Well, hello there.


“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”
~Rumi

Surprise! I bet you all thought you’d never see a post from me again, right? I certainly don’t blame you. The fact that it’s been over two months since the last time I sat down to write in this space … well, honestly, it makes me sad. I’ve genuinely loved keeping up with this blog over the past six and a half years, and I’ve missed it – and you guys! – so much. It’s been such a strange year so far, both busy and trying at the same time, but I’m really hoping to get back into a regular blogging schedule now. I figured I’d begin with an update post of sorts, so …

What I’m Writing: I finished the first draft of my WIP last Tuesday, and oh my gosh, did I have such a great time with it. The ending of a novel is always my favorite part to write. There’s such a unique kind of magic about it, this sense of possibility and hope and inspiration all tied into one. Melina and Bradley’s story has been a delight to tell. I’m so proud of them for how far they’ve come and how much they’ve risked. The book may be about an election, but it’s not a candidate who ended up as the biggest winner — it’s me, for having the chance to hang out with these characters and go on their journeys with them. I’m taking a little time off right now, but I already can’t wait to dive into revisions. There are a lot to make, and I’m so very excited to jump in.

What I’m Reading: I haven’t had nearly as much time to read lately as I would’ve liked, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple great books. Katherine Center’s HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS and Sarah McCoy’s THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN top the list of my favorites so far this year. They are beautifully written, evocative and inspiring and emotional. I’m not surprised, because these two talented ladies are always on my “must read” list. Right now, I’m in the middle of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, which I’m very much enjoying, and next up is Sarah Pekkanen’s THINGS YOU WON’T SAY.

What I’m Listening To: Rachel Platten’s EP is on repeat lately – and it seems I’m not the only one who adores her music, because her single “Fight Song” hit #1 on the iTunes chart! I am so, so thrilled for her. It’s crazy to think that the same person I used to help sell merchandise for is now taking the world by storm – but I’m not at all surprised, because she is super talented and deserves every bit of this success. Her story is one that constantly serves as an encouragement to me. After working so hard at her dreams for thirteen years, after refusing to give up on herself and choosing to keep fighting and keep believing, those dreams are finally her reality. You’d better believe I use her story as an inspiration to keep writing my own!

What I’m Marveling At: Earlier this month, I had my ten year college reunion. I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s been a decade. It was so nice to be back on campus again for the evening and to spend time with some of my favorite AUers — proof that, even though so many things change, so many others stay the same.

What I’m Wishing For: My heart is positively yearning to be at the shore. We always go for a week in June, but it didn’t work out this year — probably the time we needed it most, after the six months we’ve had, but hey, what can you do? My fingers are crossed that we’ll be able to make it down there for a little bit at the end of the summer, at least. I miss it fiercely and would do just about anything to feel the ocean air kissing my cheeks again.

What I’m Loving: This little guy right here. I adore my sweet jellybean. He’s my love bun and my furry best friend. Adopting him is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I am so grateful for the wonderful Luv-N-Bunns people it’s brought into my life. It’s a joy to work with them and to play even a small role in helping the bunnies.

Now tell me … what have you been up to lately?!

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Remember Me?


“Like a small boat on the ocean
Sending big waves into motion
Like how a single word can make a heart open
I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.”
~Rachel Platten, “Fight Song”

Well, well, well … hello there. Remember me? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. I think this just might be the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog back in 2009. The universe hasn’t exactly been my friend as of late, and even though there were times when I really wanted to hang out in this space for awhile, other things took precedence. I do want to say thank you, though, to those of you who reached out — whether on here, through email, Twitter, text, etc — because your kindness was, and always is, so deeply appreciated. One of the things I adore most about writing is that it has such a cathartic quality to it, and truly, your sweet words have been like a hug for me. I’m so lucky to count you all among my friends.

Even though things have been rough lately, there have been some bright spots, too, so I thought I’d focus on those today. Because that’s what we have to do. We have to choose optimism and let our hope grow wings to lift us back up when it feels like we’re falling. One of the things keeping me afloat when everything seemed like it was going wrong? My new book. It’s been five weeks since I started drafting the story, and, one hundred pages in now, I’m so happy to say that I’m loving every minute of working on it. I’m trying out some different things this time – weaving in a mystery and writing half the story from a male’s perspective – but that’s just making it more of an adventure. Politics has been an interest of mine for a long time – I actually wanted to include political science as a major in college, but with two others, it just wasn’t feasible – and so I am having a blast incorporating that into this book, too. Experiencing that unique kind of life with Melina and Bradley, my main characters, has been eye-opening. Exciting. Enlightening. They both have very different approaches to politics, and to life in general, and that makes it such fun for me to hang out with them. It’s funny – every time I start a new novel, I feel like it will be impossible to grow as attached to the new characters as I did to all the previous ones. And then, every time, I’m proven wrong. I’m so looking forward to continuing on this journey with Melina and Bradley. They’ve already taken me by surprise quite a few times, and I can’t wait to see what other tricks they have up their sleeves.

Last weekend was also sunshine for the soul. On Saturday, I had the chance to see one of my favorite singers. Rachel Platten writes the kind of music that inspires. Encourages. Motivates. I always love her live performances, and this time was extra special. One of the songs in her setlist, Lone Ranger, is what I like to think of as Melina’s theme song in my book. The lyrics fit her so, so perfectly. And then there’s Fight Song, which Rachel wrote to get herself through a tough time. It’s her first single with Columbia Records, and I am thrilled it’s turning into a hit. The song deserves it. Rachel deserves it. Seriously, if you have a spare few minutes, go look it up and be inspired. I can’t even tell you guys how many times I’ve listened to it lately. It’s just what I’ve needed.

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Then, on Sunday, I met Genie Francis. GENIE FRANCIS. Anyone who’s ever watched General Hospital will understand my excitement at meeting such a true television icon. I’ve been looking forward to her fan event since last summer, and it absolutely exceeded every one of my expectations. Genie is so, so sweet – hands down, one of the kindest and most genuine celebrities I’ve ever met. She sat with us at our table for a good ten minutes, asking our names, shaking our hands, and talking about anything and everything – and even telling me at one point that I must have read her mind! It was such a wonderful experience that I’ll always treasure.

Genie

And, of course, there’s my Jasper Jellybean. This past Thursday marks six months since I adopted him, and I am thankful every day for the joy this furry little love has brought into my world. I truly can’t imagine life without him.

Jasper Jellybean

Okay, I think that’s it for now. I’m really going to try to check in here more often again. I miss it. I miss you all, too. Tell me: what’s been going on in your lives lately? What bright spots have you gotten to celebrate?

Currently.

“It doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”
~ Lucille Ball

Well, well, well … guess who’s finished (for now) with her revisions and actually has the time/lack of bleary eyes/mental energy to blog again? This most recent round of edits took four weeks and involved a lot of adding, deleting, and rewriting, and although I was definitely ready for a break by the time it was done, I am seriously so happy with how the novel evolved in the fourth draft. It’s officially my shortest book now (you’d better believe I did a happy dance when the word count came in nearly a thousand below my goal), but the awesome part was watching the story grow, even as its length shrunk. Best. Feeling. Ever. I have some downtime now, while it’s with the next pair of readers, so I figured it’d be fun to do this ‘currently’ post that I saw over on Brittany’s blog.

Currently watching: The only show I’m watching on a regular basis right now is General Hospital (which has been so good lately!), but I’m really looking forward to the return of Grey’s Anatomy and Shark Tank in two weeks. Oh, and I just recently finished watching the full I Love Lucy/Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour collection. It was a special treat, because although I’ve seen every episode of the half-hour show before, there were some longer ones that were new to me. There’s just nothing like watching an episode for the first time and laughing until you cry. What a timeless classic and priceless treasure that show is, what a vibrant thread woven into entertainment history. No matter how many times I watch, this constantly holds true: I will always love Lucy.

Currently listening to: The soundtrack I made for WATERCOLORS. I’ve always felt that music and writing are so strongly intertwined, and I love to listen to songs that sing my books’ stories. There’s something special about hearing a lyric and instantly being transported into a scene. Now if only I could find someone who’d take the song I wrote for the book (and rewrote … and rewrote … songwriting is hard, you guys!) and turn it into more than lyrics on a page!

Currently thinking about: How fun it was to meet Danielle Fishel (Topanga from Boy Meets World/Girl Meets World) at her book signing last night! She’s kind, witty, and personable, and it was so cool to chat with her after watching Boy Meets World every week when I was growing up. She told us she’s going to narrate the audiobook version of her memoir, and I think that’ll be so fun, to hear it all in her own voice.

Currently trying to figure out: If I’m insane for actually contemplating the idea of querying two novels at the same time. SANDS OF TIME is still out there, and I have no intentions of pulling it back, even though WATERCOLORS will (hopefully) be ready to go within a month or so. Glutton for punishment? Perhaps. But I won’t know if I don’t try, right?

Currently looking forward to: Adopting a bunny! I’ve been in touch with the woman who runs the shelter closest by and am sending off my adoption application today. Just the thought of bringing home one of those sweet bunnies makes me smile. The only problem? There are six that I’m drawn to, and I don’t know how I’m going to choose only one after meeting them. One look at those precious faces and the decision will be even harder … but talk about a great decision to have to make!

Currently reading:I just finished Matthew Dicks’ MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND, and oh my gosh, I absolutely adored it! It’s one of the most creative, unique, poignant stories I’ve read in a very long time. From beginning to end, I was completely captivated and couldn’t put it down. I finished the whole book in three days, something I haven’t done in quite awhile. Next on my list is Sarah Jio’s THE VIOLETS OF MARCH.

Currently making me happy: A lovely birthday week that’s been filled with such sweet messages, gifts, and wishes from family and friends. I won’t lie, the thought of turning thirty-one kind of had me in a funk for a bit – somehow it seems so much older than thirty – but you know what? Getting older is a good thing. We are so blessed for every year, every month, every day, and I’m determined to live that gratitude on a daily basis.

Your turn! Answer one – or more – of these in the comments!

Show & Tell.


“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
~Henry David Thoreau

Ocean

One of my favorite parts of the three week break I took between finishing the first draft of WATERCOLORS earlier this month and starting its revisions today? A mini getaway to the shore. It may have been cool and windy, but still, there is no place like a coastal one. Home is where the ocean is (and dolphins, too, if you look closely on the left side of this picture!).

Cape May fountain

Maybe I’m just easily amused, but it never fails to make me smile when I stumble upon something that reminds me of my characters. When I found this fountain in Cape May, I not only tossed in a penny for myself, but also one for Eden. Here’s to wishes-come-true.

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This ship off the shore of Cape May Point is made of concrete and sunk into the sea after being used during World War I. Apparently seagulls like to use it as a perching spot now?

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Proof that appearances can be deceiving: it looks like a warm spring day, right? You’d never guess that it was so cold we all sat on the beach with fall coats, hoods, and gloves. Ridiculous to plant ourselves there when the windchill was in the forties? Ridiculous that we’re even having windchills like that at the end of April? Sure, but like I always say … I’d rather be freezing at the shore than warm somewhere else.

Megan & Me

Have I ever told y’all about what reignited my passion for creative writing? What took me out of journalism’s sphere and brought me back into the circle that first illuminated my world when I was in eighth grade? In many ways, I will always be grateful to this woman for that. Megan Ward. She played Kate on General Hospital, and, from the first day she graced the screen, lit up the show with her acting prowess. Her character became half of one of my all-time favorite couples on the show and their beautiful love story inspired me to try my hand at fanfiction, which I’d never written before. It was, truly, like magic. I wrote thousands of pages over the following two and a half years and just felt myself fill up with this love, this joy, for creative writing. I didn’t even realize how much I’d missed it until I had it again. It’s been almost seven years now since that time, and I’ve penned six books. That’s crazy to me, but also crazily cool. So getting to visit with Megan again yesterday? Seeing her smile as she exclaimed “you made it!” to me? Talking with her for such a long time, thanking her for introducing me to incredible people who will be lifelong friends and for reigniting that writing spark? Hearing her quip that she wants to get credit in my book acknowledgements one day? Spending time with someone who treats us like friends, who was as genuinely happy to see us again as we were to see her? Knowing that she remembers me and still has the Walk of Fame gift my friend Amanda and I made her? It was beyond special. I talk a lot about how wonderful the General Hospital cast is, and they all are, but there are some that go the extra mile, go above and beyond, and Megan is one of them. She is a gem. I miss her on the show all the time and am so very grateful to have had the chance to see her this weekend. It’s a day I’ll always treasure.

Kari & Me

As an added bonus, I got to meet another actress who used to be on GH, Kari Wuhrer. She is also super sweet and lovely to chat with!

Now – give me a show or tell (or both!) about what’s going on with you lately!

Pinteresting.


“A dream collage is pictures of your goals. It is like your future photo album.”
~Bo Bennett

Hello. My name is Shari, and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

Somehow I’ve managed to resist the pull of that wonderful, time-stealing vortex until recently, but last week I decided I really, really wanted to create boards for my books. I’ve always been a very visual person – when I write, the scenes kind of play out like movie reels in my head – and bringing the stories to life in another way sounded like such fun. Characters, settings, details and nuances that are woven into the fabric of their worlds … it is seriously such a blast to add them all. Does it serve a purpose? Maybe not. But maybe so. Just looking at the pictures deepens my connection with the characters. It takes the two-dimensional page and ups it a notch. It lets my imagination grow wings and fly free. I’ve found it to be especially helpful with my WIP. Each morning now, before I start writing for the day, I take a few minutes to look at the pictures, to close my eyes and see my characters living and breathing their Nashville love, and it does wonders to transport me from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and also to Portsmouth, Eden’s hometown. Yes, I am spending way more time on Pinterest than I should in the evenings. Yes, I am falling down that rabbit hole along with everyone else who’s a member of the site. But also, yes, it is such a joy to picture these worlds that, in ways, only live in my head. Some people might think it’s goofy. I think it’s fabulous.

Here are some snapshots into my characters’ lives:

Reflections of Me, Dear Ellie, and Mine to Love:

ROM/DE/MTL

Sands of Time:

SOT

Watercolors:

Watercolors

Fellow writers, anyone else create boards for your books? And who else is addicted to Pinterest?

Kristin’s Concert!


“I wanna do something that matters
Say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear.”
~Kristin Chenoweth, “I Was Here”

The first time I saw Kristin Chenoweth in concert, there was torrential rain and a tornado warning. This time? An ice storm that coated everything, sending trees and power lines crashing to the ground, and left something like 700,000 homes in the dark. Any of you who have seen my Twitter posts within the past week probably know how nervous I was about this. I’ve been looking forward to this for four months and was so worried Mother Nature would mess it up. When I was woken up at 4:00AM yesterday by buzzing transformers, crackling tree limbs, and freezing ice pellets hitting the house, I figured that was it. The concert would be cancelled. But it wasn’t. Kristin had gotten into town the night before, and once the ice finally stopped falling, temperatures crawled to a couple degrees above freezing and the road crews were able to really get to work on the roads. To say I was nervous about the drive there was an understatement – the venue is an hour and a half away on a good day – thankfully, though, with the exception of the roads in my township, which was hit really hard, most of the streets were dry by the time we set off. There were traffic lights out along the way and downed trees on the sides of several roads, but we got there safely (thanks to the awesome driving of my friend, because I probably would’ve had a panic attack if I had to navigate in such unknown conditions).

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Know what, though? It would have been worth it. The show was fabulous – partially the same as the one I saw in 2012, partially new material – and I loved every minute. From Broadway to country to everything in between, she sang with a voice that filled the entire 1600-seat theater. Her anecdotes had everyone laughing out loud and her heartfelt thank you and inspirational messages had us all smiling from ear-to-ear. My favorite songs were “For Good” and “Popular” (which she sang in three different languages!) from Wicked and “I Was Here” from her most recent album. That’s my favorite song of hers, period — both Remi’s anthem in SOT and one of my own in this writing journey, and it was so special to hear it live as the finale song, especially knowing I was going to be meeting her (!) in just a few short minutes.

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And speaking of meeting her … wow, where do I even begin? They took us backstage (literally – we got to walk across the stage and everything!) right after the show and Kristin bounced into the room almost immediately, talking about how excited she was to meet everyone. My friend and I were at the end of the M&G line, thankfully, which gave me time to (sort of) calm down and rehearse what I wanted to say. I was super nervous, but also so very excited – it reminded me a bit of the first time I met Kelly, when the whole thing just felt completely surreal. Standing two feet in front of her and finally getting to thank her for “Borrowed Angels,” which is the only thing that brought me comfort and peace after Gram passed away … honestly, there are no words for it. I started to explain and managed not to get choked up – until she interrupted in the middle of it to give me a hug. Then that was pretty much it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, her hugging me and then standing there with her hand over her heart and talking about the power of music to heal. I said something about not being able to find the words to thank her and she said “You did. You just did.” Something about her tone, how touched she sounded, made it even more special. Then she offered to sign the CD I’d brought, even though she’d pre-signed sheet music for all of us, and after taking a picture, I had a little more time to chat with her about “I Was Here.” I told her a bit about how it’s so inspiring for me during my writing journey, how it helps me keep my head up and keep going, and again, she looked me intently in the eyes and said “If I can do it, you can do it. Keep going. Don’t stop.” I will always keep that in mind — not that I was planning to stop, of course, but hey, when Kristin Chenoweth tells you to persevere, you persevere. :)

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It’s always lovely to hear about celebrities who go above and beyond for their fans. Kristin thanked us all multiple times for “risking your lives to come see me,” and she even signed autographs for the people waiting by the stage door after the show and the scheduled meet and greets, even though it was frigid and icy out. Her songs are the kind that tell a story, that speak to you and move you, and I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to talk with her and realize, all over again, that Kristin as a person does those same things. She is kind, gracious, down-to-earth, and genuine. She’s the kind of person who truly does change lives for good.

It’s Okay.


“Don’t dream your life; live your dream.”
~Anonymous

It’s okay if you’re having a day when you just want to shout it out. Our voices are meant to be heard.

It’s okay if it seems like things keep going wrong. That’ll make it even better when they go right.

It’s okay if the place you want to visit most feels out of your reach. You’ll get there someday.

It’s okay if you constantly give of yourself and it isn’t reciprocated. At least you know you tried.

It’s okay if you’re waiting for your future to start. It gives you time to enjoy the present.

It’s okay if some experiences leave you frustrated. Others leave you inspired.

It’s okay if you build a project brick by brick. Laying the foundation is crucial.

It’s okay if things need to be tweaked and plans changed. Sometimes the unexpected is meant to be.

It’s okay if everyone else seems to be sprinting ahead. Appreciate your pace and the gifts it offers.

It’s okay if you take it one step at a time. That is, after all, the only way to travel a great distance.

It’s okay. It’s more than okay.

The Theory of Opposites.


“Get lost. Then get found. Closing your eyes really just means closing a door. Never close a door when you have the chance to leave it open.”
~Willa Chandler, via Allison Winn Scotch in The Theory of Opposites

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile then you probably know that Allison Winn Scotch is one of my must-buy authors. Not only have I enjoyed every book I’ve read of hers, but she’s one of the kindest people out there. She has a blog that’s a treasure trove for writers, she makes herself accessible and open to readers, and now she’s blazing a new path as she ventures into the world of self-publishing with her new novel THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES.

This book … please do yourself a favor and buy it. Immediately. Not only is it my favorite of Allison’s, but it’s one of my favorites ever. It is just that good, guys. The characters burst out of the pages and settle themselves in your heart from the very first page, and then they refuse to leave … even when you’re not reading … even when you’re actively doing something else … even when you’ve finished the book. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be taking a walk, or watching tv, or whatever, and this colorful cast would pop into my mind. I thought about them, I wondered about them, I was proud of them, I learned from them, I was inspired by them. Truly.

Main character Willa has been contained within the umbrella of her father’s shadow for her whole life. His bestselling book tells readers that everything happens for a reason, that free will always loses to fate, that “what will be, will be.” Don’t bother to swim upstream, because the downward current won’t let it happen. Willa’s trapped into inertia by her father’s beliefs. Until her ex-boyfriend friends her on Facebook. And her husband suggests they take a two-month break. And her twelve-year-old nephew Nicky moves in for the summer. And her best friend Vanessa dares her to change her life, to take every one of her instincts and do the opposite.

What follows is the journey of a lifetime for Willa. Watching her learn to follow her heart, seeing her find the courage of her convictions, traveling along as she digs deep and lets herself change her destiny, one step at a time … it makes for a wonderfully inspiring story. I found myself rooting not only for Willa the whole way, but also the rest of the lovable cast of characters. Vanessa is the kind of best friend we all wish for, one who pushes us and fights for us. Theo is a unique spin on a pillar of support, there for Willa but still giving her the space she needs to figure things out on her own. Raina and Ollie, Willa’s siblings, make you smile and laugh. And Nicky … he just might be one of my favorite characters in any book I’ve ever read. He’s warmth and wisdom and chutzpah.

It’s rare that a book makes me misty-eyed, but this one did. When Willa finally finds the strength to be herself, when her world blossoms from pastel to technicolor … well, I won’t ruin the ending, but suffice it to say it’s an awesome scene. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this idea – that sometimes we feel like being ourselves isn’t good enough, that sometimes there are people in our lives who make us feel that way through their actions (or inactions). But there are others who boost us up. Who love us just the way we are. Don’t we owe it to our hearts to love ourselves the same way? I think, above all, that’s what I took from this book: to fly free, to leap even when we’re afraid of falling, to embrace who we are and to deliberately swim upstream … because who knows what currents we can create?

Kismet.


“If we would see the color of our future, we must look for it in our present; if we would gaze on the star of our destiny, we must look for it in our hearts.”
~Canon Farrart

YOU GUYS. I’m currently on vacation down at the shore, and you won’t believe what I found nestled on a back shelf in a shop — a message in a bottle kit! It even has a map of the ocean currents and customized notepaper to slip inside. I had to buy it for my writing desk, and I included some sea glass, too, since that also plays a role in my book. A message in a bottle for my novel about a message in a bottle — what are the chances? Gotta love kismet.

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Wordless(ish) Wednesday: finding inspiration everywhere.


“Your story matters. Tell it.”
~Unknown

Like Aly, I have been spending a lot of time lately organizing and de-cluttering. If I’m not sitting down at my desk to revise, chances are I’m cleaning or sorting or rearranging. There’s nothing like revamping a room to give you a fresh perspective – that’s what HGTV tells us and I must agree. Part of my recent redesign includes hanging up and displaying a plethora of inspirational plaques that I’ve bought over the past few years. Here’s a sampling:

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As you can see, most of my wall hangings are centered around writing, the seashore, and the beauty of dreaming big. How about you? Anyone else a quote and plaque fanatic like I am?