Happy new year! I know, it’s a little late—and I completely blew off posting on the blog in December—but I was working feverishly to finish my manuscript and celebrating the holidays with family. Did you have a good holiday? Is 2019 treating you well so far?
We took the kids on a short cruise to Catalina and Ensenada over Christmas. I don’t cruise well, but it was a fun trip, and I enjoyed having both kids home for more than a week. My oldest is all the way in Virginia, so having them here was a special treat.
(If you want to see more photos of my travels, my dog, my writing, and whatever other quirky thing catches my eye along the way, the best place to follow me is Instagram.)
My big news for the new year is that I finished the first draft of Men of Steele #5 yesterday! 🥳 It took me far too long, but it feels great to reach The End. I’ll have to work on revisions soon, but I hope to have the book out in late March. I’ve been wanting to tell Tara Fujimoto’s story for ages (she played a key role in Blind Fury and a minor role in each of the other books), so I’m excited to finally give her the HEA—happy ever after—she deserves.
Keep an eye out for previews and a cover reveal. And if you’re on my newsletter list, you’ll see it all first, along with some of the best books I read in 2018. 😉
January marked nine years since I started writing. February was 10 years since I quit working for someone else. March means I’ve been married to my awesome man for 23 years (!!). And in May I’ll have been teaching Scrivener for seven years. (April is, apparently, worthless.)
Every time these anniversaries roll around, I’m shocked at how much time has passed.
And yet, if I look back, tons has happened. Contest wins and finals. A nonfiction book deal. Three training platforms. Four novels indie published. Two kids in college. Five moves. And so many new friends. Whew!
I’ve grown immensely as a writer and businessperson, though there will always be more to learn. In fact, that’s part of what keeps it interesting.
There are things I miss about having a “day” job—the camaraderie, the ability to leave work behind at the end of the day, a steady paycheck—but I love being my own boss.
Unlike many of the jobs I’ve had over the years—being a military spouse either means having a long resumé or no resumé—writing never ceases to be a challenge. You don’t “master” it and then get bored. (Or realize how repetitive it is, have a blast learning how to automate it, and then get bored. Oops.)
In addition to improving the craft of writing and storytelling, there’s always a new storyline to develop, a plot problem to solve, or a character to understand.
And no matter how many manuscripts I write—and there are way more in various stages of never-to-be-completed/published than the four novels I have out—each one presents its own struggle. Usually the good kind. Like solving a puzzle.
(Please remind me of that next time I’m pulling out my hair over my current work in progress.)
And when I want a break from writing, I get to teach people how to use my favorite program. I talk to real live humans, and help them solve a problem. Two activities I adore. 😉 Plus, the need to keep up with Scrivener and all the technologies I use to provide online courses and private training ensure I’ll never be bored.
(Side note: If your kids ever tell they could never be bored if they had a dog, I’m here to tell you they’re lying.)
So, basically, I’m happy.
Last weekend we celebrated our wedding anniversary with 36 hours in Seattle. Below are a few pics.
Fresh flowers at Pike Place Market
Every utility cover I saw in Seattle was different. This one was across from the Seattle Art Museum.
Washington Park Arboretum Japanese Garden
Washington Park Arboretum Japanese Garden
George Washington Bridge over Lake Union looking East from the Fremont Bridge
Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union
What big milestones or anniversaries are happening for you this year?
By now, you probably know that traveling/exploring is my thing. As much as our budget will allow, anyway. After our Boston-to-Sacramento move last summer, we’ve slowed down a bit, but here are a few of our latest adventures in sightseeing.
In April, we celebrated a belated anniversary (22 years!) in Stinson Beach, California. This little town—population 600—is nestled in a gorgeous cove on the Pacific Ocean in Marin County, about 20 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1. It backs up to Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods.
Stinson Beach, looking northwest toward Bolinas
A view of the mountains from a town park near the beach
The cozy cottage we rented up the hill, with a view of the ocean
Stinson Beach after the weather cleared
While there, we drove up the coast a few miles to the adorable town of Bolinas, which sits just off the northern tip of Stinson. You could wade across, but there's no bridge, so the drive is about 20 minutes around the inlet, where we saw seals lounging on a sandbar.
Homes in Bolinas
An inlet in Bolinas, just off the northern tip of Stinson Beach
Bolinas, just up the coast from Stinson Beach
Mid-May, we flew to Colorado for a friend’s retirement from the Air Force. Colorado Springs never disappoints, with its towering peaks, thick forest, and red rock. We even got snow! On Friday, we ran through our little rental home's neighborhood and happened upon a back entrance to the Garden of the Gods (GOTG) park.
Garden of the Gods, camera facing southwest toward Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs
More Garden of the Gods
On Saturday, we hiked through Red Rock Canyon Open Space with friends, only a mile or two from GOTG, with fabulous views.
A view of GOTG (top right on horizon) from the Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Last summer, while waiting to close on our house, we hung out for a week in Redding, California (among other places). Since my oldest son had gone back to college for the summer term, he missed out. So, during his short pre-internship stay at home at the end of May, we took him north to see the amazing volcano that rises 14,179 feet above sea level at the southern end of the Cascade Mountain Range (i.e. Mt. Shasta).
Mt. Shasta peeking over the hills around Lake Siskiyou
Closer to Mt. Shasta on a hike up Spring Hill
Shasta framed by pine and manzanita from Spring Hill
We also checked out the impressive Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River in the heart of Redding at Turtle Bay.
Looking west toward the Sundial Bridge (taken July 2016)
On the Sundial Bridge, facing north (taken July 2016)
Spire of the bridge from below
Looking west from the bridge, up the Sacramento River
Been on any cool trips lately? Have any fun travel plans for summer?
As a writer who works from home full time, it's easy to let inertia set in and never leave my house except to fill my cupboards. But I’m an explorer at heart—as is my husband—so we made a commitment to spend at least one day a month sightseeing or hiking somewhere within a few hours’ drive of our house.
Last weekend, we chose Berkeley. A few years ago, when I was visiting to give a workshop to the San Francisco Romance Writers, I ran along the water to the Berkeley Marina—and had lunch and dinner…somewhere—but I hadn’t been downtown since I was seventeen.
It was definitely time to go back. The decision was helped by the relatively short drive—about 75 minutes when the traffic is good, which it happily was earlyish on a Saturday.
I’m certain there’s lots more to do in this fun, pretty college town, but we started and ended with food—there are plenty of options for plant-based eaters like us (we chose Saturn Cafe and Flaco’s)—and spent the time in between visiting UC (Cal) Berkeley’s pretty campus, and exploring Tilden Regional Park, which borders the campus up the hill along the east side.
The park's botanical gardens have native plants representing California's wide variety of climates, and lots of quiet, green spaces to wander.
These are a few of my favorite shots from that day.
I love the colors on the peeling trunks of the eucalyptus trees! Blue and gold are especially fitting since they're the University of California colors.
Sather Tower is hard to miss
View of the East Bay and San Francisco (across the bay on the right) from Grizzly Peak in Tilden Regional Park
View of San Pablo Bay from Grizzly Peak (facing NNW)
At the Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Redwoods in the botanic garden
Found this guy hiding in the ferns at the botanic garden
What are some of your favorite places to visit near you? (Or me, for that matter. I’m always looking for gems. 😉 )
Check out this page for more travel/road trip posts. Also, many of my small trips end up on social media instead, especially Instagram.
Pond above the resort as the sun crests the mountain
Oh, Montana. On Sunday, my husband and I—empty nesters that we now are—traveled to southwestern Montana to meet up with old friends, some of whom we haven’t seen since before the turn of the century. (I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use that phrase…)
Catching up was great, and doing it in a wild and beautiful place like Montana and northern Wyoming made it fabulous.
Here are a few of my favorite memories from our trip.
I don’t think I’ve seen so many stars since my parents drove us into the mountains in Utah at night and we lay in the back of our little pickup truck on the side of the road.
Out in isolated Chico Hot Springs (about an hour’s drive southeast of Bozeman, and maybe thirty minutes from the northern entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner), there is little light to interfere with the view.
The stars. Were. Incredible.
Billions and billions of them filled the sky and the Milky Way looked like a band of gauzy clouds. We sat outside in the growing chill for hours, following the path of anonymous satellites and catching sight of shooting stars.
I adore the mountains and ocean in almost equal measure, and one of my regrets is that Sacramento doesn’t have either the low mountains that cling to California’s coastline or the tall peaks that hug its eastern border.
In Southwestern Montana, on the other hand, the mountains roll in seemingly endless waves across the land. Some soft and green with pine trees, some brown with long grass, others barren or snow-covered with gray rock jutting toward the clouds like blades of a knife.
Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana
I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was eight. Pretty much the only thing I remember is Old Faithful and bears. On this trip, we hiked into northern Yellowstone—crossing into Wyoming after entering the park—to visit Hellroaring Creek, a clear, rock-strewn flow that feeds into the Yellowstone River.
The Yellowstone River from a suspension bridge on the Hellroaring Creek trail
Here there be bears. Luckily—though some in my party might have disagreed—we only saw paw prints. And a bison!
Afterwards, we returned to Mammoth Hot Springs near the park entrance and walked around the mounds built up over the years by the (literally) steaming springs. The landscape is like something you’d find deep in a cave or on some imagined, hostile planet.
A mound at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming
Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming
We ended our day trip watching elk eat, bugle, and even lock antlers, both at Mammoth Hot Springs and in the town of Gardiner, just outside the park’s Roosevelt gate.
Elk hanging out in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming
I try not to worry too much about work when I’m on vacation, but my goal is to look at my story for at least a few minutes every day so I don’t lose my momentum. With Scrivener for iOS and a new hard-case bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, I managed to stay immersed in my manuscript while sitting on the lodge porch in the cool morning air, sipping hot tea, and soaking up the view of the turning trees.
View from the lodge porch at Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana
Honestly, that’s not even work. That’s the dream.
What are some cool things you’ve seen on vacation? Where would you like to visit next?
If it seems like I've been a bit distracted lately, I have. Life's been busy at Casa de Hernandez, pretty much for the last year.
In March of 2015, my husband was preparing for a September deployment to Afghanistan for six months when the Air Force said, “Never mind, we need you in Florida in three weeks instead.” Cue the scramble, and the complete upending of all of our summer travel plans. And, of course, a small celebration that he'd be staying Stateside (though I'm pretty sure some part of him was disappointed at the location change).
We're good at adjusting course on short notice, finding adventure in the unexpected. Some people are adrenaline junkies who find their joy by jumping out of planes, climbing Meru, or surfing 30-foot waves. We like to travel and explore, and move. (Good thing, right?)
And, while it's been fun letting the Air Force pick where we go, exploring places we might never otherwise get to know, we're finally in a position to choose for ourselves.
This month, our youngest graduated from high school and my husband retired from the military. So, we're off to California. Sacramento, for now, while my husband goes back to school, with an eye toward moving to the coast in a few years.
Yes, I'm still working on my next two Scrivener courses. Yes, I'm still working on Men of Steele #3. All are coming along slower than I'd planned, but the classes will be live by the end of summer, and I intend to have MoS3 out before the end of the year.
For the next few weeks, though, I'll be filling up my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages with pictures from our cross-country trip and some new adventures. Feel free to follow along and share your own.
I’m an explorer at heart, so living in such a history- and beauty-rich place as Massachusetts has been fabulous. But now that I only have five weeks (!) until we hit the road for our post-Air Force adventure in California, I’ve been trying to visit a few more places on my must-see list before we leave.
Last weekend my husband and I jogged around Cape Ann (part of our training for an upcoming half marathon) through Gloucester and Rockport. I loved the seaside views, the inviting and walkable main streets, and the beautiful homes. Unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of pictures because I didn't want to stop every three minutes (because running) and it was drizzling most of the time.
Rockport beach access
Lobster traps on the roof are a thing on seafood restaurants around here…
On Sunday hubby and my youngest son took me to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod for Mother’s Day. So much fabulous ocean time in one weekend! And New England—parts of it anyway—is just so darn quaint. That’s one thing I’ll definitely miss.
Pilgrim monument in P-Town
Are you sensing a theme yet? Pier in P-Town.
At Herring Cove Beach
Cape Cod National Seashore
Another example of a nice downtown is Concord. On Tuesday, my writer friend Maura Troy came up from Connecticut for the day and we walked the town. Since I’ve already been to the Thoreau and Alcott homes and Walden Pond, we toured Old Manse (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s family home) and the Old North Bridge battle area where “the shot heard 'round the world” marked the first victory for the colonists on the opening day of the Revolutionary War. (The “shot heard 'round the world” was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson in the Concord Hymn, a poem that’s engraved on the statue “Minute Man” at Old North Bridge, which was in his family’s backyard.)
Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia rented Old Manse for three years early in their marriage, and literally left their mark on the place. Sophia liked to record interesting moments by inscribing them into the glass window panes with her diamond wedding ring. Seems kind of rude to me—especially for a renter—but it's cool from a historical perspective. Hawthorne was inspired to write Mosses from an Old Manse here, which inspired the home's name.
Emerson's desk, which he often took outside to write
Hawthorne's desk facing the wall. It ratchets up and down to adjust the height and angle.
Sophia Hawthorne's writing on the window
Every family had to have their own fire buckets and respond to a neighbor's fire or risk a fine
Old North Bridge looking west across the Concord River, and the Battle of Concord monument
View across the Concord River from the backyard of Old Manse
Statue “Minute Man” by Daniel Chester French (sculptor of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.)
Up next before we move: Whale Watching! And a few other adventures.
Are there any places near where you live that you want to/really should visit? Make a plan to do it this summer!