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Joyous July

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Happy Joy in July everyone!

This month – like all of them anymore – is flying by. We are having the most perfect weather summer this year in the Pacific Northwest. The days are full of sunshine, light breezes and 72 degree days. I am loving it!

A little too much to be honest since buckling down on writing and editing can get pushed to the back when the beautiful outdoors calls. Oh my!

But progress is being made and I’m swinging by today to share that a new look for this website and blog is coming soon! Oh. My. Goodness!!!! I’m both super jazzed and a little petrified. It is going to be wonderful to give this space an updated look and feel – and especially to have it be mobile ready so you’ll be able to check in from your phone or notebook. Hooray! There’s a tinge of “oh my goodness” though because the site is definitely going to “up my game” a bit. I’m hoping it will showcase the books and kindness even more and reach a lot more readers and kindness lovers.

Meanwhile, what have you been doing to bring joy to July and to reach for the best summer ever? I’ve been packing in the fun and finding joy at pretty much every turn. Right now, the big guy above is adding a bunch into the mix! My guy is a super animal lover – especially dogs. And of dog choices, there’s none he loves more than a big ole’ golden retriever! So while Ballards parents are off touring Europe for a few weeks we are stepping in as his foster parents.

Did I mention he’s just a couple years old and 90 pounds – he’s mostly just a huge puppy! The boy has energy galore. Fortunately, we have an off-leash dog park near us so we’ve been running some of that energy off him playing with other dogs. It’s been a little bit crazy but a whole lot of fun too.

Added to that has been visits from wonderful friends and family, lots of eating and drinking, lots of walking, lots of dreaming and scheming. Life is good! Thanks for being part of mine! See you soon on the new site!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

Getting all patriotic! And a winner!

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Wooooo Hooooo! Best news first! Congratulations to Rita B who was this issue of the Jolly Jingle’s lucky prize winner of a nice pile of some popular summer reading! Thanks super much Rita for being a supporter of Sandra and the gang.

There are few things I love more than a nice holiday weekend. This one happens to be extra fabulous because it is all about the “pursuit of happiness” – one of the things I am particularly good at. 🙂 Plus, the  4th just happens to be my special day of the year so I always get a double celebration of fun. I live lucky! As it happens, this weekend also happens to be my cover artist – and best friend – Tina’s birthday too! We wasted no time last night kicking off the fun and our waitress spoiled us with two free desserts. Nice start! That’s us up above getting the weekend party started. 🙂

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Naturally such a patriotic occasion calls for special touches to come out around the house – and the office in this case. I’ve been so on the run I actually haven’t had time to pull out the boxes (yes boxes as in multiples! When your birthday is the 4th of July you tend to collect some fun patriotic things over the years! 🙂) but I have found a few ways to deck the halls – at home and at work.

My weekend is full to the top with loads of fun. Somewhere in there however, some book editing has got to be worked in! There’s also some wine tasting, lunching, walking, laughing, celebrating and picnicking going on – all the best stuff! When I was looking for some easy ideas for appetizers to bring along I came across this fun one from the blog Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons and thought some of the rest of you might like the inspiration too for something super easy and super festive to take along.

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Whatever you are doing this holiday weekend, fill it with happiness and joy! It’s not just an American right, it’s a right for all!  Thanks for being wonderful

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Six months to the big day!

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Don’t look now you all but the half way mark of the year has arrived! It’s just six months now to Christmas Eve! Just like that the first half of this year has gone flying by.

Fortunately – happily! – I’ve made progress on the book! A week away on beautiful Orcas Island helped me get some focus and my fingers were flying on the keyboard. At 74,000 words I’m closing in on having a first draft done but it still needs some love. A chapter here and a chapter there still needs added and I’m almost certain this will end up as the largest book in the series. I’ve decided to start in on the editing though and add the chapters as I go.

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I soooooo hope you all are going to like this last book. It’s very hard to know as the author whether you are writing something just you will love or something that others can and will enjoy too. I know for me, I’ve had pages where Sandra and the gang have made me laugh out loud and whole chapters where I actually choked up. There are so many things happening in this book!

Still, as you can see from the pics here, I haven’t just been writing. I’ve definitely been managing to fit in some summer time fun! That’s me with my niece Ambyr (the inspiration for Ambyrdena “Birdie” in the books) and my tiny new family member, Penelope, above. Priceless, huh? And that’s me with my adopted daughter (the elf “Tea” in the books) in the other, enjoying some summer refreshments while we listen to a great local band. All sorts of my favorite things!  

And a heads-up that tomorrow a Jolly Jingle newsletter will be going out to all of you wonders who are on the email list. It has a fun giveaway of some current popular books perfect for summer time reading! Don’t miss out on the chance to win – you can still sign up today by putting your email in the green box above! It also gives some updates on what else has been happening besides working on book five and some great tips for having your best summer ever! It’s a not-to-be-missed issue. 🙂

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/rescue-flight-leaves-south-pole-evacuating-sick-us-40038380

Lastly today, did you all catch the dramatic rescue that happened this week at the South Pole? This time of the year, while the elves and others at the North Pole are enjoying 24 hours a day of sunshine, the South Pole is experiencing 24 hours a day of darkness and temperatures up to one hundred degrees below zero! It was in those kind of conditions a brave team agreed to fly to the Pole in a rescue attempt for two individuals that had emergency medical conditions requiring they receive help beyond what could be offered at the outpost. How I love courageous individuals and the kindness that has to be in their heart to put their own lives on the line for others! And how relieved the world was I think, to get the news that the rescue had been successful and that all involved were safe and heading to a medical center for the ailing South Pole members. Whew. This kind of thing is why I write non-fiction fantasy. I can’t hardly handle the real drama. 🙂

Meanwhile, back here in my part of the world, I wish you a day full of fabulous wherever you are. Shine your bright light!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Joy List!

Joy list!

Hello from Orcas Island! Long time readers know this beautiful spot in the San Juan islands off the Washington State coast is my go-to spot for serious writing and, this late in the year, things were definitely getting serious! So here I am surrounded in the tranquility of this magical spot, counting my blessings.  Here’s some of the things that have made my gratitude list recently:

I hit the 52,000 word mark last night in Enchantments! Thank goodness and praise be! I have just been so behind on it this round and its like a log jam broke and everything is flowing. In two days here, I’ve written 20,000 words. Thats taken me 20 hours and its all I do with my day but the progress makes me happy. Best of all, I have two more days ahead and only need about another 20,000 more words (my typical South Pole books run between 70,000 and 75,000 word) so I know I will be able to leave the island with a first draft in hand! That makes me profoundly happy and relieved. The hard work of editing is still ahead but I am back on track with my timing. 

Second joy list item related to the books: I’m liking the story line of this one a lot. It might be the best one yet. It’s different again from the rest, full of unexpected twists and turns – even for me – but I think it still has the magic always present with Sandra and her band of merry makers and that makes me happy.

Other recent items that made my gratitude list:

I shared a taxi to the airport in Texas with a few other women and one of them picked up the tab for all of us! Sweet and super nice! Thanks again Sylvie.

I got in quality time with two of my three nephews and their families this past weekend. Few things come close to how much I love the gift of their company.

We had one of our best friends up from California for a visit and he jumped in with my guy and cleaned up all the weeds in our back yard! Thank you Toby! My new word for his trips up to visit with us is that he’s on a “chore-cation.” 🙂 (Watch for a new elf in this book that he has inspired.)

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Check out this super charming bird house. Wonderful Tammy Bloom, a fan of Sandra and her friends, built this lovely gift and sent it my way. That was a very special box to have sitting on your porch. Thank you again Tammy!

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Signs of year round Christmas! I know this is still a groaner for many but I saw Christmas ornaments being purchased at a gift shop when I was in Texas this month and, for an even bigger example, check out what play the local high school is currently putting on: White Christmas! That was definitely a surprise!

While I’m not wild about the long security lines or very full planes, it does bring me joy that more people get to fly these days. The convenience of flying is a wonderful thing and I’m glad that so many now have the opportunity and the means to make it part of the adventures in their lives. Even my littlest nephew who just turned three has flown. I didn’t get on a plane until my 18th birthday! Times are a changing!

Live Music! I love it. I especially like local musicians and bands because, well, I’m married to one of those and I know how much they put their hearts into it and how much joy they get performing. Last night after I hit my word goal, we sauntered down to the local resort for dinner in the bar and hit the jackpot with a local pianist performing. And we scored the last table! Perfect end to a perfect day of writing.

What about you? What things have brought you joy lately?

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Good Choices for a Good Life!

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Hello Hello wonderful kindness lovers! I hope you’ll feel like practicing some kindness on me for being so remiss on chattering in this space for far too long again. This life of ours always has so many balls to juggle.

I’ve been zooming and always have a lot to share but today, I want to talk on some things from a work conference I’m just back in town from.

I had the good fortune of attending a conference on change management in Dallas this past week. The event was great! Packed full of good info and super nice people. Maybe change agents in organizations are naturally inclined to be kind. Whatever the case, I had two favorite things from this conference: the place it was held and the featured speakers.

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The place was the really fabulous Gaylord Resort. You seriously need to check this place out and if your travels take you to Dallas, look at this place for your lodging. It was like staying in a biosphere! Beautiful space, nice rooms, lots of live music (my favorite!) good places to eat and drink, and nice fitness facilities. Then, you would enter the conference facilities and they were even bigger and equally as grand! I give it a total thumbs up on a pleasant surprise bonus for a work conference. Here’s a link so you can check it out yourself. Oh and the photo here is me with a work friend and two tall cowboys we came across at the conference banquet. Yee Haw!

The speakers, though, took the conference over the top. Shawn Achor, a Harvard Neuro-Scientist, gave a rousing opening talk on why being positive matters and the advantage happiness gives us. He was talking my language for sure! He had so many wonderful points to make but here were some key thoughts that struck me:

  • Happy people are more creative, productive and engaged in life
  • A daily gratitude practice is one of the quickest ways to happiness (I’m hoping you all do this. It has ramped up my life into true levels of wonderful and is so simple.)
  • Feeling joy turns on learning centers in our brain.
  • Helping others often brings more happiness to you then it does to others. (I totally feel this way! Being kind can be very selfish really because it just makes you feel so darn good. 🙂 )
  • Check out more of Shawn’s talk here at his very popular Ted Talk which is short and filled with smiles.

https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work?language=en

So the opening session was power packed with good stuff and the closer might have even been better. New York Times bestselling author, Brene Brown, presented the last session. She focused on the power of vulnerability and how vulnerability ALWAYS walks hand in hand with courage.

It’s so true! When you are being courageous, you are overcoming a personal fear and fear generally comes around fearing you will fail. That others will know you tried and failed. There is a huge vulnerability around that. So to be courageous, you hold on to vulnerabilities hand, look it in the eye, and leap anyway.

For me, and likely many authors, that has come around writing. To write is to put a big part of yourself out there and it comes with a lot of vulnerability attached. In the beginning it surprised me but the more I write, the more wonderful readers take the time to reach out and say the books have meant something to them, the stronger I’ve become about writing. Even the tough reviews have become easier to take.

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Brene turned out to be a hilarious story teller and had all of us – more than 1000 men and women – roaring with laughter as she told stories about herself that we could all relate to. I’m sure if she heard my little sharing about writing and the books, her response would be “you must lean into the discomfort.” It’s hard as we all know, but wonderful experiences come when we risk the discomfort and are willing to let ourselves be vulnerable. She encouraged us and I want to encourage all of you in the same way. Whatever you want but are scared of, choose to lean in. There are those who might not support but there is a world of people who need your gifts!

Brene also has a wonderful Ted Talk – one of the most viewed of all. When you have some time of your own, sit down and spoil yourself with her words of wisdom. So powerful!

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

I hope you all know that you are wonderful and fabulous and gifted and beautiful inside and out and that you are all you need to be. Embrace joy and spread it around!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Reading rather than Writing

Hello Hello wonderful readers! Let’s talk books today.

First though, today marks EIGHT MONTHS TO CHRISTMAS EVE! Seriously, how nuts is that? The year is zooming along at super speed!

I’ve actually squeezed in bits and pieces of time for reading the last month which is super unusual for me when I’m in the writing process. I don’t usually have much spare time and I never want to pick something up from another author inadvertently. So I feel like it represents growth that I haven’t been worried about that this round. Instead, I’ve just dove in and knocked out several – all three of them young adult series.

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First up, I read Riders by Veronica Rossi. I read her series Under the Never Sky a couple years ago and mostly enjoyed it so I thought I would give this a shot too. In this series, Rossi is doing a take on the four horsemen from Revelations in the New Testament I believe. And that, I think, is the weak point of this series. If you don’t happen to be up on your four horsemen knowledge than you are behind from the start. She also chooses an odd style of writing the book with the main character telling the story to his captor. Still, it’s an interesting premise and a new look at a very old tale. It’s first in a series but the others aren’t out yet.

I finished the Half Bad series by Sally Green this month too. This series started out promising, the middle book was a little “meh” but i saw it through with the third and really felt it was just boring with a capital B. I truly hate to give negative reviews so I popped over to Amazon to see what others were thinking and I’m not alone. It just missed its mark. I think there’s a lot better stuff out there to spend time on.

On the flip side, I personally really enjoyed the other series I knocked out. This one was called The Winners Curse series by Marie Rutkoski. I read all three books  and gave them a strong thumbs up. Rutkoski had an engaging story with believable twists and turns, some great rescues and a romance you could believe in. 

I liked them overall. There were some totally contrived situations in all three that could have been resolved with a one minute conversation between the characters and that drives me bonkers but, overall, I thought the general story line was interesting. 

Its interesting reading apocalyptic books. They are SUPER popular – all three of these authors are New York Times bestselling authors – something I would love to be – but the books are always so full of gloom and doom. As anyone stopping by here knows for sure, I’m not a gloom and doom style of writer. But I love the idea of writing books people want to read. It’s a quandary.

For now, I need to put down other author’s books and get cranking out some words on my own current series! 

Meanwhile, in this world, that can feel dark and gloomy at times, shine your light bright. We need it!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

The Joys of Spring are Everywhere

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I’m here! I’m here!

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 I know I’ve been missing of late. I’d like to tell you I’ve been on some big adventure but, truthfully, my life has just been quietly busier than usual. Not with anything exciting really – more the everyday kinds of gurgling along.

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 Gurgling is the right word for the past month. It’s bubbled along with some low-level noise. Nothing bad at all has happened but life has been a bit in the neutral zone. There’s been illness, work stresses, taxes, a few family concerns, I lost my glasses, the car has needed serviced – just the stuff called life. Somehow though, it kicked me into a stall mode with writing and I’m still tracking behind but I am determined to kick back out of it and get zooming back into full on fingers flying on the keyboard mode.

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 For me, the best way to beat down the blahs is to focus on the blessings and my life is full of them!

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 Despite the silly little setbacks, there have been a pile of good things. I’ve had some wonderful talks with family members and friends. Connected with co-workers to figure out some new approaches to work challenges. Had some great dinners out. Spent time outside on some record-breaking days of sunshine. Come home every evening from work to a yard full of those blooming bushes you see above – spectacular! Plus, I got to spend time on Easter with this adorable bunny, my youngest niece Penelope. She is a guaranteed smile maker!

All in all, life is one big, fabbulous, wonderful, adventure.

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Living Lucky in Lahaina!

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Aloha from the shores of Lahaina on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii! Where almost everything is wonderful except the fact that I wrote out a wonderful update for you all that just poofed into thin air when I hit publish. Grrrrrr, I’m totally trying not to let it mess with my good vibe and restart with a smile on my face.

So, here I am in paradise busy working on Enchantments in a lovely condo by the sea. It’s literally just a few feet away from sand, surf and swaying palm trees and I am loving it! Such an inspirational place to write.

Though I must say that the bright sunlight and tropical colors don’t seem to be having much influence on the story! Oh my gosh, this is definitely a book where Sandra is exploring some tougher issues. She’s struggling with some trade-offs that come in order to have what she wants most and she’s struggling to come to terms with feelings she is challenged by around what should be happy news.

I know that I risk having some readers not enjoy the story as much as the others but I’m at peace with that. I’ve always wanted Sandra and the other characters to be relatable. It would be easy to make Sandra a one dimensional character that was always nice. She’s a Santa and she’s a kindness advocate so it stands to reason she would represent those things. But whether you are human or some magical being (and we all really are 🙂 ) we are all far from one dimension and we all have challenges and lessons to learn. It makes us interesting! It makes our lives interesting! And it definitely helps make characters and adventures more interesting.

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It’s important that Sandra, like all of us, have her own challenges. That she have lessons to learn and opportunities to fumble and chances to deepen her own strength of character. She’s getting them this round! Some things she is handling with ease and some things she is wallowing around in conflict. I hope that through it all, readers will see themselves at times and children can find encouragement to dare to risk a lot in search of things they want and believe in.

So, I’m surrounded by beauty here in one of the most beautiful places on our planet, watching whales go by and turtles right below the condo play in the surf. And some people don’t believe in magic! Come to the islands and release your own inner elf!

Mahalo dear readers!

Oh Oh Oh! jingle

 

Happy Leap Year Day!

It’s February 29th – a missing day most years – how are you celebrating?

I’ve really been thinking a lot the last few days on it being a leap year and this bonus day that we get every four years. I’ve come to the personal conclusion that most of us take this day far too much for granted! For most of us, its just another day – just another work day for many of us and that just flat somehow seems wrong.

It’s a bonus day! A miraculous thing when you really think about it. I kind of find the whole concept of time challenging on the simplest of days. I mean, in practice we make it easy but at the same time we also “manipulate” it a bunch. We “spring forward” and “fall back” routinely in most of the USA. We have four time zones across the country thanks to the train schedules in place more than a century ago. We could have just two time zones in the US – east and west of the Mississippi and life for all would likely be easier. Certainly calling and travel would be!

And every four years we, miraculously, get an extra day! Hooray! (The North Pole actually functions with an extra day between Wednesday and Thursday every week called Sloopday. Helps provide enough time to get all the toy production done. 🙂 ) But where does the time come from to slip in this extra day? It just shows again that this time thing is all an illusion of sorts. A system designed by humans to bring order. Fascinating stuff!

So what do I think we should do on Leap Year Day? Well, for starters, we are overdue for starting a movement to get it as an automatic holiday day from work every four years. Come on – this is bonus time, we should be living it up! In fact, this day should be devoted simply to fun and leisure. That’s my belief for this day. We get a bonus day every four years, how on earth did we not declare a day for fun and magic and adventures – and “leaping” into whatever we feel like exploring on this day that isn’t related to work or chores?

It’s still not too late to make this day special! Insist this extra day be filled with joy. Put on your smiles, decide on something new you want to learn on this bonus day, decide on something fun you want to do on this day, and no matter what be sure and spend a few minutes in gratitude for this very special extra day of the year. Twenty four more hours than we normally get. Leap into it!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

Enchanting news . . .

Without further ado I present to you . . . Book five!

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Yes, writing has begun and what is likely to be the final book of the series (saying goodbye is hard so I’m staying open that it is “likely” but not locked as the last quite yet) is underway. Surprisingly, things are off to a bit of a dark start with this story. I’m not too worried though – Sandra and the gang like to have fun too much to stay glum for long!

Meanwhile my writing muse, JK Rowling is at it again and releasing a play/book this time! An eighth volume called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and this time she has co-authors. So intriguing! You just know it is going to be great. Plus, rumor has it that she has started on a new children’s series as well and that is sure to take the world by storm. Personally, I am jazzed about all of it.

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I saved the best share for last today with a shout out to Tammy Bloom and her wonderful family who sent me the nicest thank you about the books. Here’s what I love the most: her family in this case is her band of treasured animals! They each “signed” the card. Thank you Tammy and company. You all added joy to my day which is the best gift of all.

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle