg Literary agency, Alice Speilburg, held a workshop on “Narrative Pull: How to Keep Agents and Editors Reading”.  Alice’s suggestions included starting with a gripping opening, follow with an inciting incident, rising action, tension, climax, falling action, and finally, resolution in your story. Other steps to ‘build a tight rope’ included placing your main character in an eye-opening situation, keep your character looking forward, among others.

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The last workshop of the day, Karen Sargent, debut author of “Waiting for Butterflies”, presented “Marketing Strategies: Extending Your Reach and Preparing for a Book Launch”. Karen went over topics such as Who’s Going to Buy Your Book, The Truth Is, Hanging out Online, Building Book Buzz, Social Media Graphics, Book Launch, and Resources. This lady has such a plethora of information, it made my head spin! Her suggestions and resources could keep you busy 24×7!

After taking a break to grab a cappuccino and tea with co-author and friend, Pat Wahler, (Midnight the One-Eyed Cat) at a local coffeehouse, we returned to attend the awards ceremony for the contest winners.

I walked away with four awards – First Place for Nonfiction, Honorable Memorable for Nonfiction, and Second and Third Place for Poetry.  I snagged the Grand Prize drawing (free registration next year), and the main door prize drawing (a $50 Southern Writers Business Ad), as well. I believe I wore a path in the carpet walking up to receive the awards, which proved a bit embarrassing.

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All in all, it was a great day, and rejuvenated my creative juices! Once home, I submitted a query to a publisher, and received a request for a full manuscript.

You never know what life has in store for you. Be ready for surprises!

Peace out and keep writing,

And check out my inspirational book of photography and poetry, Folly Beach Dances, which includes contributions from five-award winning Missouri women authors, including myself and husband.

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

The Spirit of Aloha

My husband planned a surprise trip for our anniversary, and presented me with the itinerary at my birthday dinner. We’d be traveling to Hawaii – three nights on Oahu, eight nights on Maui.

Maui garnered a spot on my bucket list for quite some time, and I was truly excited to visit the land of breathtaking landscapes and exotic flora. Along our journey, everyone we met greeted us with a warm Aloha – a Hawaiian expression of love, hello, and goodbye.

Here are some examples of Aloha I experienced while visiting the islands.

  • The Arizona Memorial – 1,177 men lost their lives on December 7, 1941. The somberness and quiet solitude touched me as I observed the oil still spilling to the surface of the water from the ship. Some say it’s the souls of the lost sailors. I’ll always remember the feeling that overcame me – one of emotion, one of loss – an Aloha goodbye.20170428_092710 oil copyr
  • Al Rodrigues, the 97 year old Pearl Harbor Survivor, we met outside the Arizona Memorial gift shop signing his book. He hugged us so tight when I told him my dad was on the USS Vestal that was moored next to the Arizona.
  • The wild, windy southern shoreline of Black Sand Beach and Makena Beach was a welcome ‘hello’ as we strolled the seashore for shells and photo opportunities.
  • A warm Aloha evident in the latte art in a cup of espresso from Bella Surf Café.
  • The exotic coastline, mixed with the cool evening air at Surf’s Up, a hidden gem and lookout point on a mountaintop. It’s so peaceful there, you can hear your voice echo. The sunsets on the west side of the island are phenomenal.

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  • Rachel and Anthony, a young couple we met at sunset at Surf’s Up. They were loving life traveling this great land, spreading the spirit of Aloha.
  • The white, friendly dog and smiling lady at Julia’s Banana Bread roadside stand along a dangerously, curvy mountainside street.

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  • The brackish cliffs near the Nakele Blowhole, and the untamed ocean.
  • The road to Hana with 617 turns (some hairpin curves) and infinite drop-offs.
  • The hike to the pristine pools beneath Twin Falls, and the way my body felt when I stepped gingerly into the midnight-hued cold water. The rushing sound of the falls was delightful.
  • The tangy taste of a Lilikoi tart at Kula Bistro.
  • The refreshing dessert, named ‘Coconut’ at the Mill House Restaurant. A mix of white cake, chilled coconut sorbet, and coconut meringue mirrored the look of a mini Baked Alaska, and tasted like a cool slice of heaven.

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  • Our farm to table anniversary dinner at Pacific O Restaurant while gazing at the sunset.
  • The fragrant aroma of eight varieties of lavender at Ali’I Lavender Farm high in the Kula Mountains.

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  • The foggy mist on the side of the mountain near the lavender farm.
  • The King Protea in bloom.

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  • The paragliders floating along the mountaintop in Kula.
  • The wind in my hair, and the sun on my face aboard the Trilogy catamaran.

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  • Ladies with plumeria, gardenia, and pikake tucked behind their ear lobes.
  • The romantic sounds of the Hawaiian language and their meanings conveyed through song.

These things and more, I find to be the spirit of Aloha for me – a lingering and everlasting feeling of love, hello, and even goodbye.

For Hawaiians, the Spirit of Aloha is a way of life – spreading kindness, compassion, and grace. Their values – ‘to care for, and do what’s right’. Sustainability to all natural resources is key in Hawaiian life – evident in the vegetation, the flora, the food, the people, the farms, the animals, and the waterfalls. I felt refreshed by the universal beauty around me, and invigorated by the friendliness of the Hawaiian people.

And isn’t that what life’s about — embracing our aloha, giving back to community, to the environment, and each other?

Peace out and Aloha,

Sheree

Lighthouses, Beaches and Waterfalls – Oh My!

Last year I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, not once, but twice!

I was invited on a press trip by the Pure Michigan group (puremichigan.org) to visit the Keewenaw Peninsula with a group of journalists at the beginning of summer. At the end of August, I visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond, with my hubster and two canine kids. Many of my adventures included lighthouses, beaches, waterfalls, and great food.

Here’s my 5-page feature story with photographs published in May/June AAA Midwest Traveler. It’s also online, as well.

Hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did!

Peace out,

Sheree

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The Happiness Factor – Get your Hygge On!

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My silly husband

Not only is today the first day of spring, it is recognized as Happiness Day around the world. What makes you happy?

For me, it’s

  • Long time friendships
  • Walks on the beach
  • Scubadiving, and chance dolphin encounters
  • Smiles, cuddles and purrs from my fur babies
  • The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans
  • The taste of dark chocolate, so smooth and luscious
  • A waterfall rushing over my skin
  • The day I married outside my husband on the grounds of a beautiful mansion, the sunset, and the smells of a spring day.

This past weekend, CBS Sunday Morning televised a segment on the world’s happiest countries.

Apparently, Denmark has topped the charts for years. Their happiness factor stems from a state of mind called ‘hygge’ (pronounced hooga). Hygge, according to the Huffington Post is “drama-free togetherness time”. Danes believe that hygge is “we time, not me time”.

Some look at hygge as a barrier from the outside world – no conversations about politics, family issues, no complaining, no negativity, and no bragging. It’s a light-hearted interaction where people enjoy each other’s company over a meal or time together. It’s often considered shelter from the outside world.

But what would happen if we shut out social media for one day? We could compare our experience to being on a desolate island or a cabin in the woods, with no contact to the outside world.

My ‘hygge’ is evident in the list I shared above.

Here are five rules for hygge, taken from the Jessica Alexander’s, Huffington Post article “The Secret to Danish Happiness”.

  1. Come as you are.
  2. Forget the controversy.
  3. Think of yourself as a team member.
  4. See hygge as a shelter from the outside.
  5. Remember it is time limited.

Hygge is “a moment in time where everyone takes off their masks and leaves difficulties at the door, in order to appreciate the power of presence with others”.

My ‘hygge’ this weekend was spent with my husband strolling the halls of the Edgar Degas exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum in quiet solitude, savoring A butterscotch and hot fudge sundae at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, eating Mexican food, and sipping a Kaldi’s mocha cappuccino.

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And with my pooches, meandering our three acres, discovering the sights, the sounds, and the smells of nature.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you do, and what you say, are in harmony.”

~ Mahatma Gandi

Now go have a good day and spread the love!

Peace out,

Sheree